January 3, 2013
Friday, January 4: Meet Joseph Henry
Climb aboard our history time capsule and have a chat with the Smithsonian first secretary, a well-turned-out gent, who walked the halls of the red brick Castle during the Civil War and ran the Institution from 1846 to 1878. Reenactors portray professor Joseph Henry (1797-1878), a man great intellect whose foresight and vision defined the Smithsonian and his words ring true even today. “There is poetry in science and the cultivation of the imagination,” he once wrote, “is an essential prerequisite to the successful investigation of nature.” Hang out with Henry most Fridays and Saturdays 10:30 a.m., 12:00 p.m., 2:00 p.m., and 3:30 p.m. National Museum of American History
Saturday, January 5: Maya Weaving Demonstration with Juanita Velasco
See something done right. Mayan weaver Juanita Velasco, who is fluent in the Ixil language spoken in Santa Maria Nebaj, Guatemala, shows you an unusual way to weave, demonstrating the traditional backstrap weaving techniques of her people. 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. National Museum of the American Indian
Sunday, January 6: Luce Unplugged with Sarah Fridrich
An acoustic concert series, Luce Unplugged invites local musicians to perform. First take a tour with a museum staffer and then enjoy free coffee or tea and enjoy the music of . singer, song-writer and pianist Sarah Fridrich and drummer Kirk Kubicek. Their indie-pop, jazz influenced sound is reminiscent of Regina Spektor and Fiona Apple but with a sound completely their own. Talk at 1:30 p.m., music at 2 p.m Smithsonian American Art Museum
And if you happen to have a herd of family members curious to explore all the Smithsonian has to offer, just download our specially created Visitors Guide App. Get the most out of your trip to Washington, D.C. and the National Mall with this selection of custom-built tours, based on your available time and passions. From the editors of Smithsonian magazine, the app is also packed with handy navigational tools, maps, museum floor plans and museum information including ‘Greatest Hits’ for each Smithsonian museum.
October 31, 2012
A pumpkin is nothing more than a squash, but somehow like Charlie Brown’s Great Pumpkin, it has risen in fame, far beyond that of its cucurbita cousins. Why has the pumpkin become a Halloween favorite? One can only guess that its smooth surface makes just the right medium for happy face carvings or ghastly ghoulish gashes. But how has the simple vegetable been collected here at the Smithsonian? A host of images, some paintings, some sculptures, some very early photographs–even a daugerrotype. Hail to the mighty pumpkin and Happy Halloween from the Around the Mall blog team.
October 30, 2012
For everyone who hunkered down for Hurricane Sandy yesterday, it might be the animals at the Zoo who enjoyed it most. “For the most part all the animals were fine. It’s a cooler day and they like cooler days,” says animal keeper Juan Rodriguez. “Having a quiet day was good for them, they are so used to having noisy crowds around that they appreciated a day off.”
As Washington, D.C. was shaking itself off this morning and getting a look around at the hurricane damage, animal keeper Juan Rodriguez, who incidentally didn’t get any chance to hunker down, was already at work.
The Zoo weathered the storm just fine. “It’s pretty much, with exception of a lot of foliage,” says Rodriguez, “not that bad. I’ve been hearing a little chain sawing around the bird house where a tree may have come down. But that’s it. The soil is very saturated, and we’re keeping an eye on the trees now, but there’s no damage to any of the yards.”
As for the animals, did they notice the low pressure as the storm headed inland? Any odd behaviors? Nope, says Rodriguez. “Basically like everyone wants to do during a storm, the animals, particularly the bears and the pandas, just wanted to stay in a comfortable bed, and eat, and chill-ax.”
The museums and the National Zoo, which report no damages from the storm, will reopen tomorrow at their regularly scheduled times. Check here for a schedule.
October 26, 2012
An orchid bloom, so delicate and elegant, arises out of a complex symbiotic relationship with, of all things, fungi. It’s a classic case of beauty and the beast, or gorgeous meets gross. But the fundamental relationship between the much-admired botanical family known as the Orchidaceae, which make up more than ten percent of the world’s plants, and the little-understood fungi that live in the soils of a forest floor, is one of the more complex mysteries being studied by Smithsonian orchid ecologists. And as more and more orchid species disappear from North American forests, botanist Dennis Whigham of the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, Maryland, says it’s another example of the canary in the coal mine, a warning that must be heeded. “When orchids are present,” Whigham says, “that means the ecosystem is in good shape.”
Recently, to help foster a better understand of the optimal conditions it takes for native wild orchids to survive, if not thrive, Whigham and his colleagues announced the formation of the North American Orchid Conservation Center, a public-private partnership that includes several regional botanical gardens as well as the U.S. Botanic Gardens. The plan is to establish a national seed bank for the 250 known species of North American orchids and to identify the genetic diversity of the fungi that are central to the life-cycle of each species and figure out how to propagate them. “There were just a few people working on conserving native orchids,” says Whigham, “but now we’ve created a national network.”
September 23, 2012
Sad news this Sunday, the National Zoo reports that the Panda Cub has died. Details will follow. “We are very upset,” says one official.
Born just a week ago on September 16, to the Giant Panda Mei Xiang, the cub appeared to be doing well with the Zoo releasing a number of videos showing the mother attending to the little cub, grooming it and appearing to cuddle and nurture it. The cub was born after Mei Xiang was artificially inseminated earlier this year. This is the second panda cub born at the Zoo. The first Tai Shan was born seven years ago on July 9, but by agreement was returned to China in 2009.
UPDATE 3:16 pm: In a statement released on the Zoo’s Panda site, they said:
We are brokenhearted to share that we have lost our little giant panda cub. Panda keepers and volunteers heard Mei Xiang make a distress vocalization at 9:17 a.m. and let the veterinarian staff know immediately. They turned off the panda cam and were able to safely retrieve the cub for an evaluation at 10:22 a.m., which we only do in situations of gravest concern. The veterinarians immediately performed CPR and other life-saving measures, but sadly the cub was unresponsive. We’ll have more updates as we learn more, but right now we know is that the cub weighed just under 100 grams and that there was no outward sign of trauma or infection. We’ll share information with you as we learn more.
At a press conference held today, National Zoo director Dennis Kelly called the death “extremely devastating.” Chief veterinarian Suzan Murray added,”Beautiful little body, beautiful little face, the markings were beginning to show around the eyes. [The cub] could not have been more beautiful.”