March 31, 2011
Friday, April 1: Home-School Open House
The Portrait Gallery Education Department hosts this home-school open house with mini-tours of special exhibitions, story time for children, hands-on arts activities and resources, including a Smithsonian Field Trip Kit. Free, but registration is required. Attendees should e-mail email@example.com the number and ages of children, number of adults, and the city and state of residence. National Portrait Gallery, 11:30 AM-1:30 PM.
Saturday, April 2: NanoDays 2011
An ideal event for children, Spark!Lab hosts its third NanoDays—a nationwide celebration of nanotechnology aimed at teaching the general public about science and invention and the role it plays in our lives. Spark!Lab staff and docents help visitors conduct experiments and demonstrations, including: constructing a giant model of a carbon nanotube entirely from balloons; measuring height in nanometers and creating a liquid crystal display that changes color. You will also have an opportunity to talk with Dr. Heather Clark of Northeastern University about her work inventing nano glucose sensors. This event repeats on Sunday, April 3 at the same time and location. Free. American History Museum, 10:00 AM-4:00 PM.
Sunday, April 3: PHEON
Do you have what it takes to win control of a secret world? Test your ingenuity by exploring, creating and texting your way around American Art in this multimedia scavenger hunt. You will need a cell phone with text messaging enabled, comfortable shoes and a sense of adventure. Learn more about this text-based adventure game at Pheon.org. To play, sign up in the Luce Foundation Center between 2:30 and 4 PM. Free. American Art Museum, 2:30 PM-6:00 PM.
For updates on all exhibitions and events, visit our companion website goSmithsonian.com
March 28, 2011
Monday, March 28: March Film Screening: My Name Is Kahentiiosta
Kahentiiosta, a young Kahnawake Mohawk woman, took part in a 78-day armed standoff in 1990 as a part of a land dispute between the Mohawks and the Canadian federal government. Arrested and imprisoned, she was detained longer than her peers because the prosecutor refused to let her stand trial using her native name. Learn about Kahentiiosta’s story and why she was prepared to die to protect the land and trees sacred to the Mohawk people of Kanehsatake. Free. American Indian Museum, 3:30-4:00 PM. This event repeats daily, except Wednesdays, through the month of March.
Tuesday, March 29: GE Aviation Lecture: “You Can Do This!” From Skyhawks over North Vietnam to Command of NATO Forces in Bosnia
As a naval aviator, Vice Adm. Leighton “Snuffy” Smith flew carrier-based light attack jet aircraft during multiple deployments to the Mediterranean, North Atlantic, Western Pacific, and Indian oceans. This evening, he discusses some of his most critical challenges — from his jet combat missions over Vietnam to the command of the NATO-led Implementation Force (IFOR) in Bosnia. Free, but tickets required. Reserve tickets online or call 202-633-2398. Air and Space Museum, 8:00 PM.
Wednesday, March 30: International Sweethearts of Rhythm: Jazz and Civil Rights
In this event sponsored by the American History Museum, learn about the women of jazz in a discussion featuring the “International Sweethearts of Rhythm,” members of the Jen Krupa-Leigh Pilzer Quintet, film director Judy Chaikin and moderator David Baker (maestro, Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra). See clips from Chaikin’s new film Girls in the Band and stay for swing dancing and live music by the Jen Krupa-Leigh Pilzer Quintet. Please note this event will be taking place at Artosphere in Arlington, VA and NOT at the American History Museum. Free. Artisphere, 7:00 PM.
Thursday, March 31: Remembering Lena Horne
Tonight, the National Museum of American History and the National Portrait Gallery pay tribute to the life, career and civil rights legacy of the legendary entertainer Lena Horne. Susan Lacy, creator and executive producer of the PBS series American Masters, joins Horne’s daughter Gail Lumet Buckley in a discussion moderated by Smithsonian curator Dwight Blocker Bowers and George Washington University program producer Richard Golden. Afterwards, enjoy a special screening of the American Masters documentary Lena Horne: In Her Own Voice. Free. National Portrait Gallery, 6:30-9:00 PM
Friday, April 1: NanoDays 2011
Come on out to Spark!Lab and take part in NanoDays, a nationwide celebration of nanotechnology aimed at teaching the general public—particularly children—about nano science and invention and the role it plays in our lives. Spark!Lab staff and docents help visitors conduct experiments and demonstrations, including: constructing a giant model of a carbon nanotube entirely from balloons; measuring height in nanometers and creating a liquid crystal display that changes color. Free. American History Museum, 10:00 AM-4:00 PM
For updates on all exhibitions and events, visit our companion site goSmithsonian.com
March 24, 2011
Friday, March 25: Disorder
Using footage taken by amateur filmmakers, director Huang Weikai stitched short segments together to create a one-of-a-kind documentary. The film captures the anarchy, violence and seething anxiety animating China’s major cities today, as urbanization advances at a breakneck pace. One man dances in the middle of traffic while another tries to jump from a bridge before dozens of onlookers. Pigs run wild on a highway while dignitaries swim in a polluted river. Such scenes, which can’t be shown on China’s heavily controlled television networks, reflect an emerging underground media in Chinese society. Mandarin with English subtitles. Free. Freer, 7:00 PM.
Saturday, March 26: Portrait Story Days: Pocahontas
If your knowledge of Pocahontas comes by way of the 1995 Disney cartoon—or any of the many popular myths about her that still pervade our culture—you owe it to yourself to visit the National Portrait Gallery for Portrait Story Day. Learn the real story behind the you Native American woman who married English settler John Rolfe and then create your own work of art. Ideal for young visitors accompanied by an adult. Free. National Portrait Gallery, 1:00-4:00 PM.
Sunday, March 27: Painted Parasols
As you tour the Freer and Sackler Galleries, pay special attention to the flower motifs in the clothes and accessories of Japanese women as they stroll through parks in springtime. Then, in the Freer courtyard, paint a paper parasol to carry as you visit the cherry blossom trees around the Tidal Basin. Free. Sackler Gallery, 2:00 PM.
For updates on all exhibitions and events, visit our companion site goSmithsonian.com
March 23, 2011
Dame Elizabeth Taylor, actress and legend of the silver screen, passed away this morning at age 79. She suffered from chronic health problems and died at Cedars Sinai Hospital from congestive heart failure, a condition she was initially diagnosed with in 2004.
Born in London, Taylor began acting at the age of 12, scoring her breakthrough role of Velvet Brown in the 1944 film National Velvet, where she played an aspiring equestrian who illicitly competes in the Grand National Steeplechase. She became a major child star at MGM and was one of a few young actors who were able to make that difficult transition to adult roles. Maturing into a dazzling beauty with raven hair and violet eyes, Taylor was at her zenith during the 1950s and 60s, appearing in films such as Father of the Bride, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Suddenly Last Summer and Cleopatra, where she met her future husband Richard Burton. She took home Oscar gold for her performance as a call girl in BUtterfield 8 and for playing the disillusioned and acidic Martha in a cinematic treatment of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
In 1956, she appeared opposite James Dean in a screen adaptation of the Edna Ferber novel Giant. During filming, photographer Sid Avery captured a behind-the-scenes shot of the actress, currently on view at the National Portrait Gallery. “It is in the unscripted, candid moment captured in this image that Taylor’s extraordinary beauty is most striking,” says Ann Shumard, the Portrait Gallery’s curator of photographs. “Blissfully unaware of the camera, the 23-year-old actress raises her face to the Texas sun as she enjoys a break in the filming of Giant. Even in an unguarded moment, she is every bit the star whose beauty made her such a mesmerizing presence on the screen.”
Taylor also had a longstanding love affair with jewelry and wrote a book about her collection and the stories behind her pieces. Currently on display at the Cooper Hewitt Museum’s exhibition Set in Style: The Jewelry of Van Cleef and Arpels is her lamartine bracelet that dates from 1970.
“Elizabeth Taylor had extraordinary taste in jewelry and a very fine collection,” says Sarah Coffee Coffin, a curator at Cooper-Hewitt. “The bracelet and earrings that go with them were both a present from Richard Burton that he bought her in Geneva in 1971. He liked them because the cabochon amethysts went with her violet eyes.”
Her film career waned in the 1970s and in the 1980s she was a recurring figure on the daytime soap operas “General Hospital” and “All My Children.” It was also during this period that she poured her time and resources into AIDS charities in an era when it was still a taboo subject. She created the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation in 1991 to assist people living with the disease. And though she was absent from acting and made few public appearances in her later years, she kept in touch with her legions of devoted fans via Twitter, sending out messages until just days before she was admitted to Cedars Sinai Hospital on February 11.
March 22, 2011
Game On. Registration has now begun for the new Smithsonian-museum based alternate reality game, Vanished.
Developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with funding from the National Science Foundation, the game encourages students, ages 11 to 14, to kick their critical thinking skills into high gear to solve a mystery . The 8-week alternate reality game engages students to try to figure out the cause of an environmental disaster using games, puzzles, online challenges, museum visits and scientific deduction. While the gaming experience is online, players are also encouraged to investigate their immediate environs by visiting Smithsonian and Smithsonian affiliate museums to find information that will help them complete the game.
In online video conferences, Smithsonian scientists—forensic anthropologist Kari Bruwelheide, paleo-ecologist Conrad Labandeira, geologist Elizabeth Cottrell, entomologist David Roubik—will interact with the players to help them along in the game, as well as to give them a realistic idea about what it’s like to be a professional in the field, debunking some of the more pervasive cultural stereotypes. (There are more women in the field than you might initially think and yes, they do have hobbies and outside interests like the rest of us.)
“We want kids to go in and feel like investigators and scientists,” says MIT’s Caitlin Feeley, the game’s project manager. “This online mystery-solving community is a lot like a scientific community.”
Gamers will pool and discuss their ideas on moderated online forums, as a group they can challenge their own assumptions and rethink hypotheses and collectively solve clues.
Sidebar mini games available on the site teach scientific concepts that can be used to help solve the larger mystery. For example, in Rover, players can explore a virtual archaeological site and digitally dig up and examine artifacts in the Smithsonian’s collections, using observations to interpret data.
A few years ago the Smithsonian approached the Education Arcade at MIT, a group focused on finding innovative ways to use digital gaming as a teaching tool, about doing a game on museum education. ”It gets kids into museums with purpose,” says Feeley.
“Sometimes there are efforts to get kids engaged with museums that don’t actually get kids to think about why the exhibits are important or get them to integrate that into other things. They’ll do something like go on a scavenger hunt, write a report on what you saw—that kind of thing,” she says.
“In a lot of ways, solving a mystery, even if it’s a fictional mystery, teaches you a lot more about how to be a scientist than memorizing some stuff and copying it down on a test next week. Sometimes if kids don’t get a good science teacher, they get the unfortunate impression that science is just about memorizing a bunch of stuff. Why would you want to do that? We want kids to understand that it’s about problem solving, investigation,” says Feeley. “You make some hypotheses and if they don’t bear out, you take your investigation in another direction based on what you’ve learned. That’s true for mystery solving and it’s true for science.”
Visit Vanished to sign up. The free games begin April 4, 2011, all you need is a computer with an internet connection.