September 20, 2012
Friday, September 21 We Were Always Here dedication ceremony
Bear and Raven occupy two specific roles for Wiyot sculptor Rick Bartow’s culture: one is slow and methodical, fiercely protective of her children, while the latter is playful and powerful. Both icons make dramatic appearances on We Were Always Here, Bartow’s latest sculpture for the American Indian Museum, where they focus their attention on beautifully carved salmon. Timed to coincide with the autumn equinox, the installation and dedication ceremony will feature a blessing and a song led by renowned painter and poet Frank LaPena. Free. 5:30 p.m. American Indian Museum, outdoors near 4th Street and Jefferson Drive SW.
Saturday, September 22 Jim Henson Family Day
Celebrate the birthday of the man behind the frog with an all-day celebration at the National Portrait Gallery, featuring music performed by the student choir from the Jim Henson School of Arts, hands-on puppet-making activities, interactive puppet theater, gallery talks and themed-cookies. Pay homage to Jim Henson’s portrait in the Twentieth-Century Americans exhibit before hunkering down to watch Kermit the Frog get chased cross-country by a frog-legs dealer in the classic, The Muppet Movie. Free. 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. National Portrait Gallery, Kogod Courtyard.
Sunday, September 23 Sufism at the Smithsonian
It was the 13th century Sufi poet, Rumi, who wrote, “Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.” Part of a mystical Islamic tradition that embraces dance as a form of spiritual communion, Rumi’s poetry resonates with readers across the world. As part of a two-day conference beginning Saturday, the American Indian Museum and the Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies will be exploring the religious world of which Rumi played a role. The talks will focus on dance, contemporary arts, poetry and music. As true as it was when Rumi first wrote it, there are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground. Learn more about the history behind this artistically rich religious philosophy. Sunday’s program beings at 12 p.m. with whirling dervishes and musicians. Free. 12 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. American Indian Museum.
September 13, 2012
Friday September 14, P-047
What would it be like to spend a day in someone else’s shoes? In director Kongdej Jaturanrasmee’s beguiling Thai mystery two young men embark on a mission to experience just that. Breaking into neighborhood homes, the film’s protagonists don’t steal anything but ideas of possible alternative lives. When they cross the line into meddling with a stranger’s secrets, it sets off a chain of events that shifts the story in a surprising, metaphysical direction. With a sense of dreaminess that permeates even its title, the film meanders through flashbacks, fantasies and fairytales. Thai with English subtitles. Free. 7 p.m. 98 minutes. Freer Gallery, Meyer Auditorium.
Saturday September 15, Book-Signing, Susan Castriota
Illustrator Susan Castriota writes children’s books with her co-author, Wilson: a poodle she rescued from a local animal shelter. Together their titles include: Wilson Gets Adopted and Wilson Learns Manners. Their new book, Wilson and the White House Pups, features all of the favorite four-legged pals of the 43 presidents of the United States. Join Castriota for a book-signing at the American History Museum, where her books will be available for purchase in the museum store. Free. 1-4 p.m. American History Museum.
Sunday September 16, Fiesta Musical
Join the National Zoo in its celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month with its annual fiesta, featuring animal demonstrations, Hispanic and Latino music, costumes, dancing, traditional crafts and Latin American foods. When your feet get tired from all the dancing, browse a plethora of artisan jewelry, sweaters, sculptures and other handmade crafts. Free. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. National Zoo.
September 6, 2012
Friday September 7, I Carried You Home
Director Tongpong Chantakrangkul’s debut film, I Carried You Home, follows two estranged sisters as they accompany the body of their deceased mother to its final resting place. The sisters travel across Thailand, from Bangkok to the rural birthplace of their mother, and come to terms with their grief and guilt along the way. This quiet, melancholy film explores the power of forgiveness. A Thai film with English subtitles. 113 minutes. 7 p.m. Free. Freer Gallery.
Saturday September 8, The Expert Is In: Honeybees
Did you know that honeybees are assigned tasks based on their age? Or that it would only take an ounce of honey to fuel a honeybee on a trip around the whole world? Learn even more fun facts about honeybees with the experts at the Natural History Museum in conjunction with the O. Orkin Insect Zoo’s Butterflies + Plants: Partners in Evolution. See a beehive on view, and watch live bees in action. Learn about hives, workers, queens, pollen, nectar, stingers and how honey is made, and leave with a reinforced appreciation for the work that bees contribute to our environment and livelihood. 12-2 p.m. Free. Natural History Museum. Second Floor.
Sunday September 9, Smithsonian Chamber Players
As part of its Steinway series, The American Art Museum presents concerts that showcase classical chamber music performed by regional musicians. Performances feature the museum’s Steinway Concert Grand model D piano, a powerful and stirring instrument that lends itself well to the acoustics of the McEvoy Auditorium. This week, the Smithsonian Chamber Players will perform Franz Schubert’s Trio in B-flat major, D 898 and Franz Joseph Haydn’s “London” Symphony No. 104 in a contemporary arrangement by Johann Peter Salomon. The Smithsonian Chamber Music Society has performed around the world since 1976. 3-4 p.m. Free. American Art Museum, Lower Level.
For a complete listing of Smithsonian events and exhibitions visit the goSmithsonian Visitors Guide. And download our new Visitors Guide & Tours App for both iPhone and Android. Additional reporting by Michelle Strange.
August 31, 2012
Highlighting the animals found “in our own backyard,” The National Zoo’s American Trail opens tomorrow with an eye towards animal conservation, green initiatives and an interactive learning experience. The trail features 10 different animal species common to North America, spread along a winding path rife with shady trees and glimmering pools.
The land of the American Trail has been a part of the Zoo since the 1880s, when it was called “Beaver Valley” after a family of wild beavers who lived there. It was last updated in 1976 to accommodate new animals, and tomorrow it will re-open in a new-and-improved version of the space with a clear, comprehensive goal: to create an exhibit that demonstrates the very best practices in animal care and to serve as a leader in sustainable energy practices.
The trail and its buildings, tanks, and pens are LEED certified and feature complex filtration systems that rely on Washington, DC’s tap water. Animal Keeper Christina Castiglione says that green initiatives are “very important because if we employ them here, we can encourage the general public to employ them, too. We can lead by example.”
The trail’s LEED certification fits in well with its larger message of conservation. While many flock to see the Giant Pandas and other animals that come from far-off lands, zoo-goers tend to forget that North America is home to many majestic and awe-inspiring creatures. “We spend so much money saving pandas and other foreign animals,” says Animal Keeper Rachel Metz, “but we forget that people from other countries visit this part of the world and say, wow, these animals are so special. Americans will feel the same way if they can see them up close.”
While some of the animals on view were rescued from the wild, many came from other zoos, and several were even bred in breeding centers around the country. This makes the animals more receptive to their keepers, so that visitors can watch as they are fed and worked with right on the trail. “It’s a more interactive experience,” says Castiglione.
The animals in the exhibit were chosen based on their regional relevance and for the strong conservational messages they represent. The Marine Mammal Protection Act, for example, enacted in 1972, has been responsible for the successful repopulation of many marine animals, and with the American Trail’s seals and sea lions, zoo-goers can witness the effects of this kind of national conservation effort firsthand. One particularly endearing example is Selkie the gray seal, who was, quite literally, a Navy seal, trained to perform missions during the Cold War. She learned how to use a screwdriver and turn large wheels, and she assisted divers and located lost gear. Selkie represents how far we have come in conservation efforts to preserve species like the gray seal, who for centuries were hunted commercially across the Eastern Seaboard.
The exhibit’s bald eagle, otters and Mexican gray wolves tell similar conservation success stories. “The bald eagle,” says Castiglione, “is such a huge part of American history, and we were able to rescue Tioga, who was injured in the wild.”
Also joining the list of animals are ravens, beavers, hooded merganser ducks and brown pelicans. The impressive list of animals reflects an important sentiment: If we can continue to conserve our natural resources, we will be able to look at these native animals and more for centuries to come.
August 28, 2012
As the 2012 presidential campaign gains steam with party conventions, round-the-clock television ads and the usual up-tick in party-affiliated rhetoric, it becomes necessary to remind ourselves of the timelessness of such divides. In his 1796 farewell address, George Washington warned against the dangers of political factions: “The common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.”
We have yet to heed his advice.
Political history curators Larry Bird and Harry Rubenstein of the National Museum of American History have spent decades collecting the ephemera of our two party system, putting ideologies aside in the spirit of assembling the most valuable mementos for American history students of the future. Attending both conventions every four years, Bird and Rubenstein (known as “Harry and Larry”) preserve materials that best represent the atmosphere of the presidential campaigns, from the red, white and blue confetti that rains down at the end of speeches, to the dapper buttons of the candidates’ devotees.
In celebration of the work that Harry and Larry embark on every year, we’ve assembled a few tokens of presidential campaign memorabilia from the Smithsonian collections.