January 28, 2013
Smithsonian museums in the Washington, D.C. area as well as the National Zoo will open at noon Monday, due to inclement weather.
An early morning round of freezing rain left roads slick with ice as federal workers and schools around the area got off to a slow start. Canada would like to remind us, via Huffington Post, that cold weather has some perks too, eh? Like making it more difficult for some viruses and bacteria to live. Plus you can effectively “wash” your bed linens by hanging them out in the cold. We’d recommend waiting for the rain to stop, though, before you give that a try.
January 21, 2013
Inauguration day, it’s finally here, along with millions of visitors looking to take in some uniquely D.C.-culture. While our special presidents tour from our visitors guide app will keep you exploring in your spare-time, this post is all about the when, where and how of January 21. Plus, a few select events happening around the Smithsonian, you know, in between the whole inauguration thing.
On Inauguration Day, January 21, Smithsonian museums on the National Mall are open 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. A few museums will open early—the Castle opens at 7:30 a.m., Sackler Gallery, Freer Gallery, Hirshhorn and African Art open at 8 a.m. Mall entrances on the south side will be closed. Visitors will be asked to use the Independence Ave. entrances.
The American Indian Museum and the Renwick Gallery are closed January 21.
The Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery are open from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The Luce Center at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Lunder Conservation Center will be closed Sunday, January 20.
Most streets around the National Mall—including Independence and Constitution avenues and Jefferson and Madison drives—will be closed Monday, January 21.
The Archives, Smithsonian and Mt. Vernon Square stations will be closed Sunday, January 20 to Monday, January 21, midnight to 5:30 p.m. All other stations will open Monday, January 21 at 4 a.m.
No Parking on the National Mall after 6 p.m. on Sunday, January 20.
All museums, open to the public during designated hours, have accessible restrooms
Live broadcast of the swearing-in ceremony in Flag Hall in American History Museum, beginning at 11:30 a.m. A live broadcast will also begin at 11:30 a.m. at the African Art Museum.
Inaugural theme walk-in tours, Monday, January 21, 12:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. at the American Art Museum.
For “Super Sonic Weekend: Sounds and Songs of the American Presidency” (all day Monday), Smithsonian Folkways Recordings is streaming audio recordings related to the American presidency, from a 1757 campaign song used by George Washington in his first race for the Virginia House of Burgesses, to presidential speeches and much more.
Tour America’s Presidents at the National Portrait Gallery at 1:00 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.
At the National Portrait Gallery: ”Portrait of President Barack Obama” The original artwork, a hand-finished collage by artist Shepard Fairey, from President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign is on view January 19 – 22. The work is joined by two larger-than-life tapestry portraits of the president by artist Chuck Close.
At the American Indian Museum: ”A Century Ago: They Came as Sovereign Leaders” This photo exhibition focuses on President Theodore Roosevelt’s 1905 inaugural parade and the six great chiefs who participated in the parade arriving with their own purposes in mind and representing the needs of their people.
At the National Museum of African American History and Culture Gallery in the American History Museum: Changing America: The Emancipation Proclamation, 1863, and the March on Washington, 1963″ In 2013 the country will commemorate two events that changed the course of the nation-the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation and the 1963 March on Washington. Standing as milestone moments in the grand sweep of American history, these achievements were the culmination of decades of struggles by individuals – both famous and unknown – who believed in the American promise that this nation was dedicated to the proposition that “all men are created equal.”
January 14, 2013
What Django Unchained Got Wrong: A Review From National Museum of African American History and Culture Director Lonnie Bunch
For more than two centuries slavery dominated American life, the shadow of slavery shaped everything from politics to the economy, from Westward expansion to foreign policy, from culture to commerce and from religion to America’s sense of self. And yet, contemporary America has little understanding or tolerance for discussions about the enslavement of millions. In many ways, slavery is the last great unmentionable in American public discourse. So I was hopeful and interested when I learned that Quentin Tarantino was to tackle the subject of slavery in his movie Django Unchained.
At nearly three hours long, Django Unchained is as much about slavery as a spaghetti Western is about the realities of the American West. Slavery is little more than a backdrop, a plot device for Tarantino’s musings on violence, loss, individual and collective evil, sex and retribution. The notion of a black man (Jamie Foxx as Django) willing to risk all to regain the wife (Kerry Washington as Broomhilda) who was taken from him when she was sold like chattel is a powerfully compelling narrative, one that is ripe with historical accuracy, drama and pain. Unfortunately, the richness of this story is obscured by the Sam Peckinpah-like violence and by the overly broad characterizations that reduce the character’s humanity to caricature. I understand the power of satire and the fact that it is “just a movie,” but the story of slavery deserves a much more nuanced, realistic and respectful depiction.
There are, however, aspects of the film that successfully illuminate the dark corners of the enslavement of African Americans. Tarantino captures the manner in which violence was an everpresent aspect of slave life that helped to maintain and protect the institution of slavery. The scenes where Broomhilda is viciously whipped or where Django removes his shirt to reveal a lifetime of scars are the movie’s most accurate and most painful moments. Tarantino also exposes the sexual abuse and the lack of control that enslaved women had over their bodies: to the movie’s credit, it does not shy away from the realities of sex across the color line. While Leonardo DiCaprio’s over-the-top depiction of plantation owner Calvin Candie often brought inappropriate chuckles from the audience, DiCaprio does capture the unchecked and capricious use of power that was at the heart of the plantation system. And Candie’s overly friendly and unrealistic relationship with the black head of his household (Stephen, wonderfully created by Samuel L. Jackson), nevertheless, does reflect the status that some enslaved garnered from their proximity to the master.
Yet these moments are far too fleeting in a three-hour movie. One of the biggest disappointments is the depiction of enslaved women. I had been quite impressed with Tarantino’s direction of Jackie Brown, a movie that allowed Pam Grier to explore the limits and the strength of a woman caught in a difficult situation. So I hoped that the women in Django Unchained would have a depth and a sense of completeness that would enhance the film. Unfortunately, the enslaved women are either sexual partners or cowering individuals waiting to be rescued. During slavery, many women struggled to define and to defend themselves in circumstances that sought to strip them of their humanity. Women found ways to maintain a sense of family and a belief in the possibilities of future that they could only imagine. These women do not appear in Django Unchained.
Quentin Tarantino is a gifted filmmaker but this is a flawed presentation. My only hope is that this film opens the Hollywood door that would encourage others to create movies that are much more respectful and provide a more nuanced interpretation of America’s greatest sin, the institution of slavery–an institution whose impact and legacy still color who we are today.
Lonnie Bunch, the director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, taught film history at the University of Massachusetts. The museum’s latest exhibition, “Changing America: The Emancipation Proclamation 1863 and the March on Washington 1963,” is on view through September 15, 2013, at the National Museum of American History.
Abraham Lincoln has proved potent blockbuster material. Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln led the pack with a total of 12 Oscars nominations, including for Best Picture, and got the presidential treatment when Bill Clinton introduced it at the Golden Globes awards ceremony Sunday. Though it certainly has its fans, the film, which focuses on the passage of the 13th amendment, has inspired a great deal of analysis and some criticism.
Quoted in the Los Angeles Review of Books as part of a scholarly breakdown of the film, Brooklyn College Professor Cory Robin writes that abolition was a “process by which slavery collapsed under the pressure of federal arms and the slaves’ determination to place their own liberty on the wartime agenda.”
It’s this side of the story, the immense and ongoing efforts of slaves, that director of the African American History and Culture Museum Lonnie Bunch wants to highlight in the exhibit “Changing America,” which pairs the Emancipation Proclamation with the March on Washington, which took place 100 years later.
“It isn’t simply Lincoln freeing the slaves,” says Bunch. “There are millions of people, many African Americans, who through the process of self-emancipation or running away, forced the federal government to create policies which lead to the Emancipation Proclamation.”
For more background on the proclamation, check out Megan Gambino’s document deep dive.
“Changing America: The Emancipation Proclamation, 1863 and the March on Washington, 1963“ is on view at the American History Museum through September 15, 2013.
December 14, 2012
In the midst of the Civil War, between writing the first and final drafts of the Emancipation Proclamation, Abraham Lincoln stated, “If I could save the Union without freeing any slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it.” On January 1, 1863, the final version was issued as an order to the armed forces. One hundred years later on a hot summer day, hundreds of thousands of individuals marched on Washington to demand equal treatment for African Americans under the law.
The year 2013 marks the 150th and 100th anniversaries of these two pivotal moments in American history and in recognition a new exhibition opens December 14, “Changing America: The Emancipation Proclamation, 1863 and the March on Washington, 1963,” produced jointly by the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) and the National Museum of American History (NMAH). Lonnie Bunch, NMAAHC director says he, along with NMAH curators Harry Rubenstein and Nancy Bercaw, chose to pair the anniversaries not just because the March on Washington was seen as a call to finally fulfill the promise of the Proclamation, but because together they offer insights into how people create change and push their leaders to evolve.
For example, says Bunch, “It isn’t simply Lincoln freeing the slaves. . . there are millions of people, many African Americans, who through the process of self-emancipation or running away, forced the federal government to create policies which lead to the Emancipation Proclamation.”
In the same way the March on Washington put pressure on John F. Kennedy to draft the Civil Rights Act of 1964, so too did the actions of abolitionists and enslaved people force Lincoln’s government to respond.
Artifacts like Nat Turner’s bible, Harriet Tubman’s shawl and a portrait of a black Union soldier and his family together with Lincoln’s proclamation tell stories of self-emancipation before and during the war.
Slaves, who had run away and established the so-called freedmen’s villages, were demanding to be allowed to fight with the Union, even as they were initially considered “contraband of war.” The presence of their huge tent cities—in Memphis an estimated 100,000 rallied— established along the Mississippi River, the East coast and in Washington, D.C., served as a constant reminder, a silent daily witness, to the president. “They were pushing the war toward freedom,” says Bercaw.
Bunch says the curatorial team worked with Civil Rights legends, like Representative John Lewis, to understand how the March was organized from within. Highlighting the role of women in the numerous civil rights organizations that helped orchestrate the event, the exhibit again models the diverse roots of change.
“When I look at this moment,” says Bunch, “it should really inspire us to recognize that change is possible and profound change is possible.”
”Changing America: Emancipation Proclamation, 1863 and the March on Washington, 1963″ runs through September 15, 2013 at the American History Museum.