December 5, 2013
The Smithsonian is here to get you into the swing of the holiday season by way of a free, two-day festival happening this weekend. Come out to the mall for two days of movies, music, book signings and (of course), shopping. For all gifts purchased at the Air and Space, American History and Natural History Museum stores, volunteers will be on hand to wrap your presents from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM. And if you need help getting around, the Smithsonian Holiday Shuttle Bus will loop the National Mall every fifteen minutes from 9:00 AM until 6:00 PM, stopping at the American History Museum, Smithsonian Castle, Air and Space Museum, American Indian Museum and Natural History Museum. Getting excited? Here’s the rundown of events.
Saturday, December 7
Air and Space Museum
9:30 AM-3:00 PM: Holiday Festival Family Activities for All Ages
Learn about comets and make a decorative comet ornament to take home. Learn how different cultures around the world told different stories about the same groups of stars, discover your Tibetan sun sign and then decorate your Greek sun sign. Design and create a paper Native American star quilt.
11:00 AM-2:00 PM: NASA Star Quilt Activity
Create a star-themed fabric quilt block to add to the block created by astronaut Karen Nyberg aboard the International Space Station. Nyberg has invited the public to create star-themed blocks to be combined into a community quilt for the 2014 International Quilt Festival. This event repeats on December 8 at the same time and venue.
11:00 AM-4:00 PM: Trunk Show: Alpha Industries
Alpha Industries has been making military garments for over 50 years. Come explore our assortment of Alpha flight jackets, including our most popular style, the MA-1, which has a bright orange lining used during rescue missions.
11:00 AM-5:00 PM: Trunk Show: Red Canoe
Red Canoe offers aviation inspired apparel and accessories perfect for the flight enthusiast. Meet Dax Wilkinson, Founder and President of Red Canoe, and shop their line featuring products inspired by Boeing, Cessna, Lockheed Martin and North American Aviation. This event repeats on December 8 at 10:00 AM at the same venue.
11:00 AM: US Air Force Band Holiday Concert: Max Impact
Come listen to Max Impact, the United States Air Force’s six-man rock band as they perform a lively holiday concert. This event repeats today at 12:00 PM, and 1:00 PM, and again on December 8 at 11:00 AM, 12:00 PM and 1:00 PM.
3:00 PM-5:00 PM: Book Signing: Margaret Weitekamp, David DeVorkin and Diane Kidd
Air and Space Museum curators Margaret Weitekamp and David DeVorkin teamed up with illustrator Dianne Kidd to create the children’t book Pluto’s Secret: An Icy World’s Tale of Discovery. Meet the authors and illustrator and have your copy of the book signed.
American History Museum
9:30 AM-5:00 PM: Jewelry Trunk Show: Anne Koplik Designs
Anne Koplik’s handmade, vintage-inspired jewelry has studded the fashion scene for the past 30 years and has been featured on television programs such as Dancing With the Stars and America’s Got Talent. A selection of her bangles and baubles will be available for purchase at the museum store. This event repeats on December 8 at the same time and venue.
10:00 AM-5:00 PM: $10 for 10 mins.: Smithsonian Tours by Segway
In the market for alternative modes of transportation? Try the Segway PT for 10 minutes for only $10. If you enjoyed your test run, save your receipt and get $10 off a Smithsonian Segway tour, where you can enjoy a scenic glide along the National Mall. Tickets are required: $10 for the 10-minute Segway experience. This event repeats on December 8 at the same time and venue.
11:00 AM-3:00 PM: The Polar Express 3D
A special, 12-minute 3D adaptation of the Chris Van Allsburg children’s book will be screened at the Warner Brothers Theater. Tickets are $5 and are on sale outside the Warner Brothers Theater. Multiple screenings will occur each hour between 11:00 AM and 3:00 PM. This event repeats on December 8 at the same time and venue.
11:00 AM-1:00 PM: Book Signing: David Bruce Smith
Author David Bruce Smith signs copies of his books Three Miles from Providence, a work of historical fiction about a Mexican-American War veteran called to guard Abraham Lincoln, and American Hero, an illustrated biography of founding father and Chief Justice John Marshall.
11:00 AM-1:00 PM: Book Signing: Susan Castriota
Author Susan Castriota signs copies of her children’s book Wilson and the White House Pups, the story of an adopted poodle who travels back in time to meet the dogs who inhabited the White House.
11:00 AM-2:00 PM: U.S. Air Force Singing Sergeants
The official chorus of the United States Air Force will fill Flag Hall with the sounds of the holidays. Each performance begins on the hour and lasts approximately 20 minutes.
1:00 PM-3:00 PM: Book Signing: Richard Kurin
The Smithsonian Institution’s Under Secretary for History, Art and Culture Richard Kurin signs copies of his book The Smithsonian’s History of America in 101 Objects, which tells the story of the United States from the pre-Columbian era to the present, all in 101 objects from the Institution’s vast collections.
3:00 PM-5:00 PM: Book Signing: Ann Mah
Food and travel writer Ann Mah signs copies of her book Mastering the Art of French Eating: Lessons in Food and Love from a Year in Paris, in which she chronicles her gastronomic adventures in the City of Light.
3:00 PM-5:00 PM: Book Signing: Roland Mesnier
Chef Roland Mesnier, who served sweets to five presidents of the United States, signs copies of his culinary memoir A Sweet World of White House Desserts. You can also satisfy your sweet tooth with a slice of pie made from Brown’s recipes, for sale in the Stars & Stripes Café.
3:00 PM-5:00 PM: Book Signing: Warren Brown
Lawyer-turned-baker Warren Brown, founder of CakeLove bakery, will sign copies of his fourth book Pie Love: Inventive Recipes for Sweet and Savory Pies, Galettes, Pastry Cremes, Tarts, and Turnovers.
3:30 PM-5:00 PM: Puppet Demonstration and Book Signing: the Puppet Co.
Puppet Master Christopher Piper brings to life a Circus Bear, Cinderella’s bossy stepmother, and shows kids how to make a sassy hand puppet with a simple rubber ball. Afterward, Piper is joined by fellow Puppet Masters MayField Piper and Allan Stevens to sign copies of their book of the Puppet Co.’s The Nutcracker, illustrated with color photographs from the production, and celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the show. This event repeats today at 3:30 pm and 4:15 pm.
10:00 AM-4:00 PM: Trunk Show: Kyoto Kimono
Kyoto Kimono offers one-of-a-kind vintage Japanese garments straight from the temple markets and auction houses of Kyoto, Japan. Each vintage kimono is unique, offering its own expression of Japanese life and culture. Come shop our assortment, as well as special trunk show only items, and take home your own piece of wearable art. This event repeats on December 8 at the Natural History Museum.
1:00 PM-4:00 PM: Book Signing: Laura Kelley
Laura Kelley signs copies of her book The Silk Road Gourmet in which she chronicles the cuisine of 30 Asian countries in 1,000 recipes.
Natural History Museum
9:30 AM-5:00 PM: Jewelry Trunk Show: Meridian Jewelry & Design
Inspired by peoples and places from all over the world, designers Lynn and Brad Ölander draw on both old world aesthetics and modern streamlined forms in their collections of handmade jewelry
11:10 AM: Jerusalem 3D
Jerusalem 3D takes you on an inspiring and eye-opening tour of one of the worlds oldest and most enigmatic cities. Destroyed and rebuilt countless times over the past 5,000 years, Jerusalem’s enduring appeal remains a mystery. What made it so important to so many different cultures? How did it become the center of the world for three major religions? Why does it still matter to us? Tickets are required: $9 for adults; $8 for seniors; $7.50 for youth. Tickets may be purchased in advance online or at the Johnson IMAX Theater box office. This event repeats today at 1:50 PM and 3:20 PM and again on December 8 at the same times and venue.
1:00 PM-2:00 PM: Story Time: Dino Tracks with Rhonda Lucas Donald
Author Rhonda Lucas Donald and illustrator Cathy Morrison present their story, Dino Tracks. Come learn which dinosaurs made the tracks and what scientists think they were doing when they made them. American Sign Language interpretation will be provided.
2:00 PM-3:00 PM: Book Signing: Rhonda Lucas Donald
Author Rhonda Lucas Donald signs copies of her children’s books Dino Tracks and Deep in the Desert.
1:00 PM: Holiday Card Workshop
Come to the Postal Museum for this arts and crafts workshop where you can create your own personal, one-of-a-kind holiday greeting cards. Look to the museum’s collection of beautiful holiday stamps to inspire your creations.
11:00 AM-4:00 PM: Jewelry Trunk Show: Cynthia Gale
Cynthia Gale finds inspiration from the collections of American cultural institutions, such as the Kennedy Center and the New York Historical Society, to create her handmade works of sterling silver jewelry.
Sunday, December 8
Air and Space Museum
12:00 PM – 3:00 PM: Book Signing: Tami Lewis Brown
Author Tami Lewis Brown will sign copies of her children’s book Soar, Elinor!, the true story of Elinor Smith who earned her aviator’s license at the tender age of 16 and went on to be hailed as one of the best pilots in America.
American History Museum
11:00 AM-2:00 PM: U.S. Air Force Silver Wings
The premier country band of the United States Air Force will fill Flag Hall with music. Each performance begins on the hour and lasts approximately 20 minutes.
1:00 PM – 3:00 PM: Book Signing: Brian Jay Jones
Author Brian Jay Jones will sign copies of Jim Henson: The Biography, his account of the famous puppeteer and creator of the Muppets.
3:00 PM – 5:00 PM: Book Signing: John Fricke
Author John Fricke will sign copies of The Wonderful World of Oz: An Illustrated History of the American Classic, his latest book on the beloved 1939 movie.
3:00 PM – 5:00 PM: Book Signing: Paula Fleming
Author Paula Fleming will sign copies of her book Diableries: Stereoscopic Adventures in Hell, a book that reprints a series of 19th-century 3D postcards depicting supernatural scenes. Antique stereoscope viewers will be available near the book signing so you can experience first hand the original 3D entertainment.
4:00 PM – 4:30 PM: Walt Whitman High School Chamber Choir
The Walt Whitman High School of Bethesda, Maryland, Chamber Choir is the school’s most advanced choral group. The Chamber Choir has long been considered a flagship of excellence among high school choirs throughout the state of Maryland. The group performs a mix of a cappella pieces from a variety of choral styles, as well as holiday songs. Select jazz octets also perform lighter selections.
2:00 PM – 5:00 PM: Tranquil Tuesdays Tea Tasting Event
Meet Charlene Wang, founder of Tranquil Tuesdays, an online business that showcases China’s finest teas, and sample authentic Chinese tea in this tasting event.
November 25, 2013
It’s not the place you would expect to find the world’s third-oldest manuscript of the gospels. The jade-like walls of the Freer Gallery’s Peacock Room are beautifully rendered in rich detail work. Delicate spirals rim the panels and gold-painted shelves line the walls, housing dozens of works of Asian ceramics. On one end, a woman immortalized in portrait, robe falling from her shoulders, watches over the room. To her left, a row of closed shutters block the room’s access to the sunlight. Golden peacocks, their feathers and tails painted in intricate detail, cover the shutters. On the far wall, two more peacocks are poised in an angry standoff. One is dripping with golden coins. The creature is a caricature of the Peacock Room’s original owner, the wealthy Englishman Frederick R. Leyland. The other peacock represents the struggling, underpaid artist—James McNeill Whistler. Whistler, who fought with Leyland, his patron, dubbed the piece “Art and Money; or, the Story of the Room.”
The parchment pages of the late 4th to 6th century biblical manuscripts, recently placed on view in the middle of the room, were originally intended to be handled and turned gently, most likely, as a part of the liturgy, by the monks that owned and read them. In the seventh century, wooden covers painted with the figures of the four Evangelists were added, binding the manuscript tightly and making the pages much harder to turn. At that time, the bound books probably made the transition to a venerated object—but yet not a work of art.
The man who saw them as works of art was Charles Lang Freer, who purchased the manuscripts from an Egyptian antiques dealer in 1906 for the princely sum of 1,800 pounds, about $7,500 in today’s dollars. In 1912, after having purchased the Peacock Room in London and shipping it to his Detroit home, Freer set out the manuscripts in the room, displaying them for his guests, along with his collection of pottery and various Buddhist statues.
“Freer had this idea that even though all of the objects in his collection were quite diverse from all different times and places, they were linked together in a common narrative of beauty that reached back in time and came forward all the way to the present,” says curator Lee Glazer. “By putting the bibles in this setting which is a work of art in its own right, with all of these diverse ceramics, it was kind of a demonstration of this idea that all works of art go together, that there’s this kind of harmony that links past and present and East and West.”
The Freer Gallery chose to exhibit the manuscripts—their first public showing since 2006—much as the museum’s founder first did in 1912, focusing on their value as aesthetic objects and their juxtaposition against the opulence of the Peacock Room.
“This display of the bibles is less about the bibles as bibles than the surprising fact that he chose to exhibit them in the Peacock Room as aesthetic objects among other aesthetic objects,” explains Glazer.
The bibles are the first antique manuscripts that Freer bought, and while he purchased a few other rare texts in his lifetime, he never really threw himself into collecting them with the same fervor that he applied to his pottery collection. To Freer, the manuscripts were an important chapter to include in his collection at the Smithsonian—another chapter in the history of beauty throughout the ages.
Not everyone agreed with Freer’s presentation of the rare texts, however. “In one of the newspaper clippings, they accuse Freer of being too fastidious in the way that he’s treating the bibles,” Glazer says. “They suggested that they shouldn’t be considered works of art as objects, but as holy scripture.”
To Freer, the manuscripts represented an ancient chapter in the history of beauty, but he also understood their historical significance for biblical study. Upon his return to America, Freer underwrote $30,000 to support research conducted by the University of Michigan. In translating and studying the texts, the scholars found that one of the gospels contains a passage not found in any other biblical text. The segment, located at the end of the Gospel of Mark, includes a post-resurrection appearance of Christ before his disciples where he proclaims the reign of Satan to be over. For some, this revelation was more scandalous than Freer’s decision to showcase the manuscripts as aesthetic objects.
“It’s not found in any other known version of the gospels,” explains Glazer. “The fact that it said that the reign of Satan was over seemed really potentially outrageous. People were in a tizzy over it.”
The manuscripts, normally kept in the Freer Gallery archives due to their sensitivity to light, are some of the most sought after pieces in the gallery’s collection. The manuscripts will remain on display in the Peacock Room through February 2014.
July 18, 2013
As the weather heats up, some of the Smithsonian’s exhibits are preparing to cool down. To make way for future shows, a dozen current ones at various museums will close their doors by summer’s end, so don’t miss a chance to see some of these historic, unique, beautiful, innovative and thought-provoking exhibits. Here is a list of all exhibits closing before September 15.
Thomas Day was black man living in North Carolina before the Civil War. An expert cabinetmaker with his own business and more success than many white plantation owners, he was a freedman whose craftmanship earned him both respect and brisk sales. His style was classified as “exuberant” and was adapted from the French Antique tradition. Step back in time to the Victorian South and view Day’s ornate cabinetry work on display. Ends July 28. Renwick Gallery.
The Madrid-based artist group DEMOCRACIA created a video featuring the art of movement in a socio-political context. The film features practitioners of “parkour,” a kind of urban street sport with virtually no rules or equipment and where participants move quickly and efficiently through space by running, jumping, swinging, rolling, climbing and flipping. The actors are filmed practicing parkour in a Madrid cemetery, providing a spooky backdrop for their amazing acrobatics and interspersed with symbols of the working class, internationalism, anarchy, secret societies and revolution that pop up throughout the film. Ends August 4. Hirshhorn Museum.
The Edo period (1603-1868) marked a peaceful and stable time in Japan, but in the world of art, culture and literature, it was a prolific era. These companion exhibitions showcase great works of the Edo period that depict natural beauty as well as challenge the old social order. “Edo Aviary” features paintings of birds during that period, which reflected a shift toward natural history and science and away from religious and spiritual influence in art. “Poetic License: Making Old Words New” showcases works demonstrating how the domain of art and literature transitioned from wealthy aristocrats to one more inclusive of artisans and merchants. Ends August 4. Freer Gallery.
This exhibit, held at the American Indian Museum’s Gustav Heye Center in New York City, explores the significant contributions of Native Americans to contemporary music. From Jimi Hendrix (he’s part Cherokee) to Russell “Big Chief” Moore of the Gila River Indian Community to Rita Coolidge, a Cherokee, and Buffy Sainte-Marie, a Cree, Native Americans have had a hand in creating and influencing popular jazz, rock, folk, blues and country music. Don’t miss your chance to see the influence of Native Americans in mainstream music and pop culture. Ends August 11. American Indian Museum in New York.
The exhibition featuring works by the innovative Korean-American artist Nam June Paik, whose bright television screens and various electronic devices helped to bring modern art into the technological age during the 1960s, features 67 pieces of artwork and 140 other items from the artist’s archives. Ends August 11. American Art Museum.
Come to the Sackler Gallery and learn about the Japanese precursor to today’s electronic mass media: the woodblock-printed books of the Edo period. The books brought art and literature to the masses in compact and entertaining volumes that circulated Japan, passed around much like today’s Internet memes. The mixing of art with mass consumption helped to bridge the gap between the upper and lower classes in Japan, a characteristic of the progression during the Edo period. The exhibit features books in a variety of genres, from the action-packed to the tranquil, including sketches from Manga, not related to the Japanese art phenomenon of today, by the famous woodblock printer Hokusai. Ends August 11. Sackler Gallery.
In this seventh installation of the “Portraiture Now” series, view contemporary portraits by artists Mequitta Ahuja, Mary Borgman, Adam Chapman, Ben Durham, Till Freiwald and Rob Matthews, each exploring different ways to create such personal works of art. From charcoal drawings and acrylic paints to video and computer technology, these artists use their own style in preserving a face and bringing it alive for viewers. Ends August 18. National Portrait Gallery.
Celebrate Asian Pacific American history at the American History Museum and view posters depicting Asian American history in the United States ranging from the pre-Columbian years to the present day. The exhibit explores the role of Asian Americans in this country, from Filipino fishing villages in New Orleans in the 1760s to Asian-American involvement in the Civil War and later in the Civil Rights Movement. The name of the exhibit comes from the famed Filipino American poet Carlos Bulosan, who wrote, “Before the brave, before the proud builders and workers, / I say I want the wide American earth / For all the free . . .” Ends August 25. American History Museum.
This exhibit features a collection of eight portraits of influential women in American history, but you may not know all their names. They came long before the Women’s Rights Movement and questioned their status in a newly freed America by fighting for equal rights and career opportunities. Come see the portraits of these forward-thinking pioneers—Judith Sargent Murray, Abigail Smith Adams, Elizabeth Seton and Phillis Wheatley. Ends September 2. National Portrait Gallery.
Take a peek into the creative world of Chinese artist Xu Bing in this exhibition showcasing materials Bing used to create his massive sculpture Phoenix Project, which all came from construction sites in Beijing. The two-part installation, weighing 12 tons and extending nearly 100 feet long, features the traditional Chinese symbol of the phoenix, but the construction materials add a more modern message about Chinese economic development. While Phoenix Project resides at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, the Sackler’s companion exhibition displays drawings, scale models and reconfigured construction fragments. Ends September 2. Sackler Gallery.
Stroll through the London of the 1800s in this exhibit featuring works by painter James McNeill Whistler, who lived in and documented the transformation of the Chelsea neighborhood. Whistler witnessed the destruction of historic, decaying buildings that made way for mansions and a new riverbank, followed by a wave of the elite. With artistic domination of the neighborhood throughout the transition, Whistler documented an important part of London’s history. The exhibit features small etchings and watercolor and oil paintings of scenes in Chelsea during the 1880s. Ends September 8. Freer Gallery.
From Picasso to Man Ray to present-day sculptor Doris Salcedo, many of the most innovative and prolific modern artists have set aside paint brush and canvas to embrace mixed media. View works by artists from all over the world during the last century and see the evolution of the collage and assemblage throughout the years. Featured in this exhibit is a tiny Joseph Stella collage made with scraps of paper and Ann Hamilton’s room-sized installation made of newsprint, beeswax tablets and snails, among other things. Ends September 8. Hirshhorn Museum.
June 27, 2013
Friday, June 28: Navy Band Sea Chanters and Anchor Sisters
Cast out your anchor and float on the sound waves of the Navy Band Sea Chanters and the Anchor Sisters. The two bands will perform Friday as part of the Air and Space Museum’s Summer Concert Series. The Sea Chanters is the official co-ed chorus of the Navy. In addition to performing traditional sea chanteys, the talented group also sings opera, Broadway and contemporary songs. Sticking to the theme of tradition, The Anchor Sisters, an all-women subgroup of the Sea Chanters, will pay tribute to The Andrews Sisters. Free. 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Air and Space Museum.
Saturday, June 29: Dance House featuring Heveder and Szalonna and his band
Put on your dancing shoes and learn how Hungarians boogie. The Hungarian Dance Barn has been erected for the Folklife Festival, and on Saturday Transylvanian folk band Heveder will take the stage with Szalonna and his band to provide the music for this social dance party. Try your hand — and feet — at a variety of dances from different regions in Hungary. And don’t be shy — all skill levels are welcome. Free. 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Hungarian Dance Barn on the Mall.
Sunday, June 30: Cold War
Kidnapping, cops and power struggles. Sounds like a Hollywood blockbuster, right? Wrong. These are some of the major plot points in the Hong Kong hit movie Cold War, an action thriller starring Aaron Kwok and Tony Leung Ka Fai. The Freer Gallery will show this movie Sunday as part of the ongoing 18th Annual Made in Hong Kong Film Festival. The film begins with the kidnapping of five police officers, and an tense and exciting rescue operation ensues. The film will be shown in Cantonese with Chinese and English subtitles. Free. 2 p.m. Freer Gallery.
Also, check out our 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 packed with handy navigational tools, maps, museum floor plans and museum information including ‘Greatest Hits’ for each Smithsonian museum.
For a complete listing of Smithsonian events and exhibitions visit the goSmithsonian Visitors Guide. Additional reporting by Michelle Strange.
June 24, 2013
At any given moment on the National Mall, 27 family photos are being taken, 13 bunny ears are being given and 8 eyes are going crossed. While those numbers might be made up, the sentiment surely isn’t. People just can’t help themselves when they at last wrangle their families into a day at the museums. Attention must be paid to such a feat. Equipped with digital cameras and iPhones, parents arrange children squinting into the sun and couples pose beneath their own outstretched arms.
Now the Smithsonian is asking you to help build a family album from all the many photos taken daily at and around the museums. Through September 2, visitors can upload their own shots to “America’s Family Album.” Selected photos will later become part of an exhibit about the visitor experience. Plus, for each photo submitted, Ford will donate $5 to the institution, up to $50,000. So, go ahead, say cheese!