April 17, 2013
On April 16, Smithsonian Institution Secretary G. Wayne Clough testified before the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform about the impending effects of sequestration. Though the Obama administration had sought a $59 million budget increase for the Institution in fiscal 2014, this year Clough has to contend with a $41 million budget reduction due to sequestration. Gallery closings, fewer exhibitions, reduced educational offerings, loss of funding for research and cuts to the planning process of the under-construction National Museum of African American History and Culture were listed among the impacts of the sequestration.
Clough began his testimony: “Each year millions of our fellow citizens come to Washington to visit—for free—our great museums and galleries and the National Zoo, all of which are open every day of the year but one. Our visitors come with high aspirations to learn and be inspired by our exhibitions and programs.”
“It is my hope,” Clough told the committee, “that our spring visitors will not notice the impact of the sequestration.” Perhaps most noticeable would be the gallery closures, which, while they would not close entire museums, would restrict access to certain floors or spaces in the museums, unable to pay for sufficient security. Those changes would begin May 1, according to Clough.
Clough warned, however, that while these short-term measures will save in the near future, they might also entail long-term consequences. Unforeseen costs may arise in the form of diminished maintenance capabilities, for example. “Any delays in revitalization or construction projects will certainly result in higher future operating and repair costs,” Clough said.
This also threatens the Institution’s role as steward of thousands of historic and valuable artifacts–”Morse’s telegraph; Edison’s light bulb; the Salk vaccine; the 1865 telescope designed by Maria Mitchell, America’s first woman astronomer who discovered a comet; the Wright Flyer; Amelia Earhart’s plane; Louis Armstrong’s trumpet; the jacket of labor leader Cesar Chavez,” to name a few.
March 7, 2013
When Gabrielle Douglas isn’t flying between the uneven bars (earning the nickname “flying squirrel”) or flipping her way down a balance beam, she’s gracing the cover of Corn Flakes boxes, making cameos at the MTV Video Music Awards and sitting down with Oprah Winfrey. At age 16, Douglas won two golds at last year’s London Olympics, winning both the individual and team all-around competitions. With her double gold she became both the first African American gymnast to win the individual all around and the first American to also win the team competition. A series of high-profile appearances, including meeting the president, followed, but Douglas says she’s keeping focused on the next Olympics. Recently, she donated several personal items, including the leotard she wore during her first competitive season in 2003, to the growing collections of the new National Museum of African American History and Culture, which will open in 2015. Until then, they can be seen in the museum’s gallery at the American History Museum. Around the Mall caught up with the champion via email to talk about the donation and her future plans.
What do the items that you chose say about you, your life or stage in your career?
The items that I donated really tell the story of my journey to the Olympics. They represent me as an ordinary girl with big dreams, and as an Olympian at the peak of my gymnastics career. I wanted to share my first competition leotard because that’s where it all began for me—back home in Virginia. It’s a constant reminder to me of how far I’ve come.
Why did you choose the Smithsonian?
My mother took me and my siblings to the Smithsonian when we were much younger, and I was in awe of the amazing history. It’s such an honor to have my personal items on display at the world’s largest and most respected museum—especially in time for Black History Month. I thought that was pretty awesome.
What do you hope visitors will take away after seeing your items? What message do you hope they send?
I hope they see that my Olympic success did not happen overnight. This has been over a decade of hard work, but it all paid off. I also hope visitors will see that I could not have done this alone.They will see pictures of my family—my support system throughout this journey; and my host family, who joined forces with my mom to make sure that I reached my goal. I hope that my items send the message that anything is possible if you commit to your dream and fight for it every day. My mom taught me that success isn’t reserved for people of a specific color or background—it belongs to those who are willing to work for it.
You’ve had such incredible success, earning an impressive list of firsts. First African American woman to win gold in the individual all-around. First woman of color of any nationality to win the honor. First American athlete to win both the individual all-around and team gold medals. Which one meant the most to you and why?
You know, I think they are all equally important to me. I definitely take pride in the fact that I was able to change the face of gymnastics as the first African American woman to win gold in the individual all-around competition because I know what that means to little girls who look like me. However, winning the team gold medal was also a very special moment. It wasn’t so much about making history—I was just so happy to have the opportunity to celebrate with my teammates. Together, we brought the gold medal home to the U.S. and it felt great!
What was your favorite moment of the Olympics?
I will never forget the moment I ran and jumped in Coach (Liang) Chow’s arms after the Individual All Around Competition. I thanked him for believing in me and pushing me to reach my highest potential. I could see the pride in his eyes, and it was overwhelming. It still gives me chills when I think about that moment.
How do you think you’ve changed since the Olympics? What about since that first competitive season in 2003?
I’m asked that question all the time, but I’m just the same fun-loving Gabby. I love to hang out with family and friends, joke around, and have a great time. My family really keeps me grounded. I think, if anything, I’m more focused on using this platform I’ve been blessed to help inspire others. As for that first competitive season in 2003, I would say I’m definitely stronger and more confident. I’ve had a lot of bumps and bruises along the way, but those experiences have shown me how tough I am. I’m a fighter, and I love my competitive spirit.
What are you most looking forward to now?
My Olympic success has provided me with so many great opportunities in such a small window of time. It’s been such a whirlwind and a ton of fun. I’ve been able to meet some awesome fans who continue to encourage and support me. I’ve also made several appearances and met so many cool celebrities; I even met President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. I’m super grateful for all of these opportunities, but I’m really looking forward to getting back into the gym and working on new routines with Coach Chow. I’m ready to learn new tricks and step it up for 2016 in Rio!
The display at the American History Museum includes Douglas’ leotard as well as, ” the grip bag, wrist tape and uneven bar grips she used at the 2012 London Olympics; the ticket to the Olympics used by Douglas’ mother, Natalie Hawkins; and credentials used by Douglas to gain access to Olympic venues. Also on display will be personal photos donated by Douglas and an autographed copy of her new book Grace, Gold & Glory: My Leap of Faith.”
February 8, 2013
Carlotta Walls set out for her first day of 10th grade in a new dress. The year was 1957, and the school was Little Rock Central High. Walls and eight other African-American students were stopped by a white mob opposed to desegregation, and the ensuing confrontation between Arkansas and federal authorities took 20 days and Army troops to quell.
Walls recently donated the dress—patterned with numbers and letters—to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Bill Pretzer, a curator, says her great-uncle bought it thinking, “Desegregating Little Rock merits a store-bought dress.” Walls graduated from Little Rock Central in 1960, after her home was bombed that February.
“I really did want that diploma,” she says, “to validate all of the crap that I had gone through.” Carlotta Walls LaNier, now 70, is president of the Little Rock Nine Foundation, which works for equal access to education.
For your first day of school at Little Rock Central High School, why was that store-bought dress so special?
“We didn’t purchase too often, to be honest with you, if you understand the Jim Crow South, you couldn’t try on clothes, and so forth, as I grew up. My mother was an expert seamstress, so she just made all of our clothes, including hers. My great uncle, knew that that was the case and he wanted me to have a store-bought dress to go to my new school, so he stopped by the house and asked my mother, he said, here’s the money and I want you to go get her a store-bought dress.”
What were you thinking life at your new school would be like?
“I knew that we could not do any extracurricular activity…I knew I was giving that piece up but I just figured that the following year I’d be able to get back to extracurricular activities. That part was okay. It was excitement for me, to be going to a new high school, and to be the one that was in my neighborhood. So that was what was going on in my mind.”
“Yes, I saw all of the anger, and the ugly faces across the street, but I ignored them, and I really did consider them ignorant people. To be honest with you, that is what really got me through the whole year, that I knew this was ignorance that was making these statements and not the type of people that I would associate with.”
Were your parents worried to send you?
“I think they were more proud of the fact that I had signed up to go without a discussion with them.”
“I know they were nervous by what they were reading, but they also felt confident that we were doing the right thing. When I wrote my book, I read some quotes of my father’s and he felt that, he had served in World War II, I had a right to go to that school and his tax dollars helped pay for that school, for the schooling that went on. And he felt that they didn’t separate his taxes, so why should we be separated as far as going to school?”
As the youngest, how did you relate to the rest of the Little Rock Nine?
“I listened to the seniors and juniors, even when I was in junior high school, I looked up to those who were older and were doing well, they were role models for me.”
“I must admit as the months went on, I recognized we were all equal in this, so you know my decision making got sharper and more focused, I think I was focused to start with, otherwise I wouldn’t have gone there anyway, but as far as decision making I was making some decisions that were somewhat different than some of the others because I looked at the landscape a little bit differently.”
“One in particular. . .I was thinking about Minnijean [Brown-Trickey] and Melba [Pattillo Beals] and a couple of others who bought their lunch every day in the cafeteria. That was a battleground in my mind that, you knew that you were going to have to deal with being pushed and shoved. . .in line to purchase your lunch. So I brought my lunch every day, so I wouldn’t have to deal with that. I dealt with it enough in the hallways and in the classrooms. My one break was having lunch, so why have to continue that sort of thing in the lunch line?”
But you made it through the first year and then came back your senior year, even after the governor closed the school for an entire year?
“I was determined to finish that year, I was not going to give up, because that way they would’ve won, and I was not about to let that happen. Because of my sports involvement, I was a pretty competitive person. I was just not going to let that happen. I didn’t have to go back, but after awhile, after that first and the second year the schools were closed, I went back my senior year to finish, because I really did want that diploma to validate all of the crap that I had gone through.”
“I remember being back on the campus and the fact that there were no guards there to protect us. I was cautious, there was no question about that, however, I also felt that the senior class members were in the 10th grade with me. . .they had suffered just like I had in a sense with school being out and they were low people on the totem pole too, so now that they were in a leadership position, they were determined not to have the same sort of things to go on. Not to say that they stopped a lot of things, but the tone was different and they didn’t want the schools to be closed either, they were happy to be back in school.”
Why did your mom keep your first day of school dress all those years?
“She just packed it up and put it in the cedar chest. I think not knowing, but at the same feeling that it meant something, she kept it. And I’m just happy she did.”
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.”