August 13, 2009
We had to sift through nearly 150 entries for the contest, many of them involving Tom Cruise, foot soldiers or exaggerated German accents, but we’ve finally crowned our winner.
“Stupid mannequins. ‘Nougat filling,’ my a**.”
Kudos to Kevin for his winning submission, which he submitted just a few hours before the deadline.
So what’s actually going on in the picture above? It’s a 1976 photo of an exhibits specialist and a museum curator adjusting mannequins to fit into historic uniforms for display at the National Air and Space Museum. Since the uniforms are historically accurate, they cannot be altered to fit the mannequins; consequently, the mannequins are altered to fit the uniforms.
Out there in reader-land, let us know what you think.
June 18, 2009
This Sunday, we give it up to Dad (or that fatherly figure) who has always been generous with his love and guidance and the occasional back-yard barbecue. (Have you written your letter to daddy saying “I love you” yet?) In the tradition of our Mother’s Day posting, we decided to dig up a few notable dads that are hanging out in that great big den room we call the Smithsonian. Which of the following guys do you think you’d like to have as a fantasy dad? Take our poll and let’s chat in the comments area below! So, cue up some apropos competition music and take a look at the four fatherly figures contending for your affections:
George Washington: He was the first President of the United States and an accomplished military man, serving in both the French and Indian War and the American Revolution. This founding father—and father of our nation—was also an adoptive parent. After marrying the widow Martha Dandridge Custis, he helped her care for her two children, John (“Jacky”) and Martha (“Patsy”), as if they were his own. Unfortunately, both Patsy and Jacky would die young, with Jacky leaving behind a wife and four children. After his wife remarried, their two youngest kids, Eleanor and George, went to live with George and Martha at Mount Vernon. Face it, George Washington has “daddy” written all over him.
Charles Darwin: Unlike most Victorian-era fathers, Charles Darwin was very attentive to his children. ”To all of us,” one of his daughters later wrote, “he was the most delightful play-fellow, and the most perfect sympathizer. Indeed, it is impossible adequately to describe how delightful a relation his was to his family, whether as children or in their later life.” He also traveled the world over and championed one of the most revolutionary—and hotly debated—scientific theories: evolution, arguing that all species have a common ancestor and, over time, genetically adapt to their environment. This is the historical pop you want if you love science, adventure and to being tucked in at night.
Frank Lloyd Wright: This is the guy who revolutionized our notions of architecture and built some of the most awe-inspiring buildings that dot the American landscape. However, based on his 1932 autobiography, Wright seems to have a perfectly ambivalent attitude toward domestic life, writing, “I hated the sound of the word papa.” John Lloyd Wright, one of Frank’s seven children, has rosier remembrances of dear ol’ dad: “He performed all the functions of fatherhood, only he performed them differently,” John wrote. “He took no personal interest in my religious or academic training. But when it came to luxuries and play, he tenderly took my hand and led the way.” (John would go on to make a landmark contribution to the world of architecture by inventing Lincoln Logs in 1916.) If you think you could get along with a brilliant—albeit spoiled and bratty—father, Wright is the way to go.
Bill Cosby: This man wrote the book on fatherhood. Literally. He also comes with a sensible assortment of sweaters and a lifetime supply of Jell-O pudding. Who could ask for anything more? A standup comedian who later lent his boundless talents to television shows like I Spy, Fat Albert and, of course, The Cosby Show, Cosby also earned a doctorate degree in education and has a host of honorary degrees to his credit. If you want someone smart, funny, talented, dessert-savvy and who has an all-around tender loving way about him, Cosby will be a perfect fit for you. Unfortunately, the collections lack any Cosby artifacts, but we just couldn’t have done this poll without including pop culture’s quintessential father figure. So please, Bill, take the hint and call the Smithsonian!
June 16, 2009
So what is the true identity of that tic tac precariously teetering on stilts? A quick glance at its driver’s license reveals it to be a Van de Graaf accelerator. Not too familiar with those? Any childhood memories of placing your hands on those metal spheres in science museums and then having your hair stand on end? Well, it’s kind of similar to one of those, except on a much larger scale. And this one happened to be installed in Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History’s Atom Smashers: Fifty Years exhibition back in 1977.
We received nearly 250 entries for the contest, with many entries riffing on the old chicken/egg debate and others referencing the television shows “My Favorite Martian” and “Mork and Mindy.” Our favorite, the Editor’s Pick selection for what we thought was the funniest and most clever:
“Here you are, Frank. Now you’re all set for the Digital Television Transition.“
A hearty Smithsonian thanks to David King for submitting the entry.
What do you think was the best entry? Vote now, or forever hold your peace.
May 12, 2009
UPDATED, MAY 20: The zoo announced today that unfortunately, Mei Xiang, experienced a pseudo or false pregnancy. On the plus side, this means the indoor part of the Panda Habitat will re-open as of today, so get yourself to the zoo!
What will it take for Mei Xiang, the National Zoo’s celebrity panda, to get a visit from Mr. Stork. Logistically speaking, the Zoo’s birdhouse is less than a quarter mile hike to the panda habitat, so why the resident storks are holding out on dropping off a bundle of joy at Mei’s humble home is beyond comprehension. Is there an avian conspiracy afoot?
So, with non-traditional means of getting a baby off the table, we must rely on science—and at the moment, the Zoo’s veterinarians are keeping a close watch on Mei’s hormone levels. Progestin levels began to drop in early May, and when they baseline, we’ll either see a new cub or we won’t. Until then, Mei is playing it cool. No baby showers, no shopping sprees for binkies and onesies. However, her habitat has been closed off until further notice, which does nothing but make her adoring public wonder if they’ll hear the pitter patter of panda paws once again. So, what do you think? Take our poll below!
May 8, 2009
Sunday marks the day when we show our appreciation to the mother (or mother-like entity) who has impacted our lives in a million and one wonderful ways. (We’re not in the habit of celebrating familial dysfunction—so keep whatever mommie issues you have tucked away in the closet for a day.) With our minds focused on all things maternal, we here at ATM started thinking: what awesome moms are hanging out at the Smithsonian? Here is a short list of notable women whose presence graces the halls and walls of the museums. Who is your favorite mother in the bunch? Is there one you’d like to have tucking you in at night? Take our poll and let’s chat in the comments area below! Here are our four historical mothers competing for your affection:
Abigail Adams: A first-rate First Lady, Adams was a self-educated avid reader with a razor wit. Her husband, John Adams, was away for extended periods of time (forming a nation, after all, isn’t the simplest thing in the world to do), which left her at home alone to tend to a farm and raise and educate her four children—including future president John Quincy Adams. A consummate entertainer, patriot and a proponent of women’s rights (her entreaties to the continental Congress to “remember the ladies” and provide women more legal rights went unheeded), Abigail Adams is one hardcore mamma.
Marie Curie: The two-time Nobel Prize-winning Mother of Modern Physics was also the only person to mother another Nobel Prize winner (Irene Curie). Together with her husband, Pierre, the Curies isolated polonium and radium and spent their lives studying the properties of these radioactive elements—namely for their therapeutic properties. She was held in high esteem by the scientific community and received numerous awards and accolades. If you have a deep-rooted love of science—or if you happen to enjoy someone with a glowing personality—this may be the hypothetical mother for you.
Josephine Baker: Born in America, Baker made her mark in France as an entertainer and a participant in the French Underground during World War II (for which she earned the Croix de Guerre and Legion of Honor service medals) and was a lifelong civil rights activist. She also adopted 12 multi-ethnic children who lived with her in her 15th-century castle. Dubbed “The Rainbow Tribe,” it was Baker’s way of showing the world that people of all ethnic backgrounds could live together in peace and love. If you’re a wild child with a hardcore sense of self, you two would be like two peas in a pod.
Joan Crawford: The Hollywood icon who starred in classic films such as Mildred Pierce and What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? is perhaps best remembered for playing glamorous, fiery characters. And there’s just no imitating her style: those drastically arched eyebrows, wide mouth and shoulder pads. Crawford later became the subject of the book Mommie Dearest, a scathing portrait written by her adopted daughter Christina. If you’re a glamour puss who hates hanging your $300 clothes on wire hangers, you two will get along swimmingly.