April 17, 2009
The votes have been counted and the winner is:
“He couldn’t hide all the skeletons in his closet.”
Thank you T. Faundo for submitting the top entry.
Besides our admiration, the winner receives a free subscription to Smithsonian.com. Log on anytime, along with all the rest of you.
Think the closets in the photo makes the winning caption just so-so? Vote for your favorite entry below:
In case you were curious, the man in the photo is T. Dale Stewart. He was captured on October 3, 1950, attending to his day to day duties as a physical anthropology curator at the National Museum of Natural History.
Stewart was a familiar face at the Smithsonian Institution from 1924 until his death at 96-years-old in 1997. According to his obituary in the New York Times, in 1960, Stewart “reported that evidence had been found that early modern man had lived side by side with Neanderthals in the Middle East.” A point that has not been solidly proven, but is generally accepted in the scientific community.
The cabinets in the photograph still remain in the Smithsonian, containing thousands of skeletons collected by Stewart and his successors.
April 9, 2009
It was a perfect site to host a donation ceremony. In a grand room with burgundy wallpaper, wood paneling and gold chandeliers, men and women dressed to the nines milled about and quietly chattered, ignoring the camera crew and rapid-fire photography flash, in anticipation of the morning’s big event at the National Museum of American History. After a few opening remarks from Melinda Machado, associate director of the museum, the lights dimmed for a brief screening of movie clips to introduce the objects about to join America’s reliquary.
A woman stuck in a dishwasher. A wiener dog running around a back yard with a live firecracker in its mouth. A nun catching a wedding bouquet. And then there were a number of clips involving unfortunate incidents with a piñata stick hitting some poor guy in the groin.
That’s right kids. The Smithsonian now lends its gravitas to America’s Funniest Home Videos, which is currently enjoying its 20th season on the air.
Perhaps not the stuff of high art (although Homer Simpson will challenge you on that score), the series offers a very unique perspective on the human condition. “Humor and the ability to laugh at ourselves is an essential part of the American character,” said Dwight Blocker Bowers, curator of popular culture at the museum.
If you somehow have managed to never see the show, home videos are screened before a live studio audience who then votes to decide which is the funniest, which in turn scores the winning videographer $10,000. The artifacts donated to the Smithsonian include the first ever video to win from the very first episode, as well as the camcorder used to film it, and one of the audience voting machines.
Producer Vin Di Bona saw home videos as small documentaries of American life that tap into the foibles and pratfalls that everyone has experienced. After the ABC network decided to pursue the idea, ads were placed in magazines and on Good Morning America, asking people to send in their tapes. Di Bona received about 150 to 200 tapes a day after that, which was plenty for a pilot.
America’s Funniest Home Videos premiered Thanksgiving weekend 1989, while the East Coast was in the throes of a snowstorm—which meant that plenty of people were bundled up at home to tune in.
After the airing, Di Bona began receiving about 36 mail bags of videotapes a day. “We’re about capturing America in a funny vein,” Di Bona said. “And I still don’t know why people buy trampolines after watching our show.”
So, as I’m sure avid watchers of the show know, there have been various incarnations of the program over the years. And by various, I mean three.
After you’re through with our poll, what are your favorite AFV clips?
March 30, 2009
The Smithsonian Institution has revealed the six architectural designs vying to become the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The concepts—from boxy to spiral-shaped (like the inside of a conch shell, really), geometric to organic—certainly run the gamut. And there’s no shortage of special features, like outdoor amphitheaters, panoramic windows showcasing views of other monuments and roof gardens. (See photo gallery) The designs, photographs and models are on display at the Smithsonian Castle until April 16.
A jury, headed by the museum’s director Lonnie Bunch, will be selecting the winning design in mid-April. Construction of the museum, which will be located on a five-acre plot near the National Museum of American History and the Washington Monument, is scheduled to begin in 2012 and be completed by 2015.
In the meantime, we want to hear what you think. View the designs and let us know your favorite in the poll below.
March 11, 2009
Okay, so we’re a little late in announcing the winner of our caption writing contest. (Sorry! Even we get a little sidetracked from time to time.) To refresh our heads, here is the photo:
And here is the winning caption: “After the success of the Horse, the Greeks decided to try the Trojan Hippo,” by Christine. Congratulations Christine! You have won water cooler bragging rights!
So, what is really going on in this picture?
Old Mom was a 5,000 pound hippo who lived at the National Zoo and departed this world on February 4, 1930. Taxidermist William L. Brown (above, far right) had been observing and sketching Old Mom for a period of twenty years before he was faced with the daunting task of tanning and preparing a hippo for museum exhibition. Old Mom went on display in 1934 and this buxom beauty can still be seen at the Natural History Museum—not to mention the January 2003 issue of Smithsonian.
What did you think of our contestants for this caption writing contest? Here are our top four picks. Vote for which one you think should have nabbed the top spot.
February 18, 2009
Got pipes? The National Museum of American History, with USA Weekend magazine as a cohort, is hosting a Star-Spangled Banner singing contest. Entering is easy. All you have to do is visit the contest Web site, join the YouTube Group and submit a video of your performance by April 13. (Videos have to be less than two minutes, so I guess you have to keep the Mariah Carey runs to a minimum, people.)
The difficult part is the singing. With a sprawling range of one and a half octaves, the Star-Spangled Banner isn’t the easiest national anthem to sing. But if you’re up for the challenge, it may be worth the booty. Videos will be judged based on vocal performance, originality, accuracy and popularity on YouTube, and the Grand Prize winner will be flown, with a guest, to Washington, D.C., to perform the anthem at the museum and a Baltimore Orioles game on Flag Day, June 14. Two nights’ hotel accommodations, tickets and transportation to the baseball game and $400 spending money are also part of the deal.
Who knows, the contest could reveal the next (truly) American idol. Or, at the very least, it will make for some hilarious flops to email around the office.
Maybe we should have an easier anthem. Which would you choose?
- Keep the current one. So what if it's hard to sing? (59%, 171 Votes)
- America the Beautiful (24%, 71 Votes)
- This Land is Your Land (11%, 31 Votes)
- God Bless America (5%, 15 Votes)
- My Country Tis of Thee (1%, 4 Votes)
Total Voters: 292