February 23, 2011
Wednesday Roundup- Making you Smarter: Ask an Expert, Mexico via Airmail, Space Math @ NASA, Harlem Renaissance artists
The More You Know- Anyone who has ever visited the Air and Space Museum, probably leaves with lots of questions; the most popular of which has to be “How did you get an airplane inside the building?” Well, wonder in silence no more, because the Air and Space Museum is here to help. “Ask an Expert,” is a weekly series, held Wednesdays at noon, where a museum expert speaks for 10-15 minutes on a given topic and then answers questions. If you can’t make it in person, don’t worry, you can always watch the videos online.
The Revolution Will Be… Airmailed? - These days, everyone is talking about revolution, as change is happening in countries around the world. But what happens after the revolution? Well, after the Mexican revolution of 1910, airmail was used to “promote a progressive national image worldwide.” See how they did it in the bilingual online exhibit “Mexico Via Airmail.” So, the next time you find yourself in conversation about current events, you can add a little historical context.
Math Made Interesting- For the child who dreams of becoming an astronomer when s/he grows up (and the parents/adults who want to encourage those dreams), NASA introduces “Space Math @ NASA,” online math and science problems designed to challenge the mind and the imagination. Perfect for students in (at least) grades three and higher.
Art History- In honor of Black History Month, the Archives of American Art presents its digitized collection of papers on African American art in the 20th century, with a particular focus on artists from the Harlem Renaissance. Read the papers of influential artists like: Palmer C. Hayden, William H. Johnson, Charles Henry Alston, Jacob Lawrence and Romare Bearden, online for free.
February 9, 2011
Business Plan—Calling all business execs and start-up ventures. Get in at the bottom on this deal. The National Museum of American History is planning a new exhibition on the history of business and innovation and is looking for your help. The museum has launched a site, American Enterprise, so that anybody with a good idea can log in and help plan the exhibit. Curators will blog about research trips and artifact collecting and you can offer tips on anything from artifacts to topics and even test ideas. The exhibit is slated to go on view in 2014.
Renaissance Man— In honor of Black History Month, The Bigger Picture remembers Solomon G. Brown, the first African-American to work at the Smithsonian. Brown, born a free man in 1829, worked at the institution for more than 50 years, serving in a variety of capacities, including: building exhibit cases, moving and cleaning furniture, and helping prepare maps and drawings for lectures. Learn more about Brown’s life and work at the Smithsonian, including his close relationship with the second Smithsonian Secretary, Spencer F. Baird, in the first in a series of related posts this month.
What Goes Up— What happens when you drop 200 paper planes from “the edge of space?” Well, that’s what Project Space Planes is trying to find out. The team dropped the planes, each containing a memory card with a message for the person who finds it, back in January. They are hoping to see a) whether the memory cards are tough enough to survive the journey and, b) how far the planes travel. Check out their site for more information and updates on the project. Thanks to the team over at The Daily Planet for the heads up.
Artists on Art— The Archives of American Art has made available excerpts from its oral history interviews with artists like: Robert Bechtle, Judy Chicago, Dennis Oppenheim and Joan Snyder. Hear their thoughts on photography, controversy, public vs. studio art and changes in their work. In addition to the podcasts, summaries of each interview, as well as transcripts of the conversations are available online.
January 19, 2011
And the Gold Medal Goes To— What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever eaten on a dare? Well, how about 101 goldfish? That’s the record for the largest number eaten in a single sitting, set back in April 1939, when goldfish gulping was a competitive collegiate sport. Check out the piscine cuisine over at O Say Can You See and see where your alma mater stood.
Dreaming in Outer Space — I’m sure we all thought we’d be flying cars by 2011 and possibly even living on another planet. Well, we may have to keep dreaming about that, but space travel for the common man may not be as far off as you think. Space Adventures, a Virginia-based company that organized the flights for the first “private space explorers,” plans to begin offering seats on the Soyuz spacecraft to commercial customers as soon as 2013. Next stop, the International Space Station. The Daily Planet has more details.
What’s in a Name? — There’s an insightful conversation happening over on the National Museum of the American Indian blog. Dennis Zotigh, a researcher and historian who also acts as a liaison for the museum, fields a lot of questions in his role as a cultural ambassador. He shares his answer to a popular one— “What do we call you, American Indian or Native American?” and invites readers to chime in. Join the discussion.
January 12, 2011
Fatherly Pride— Luke, the only adult male lion at the National Zoo, has been busy over the past few months. Last year, he sired two litters of cubs with two lionesses and, within a month, increased his family size from three to ten. The cubs must certainly keep him busy, but how do they all get along? The National Zoo has a new video of Luke spending time with all seven of his cubs. Check out what quality time with dad means in the lion’s den.
Fly Like a N1-M — On our list of 11 Things to Do Around the Smithsonian in 2011, the ATM blog team suggested visiting the Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center. Well, Udvar-Hazy is a huge space and can seem overwhelming, so the good people over at AirSpace have done you one better and listed the 5 Coolest Things to See while you’re there. So, preview their list, get additional details (parking, food, helpful tips) at gosmithsonian.com and then make plans to check it out. See, we make visiting easy.
Designing Men— Most of us use Wikipedia, almost all of us know what it is. But how much do you know about its founder Jimmy Wales? Bill Moggridge over at Cooper-Hewitt’s Design Blog interviewed Wales for his new book, Designing Media. What’s Wales like in person? What does he think about his creation? Check out Moggridge’s post and short video interview. You might learn something.
Bird Brain— With all the recent stories about birds falling out of the sky, I’ll admit, I’ve got bird on the brain. And, apparently, I’m not the only one. Did you know there was such a thing as a Bird Census? Well there is and the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center’s Blog has got it. Each week (or so), they check out what birds are still around and in what types of numbers. The results may surprise you.
The Secret Lives of Postal Workers— We all know what postal workers do at the office, but what about after hours? Intrigued? Then head on over to Pushing the Envelope and visit the Postal Employees After Hours microsite. Signed, sealed, delivered, it’s yours.
January 5, 2011
Nurturing An Anteater—On December 7, the night the new baby anteater was born at the Zoo, Maripi the mother, experienced in caring for her young, had tucked her baby warmly beside her for the night. Watchful keepers left late that evening after assuring themselves that mother and infant were safely snuggled together and bonding. But something went wrong and by morning, the baby was on the floor, cold to the touch. The keeper Marie Magnuson reports that she hastily grabbed a towel and gently wrapped the little youngster up, holding him warmly to her body. Magnuson says that when the team arrived, Maripi “raised her head to acknowledge us but then curled back up with her head under her tail.” Veterinarians rushed both baby and mom to the Zoo’s hospital. Both are doing fine now. But the keepers’ firsthand account of the dramatic story and what may have happened in the night to cause separation of the mother and the pup can be found at the Bulletin From the Barn.
Muscle Man—And if you love behind-the-scenes stories at the museums, check out the Smithsonian Collections Blog, where we learn that heavy lifting is apparently a skill set for archivists. David Haberstich, a staffer at the National Museum of American History Archives Center, recalls the day in 1988 when a voluminous collection arrived in cartons at the museum’s loading docks. These contained thousands of copies of published sheet music assembled by collector Sam DeVincent (1917-1997) and Haberstich was the strong man who go to move all the cartons into the Archives Center. He says the collection is not organized as one would suspect by musician or composer but by topic or theme. “Songs about transportation—planes, trains, and automobiles—were grouped together. . . .The ease of viewing and comparing popular songs devoted to narrow themes and subjects—both in terms of their lyrics as well as cover illustrations—has thrilled many Smithsonian fellows and researchers.” Researchers, I know this because I am one, are easily entertained.
Toy Story—Stressed out at work? Overwhelmed at home? Well, take a moment to feel like a kid again. You may be too old to play with toys, but you’re not too old to watch someone else do it. The Cooper-Hewitt Museum’s Design Blog features a new electronic toy from Norwegian designer Lars Marcus Vedeler that promises to brighten up your day. Literally. And, the best part? You can watch it play all by itself.
Back to the Future—Did you miss World Expo 2010, held in Shanghai back in October? Me, too. But thanks to our friends over at O Say Can You See?, you don’t also have to miss out on the conversation. Find out what may lie ahead for cities around the globe by doing the next best thing and taking a virtual tour.