March 27, 2013
Though you might not know it judging from the forecast most places, spring has indeed arrived. And despite the unpredictable D.C. weather, the snow, sleet, cold rain and wind hasn’t kept the tourists away. Crowds are gathering in the nation’s capital for the first glimpses of the cherry blossoms. For those of you interested in making the most of your visit, the editors over here have released two new spring-themed tours to help showcase the seasonal delights both inside and outside along the Mall.
The Gardens tour will take you to our many well-maintained plots around the Mall to see more than just a few pink blooms by the Tidal Basin, including heirloom plants, geometric splendors reminiscent of the grandest of European gardens and even a Victory Garden.Meanwhile, our Spring Fling tour will take you inside to show off the riches of the Smithsonian’s arts and sciences collection and celebrate the season with baseball legends, a tree you can wish on, bouquets in paint and even a spring from space.
Head here to download the visitor’s app and get your step-by-step directions, custom postcard feature and greatest hits from the museums.
September 21, 2012
During the height of summer, crossing the Mall can sometimes feel like crossing the Serengeti as a hunted animal, searching for any shaded place of refuge. But fall means more than a reprieve from humid heat at the Smithsonian; it means beautiful autumnal blooms bursting with color in the gardens. Stroll through the lush landscapes on your own or take advantage of a guided tour to learn more about the floral finds of fall.
Tours are offered throughout the week until the end of September. Check the schedule here.
February 7, 2012
Our inquisitive readers are rising to the challenge we gave them last month. The questions are pouring in and we’re ready for more. Do you have any questions for our curators? Submit your questions here.
How much is the Hope Diamond worth? — Marjorie Mathews, Silver Spring, Maryland
That’s the most popular question we get, but we don’t really satisfy people by giving them a number. There are a number of answers, but the best one is that we honestly don’t know. It’s a little bit like Liz Taylor’s jewels being sold in December—all kinds of people guessed at what they would sell for, but everybody I know was way off. Only when those pieces were opened up to bidding at a public auction could you find out what their values were. When they were sold, then at least for that day and that night you could say, well, they were worth that much. The Hope Diamond is kind of the same way, but more so. There’s simply nothing else like it. So how do you put a value on the history, on the fact it’s been here on display for over 50 years and a few hundred million people have seen it, and on that fact it’s a rare blue diamond on top of everything else? You don’t. – Jeffrey E. Post, mineralogist, National Museum of Natural History
What’s the worst impact of ocean acidification so far?- Nancy Schaefer, Virginia Beach, Virginia
The impacts of ocean acidification are really just starting to be felt, but two big reports that came out in 2011 show that it could have very serious effects on coral reefs. These studies did not measure the warming effect of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but rather its effect of making the ocean more acidic when it dissolves in the ocean. Places where large amounts of carbon dioxide seep into the water from the sea floor provide a natural experiment and show us how ocean waters might look, say, 50 or 100 years from now. Both studies showed branching, lacy, delicate coral forms are likely to disappear, and with them that kind of three-dimensional complexity so many species depend on. Also, other species that build a stony skeleton or shell, such as oysters or mussels, are likely to be affected. This happens because acidification makes carbonate ions, which these species need for their skeletons, less abundant.
Nancy Knowlton, marine biologist
National Museum of Natural History
Art and artifacts from ancient South Pacific and Pacific Northwest tribes have similarities in form and function. Is it possible that early Hawaiians caught part of the Kuroshio Current of the North Pacific Gyre to end up along the northwest coast of America from northern California to Alaska? — April Amy Croan, Maple Valley, Washington
Those similarities have given rise to various theories, including trans-Pacific navigation, independent drifts of floating artifacts, inadvertent crossings by ships that have lost their rudders or rigging, or whales harpooned in one area that died or were captured in a distant place. Some connections are well-known, like feather garment fragments found in an archaeological site in Southeast Alaska that appear to have been brought there by whaling ships that had stopped in the Hawaiian Islands, a regular route for 19th-century whalers. Before the period of European contact, the greatest similarities are with the southwest Pacific, not Hawaii. The Kushiro current would have facilitated Asian coastal contacts with northwestern North America, but would not have helped Hawaiians. The problem of identification is one of context, form and dating. Most of the reported similarities are either out of their original context (which can’t be reconstructed), or their form is not specific enough to relate to another area’s style, or the date of creation cannot be established. To date there is no acceptable proof for South Pacific-Northwest Coast historical connections that predates the European whaling era, except for links that follow the coastal region of the North Pacific into Alaska.
William Fitzhugh, archeologist
Natural History Museum
December 5, 2011
Monday, December 5 Through the Eye of the Needle
See the world premiere of the documentary, “Through the Eye of the Needle” at the 22nd annual Washington Jewish Film Festival. Based on the life story of Holocaust survivor Esther Nisenthal Krinitz who went beyond storytelling to show to her daughters the painful images of loss and survival during her childhood in Poland. To do this, Krinitz created a series of 36 hand-stitched, embroidered fabric panels that are now on display at the Ripley Center. The film uses interviews from before Krinitz’ 2001 death as well as footage of family members and others. Tickets available online. 6:15 to 7 p.m. D.C. Jewish Community Center, 1529 16th St. NW.
Tuesday, December 6 Basket Weaving
Julie Parker, master basket weaver of the Me-Wuk and Kashaya Pomo tribes of Northern California, leads this fascinating demonstration workshop. Parker is a Cultural Specialist at the Yosemite Museum and one of the most renowned Native basket-makers in the country. Her work is included in the collections of the Smithsonian Institution, as well as the private collection of Queen Elizabeth II. Drop in and join Parker in this all-day demonstration of her exquisite craft. Free. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. American Indian Museum, Potomac Atrium.
Wednesday, December 7 Smithsonian Gardens Holiday Tour
Deck the Halls! Take a festive holiday tour of the Institution’s gardens, decked out in their finest holiday decorations. The tour, led by Gardens Education Specialist Cindy Brown, will feature interesting information on history and helpful how-to tips. After winding through the Enid A. Haupt and Mary Livingston Ripley outdoor gardens, the tour will head inside the Castle where participants will get to see the Smithsonian’s annual holiday tree. The event will conclude inside the Ripley Center, where everyone will get the chance to make their own botanical decorations. Tickets are $39 for Residents Associates Members, and $52 for the general public. 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., with tours also offered Friday, Dec. 9 and Saturday, Dec. 10. Meet outside the South entrance to the Smithsonian Castle.
Thursday, December 8 The Tori Project
In this groundbreaking musical event, four Korean performers will collaborate with three New York-based improvisational artists to explore the variations and melodies of traditional Korean folk song in a contemporary context. The musicians will perform on instruments such as the shakuhachi (bamboo flute), geomungo (stringed instrument) and janggu (double-headed drum). Free, with tickets required. 7:30 p.m. Sackler Gallery, Meyer Auditorium.
For a complete listing of Smithsonian events and exhibitions visit the goSmithsonian Visitors Guide. Additional reporting by Michelle Strange.
May 6, 2011
Family-friendly celebration of plants, gardens and gardening. Add to a garden mural, build a puppet, make a miniature Japanese garden and take home seeds for your garden. Saturday will include live music and a stilt walker. Location: Enid A. Haupt Garden, south of the Castle. In the event of rain, activities will move to the Ripley Center. Free. Friday, 11:00 AM-1:00 PM. Saturday, 11:00 AM-3:00 PM. http://gardens.si.edu/gardenfest/
Saturday, May 7 Asian Pacific American Heritage Month
Make a family storybook or create fortune cookies in clay, play a game with chopsticks or participate in video interviews. Watch the film “The Killing of a Chinese Cookie,” which answers the question “Who really invented the fortune cookie?” at 1:00 PM, followed by a Q&A with director Derek Shimoda. Cedric Yeh, curator, will give a personal look at the exhibition, Sweet and Sour: A Look at the History of Chinese Food in America. Free. 11:00 AM to 4 PM. American History Museum, sponsored by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program.
Sunday, May 8 Celebrate Mother’s Day with the Mendelssohn Piano Trio
A musical performance sure to tickle the fancy of any mother. Pianist Ya-Ting Chang, violinist Peter Sirotin, and cellist Fiona Thompson will perform works by J. Haydn and C. Saint-Saëns, as well as the celebrated Dumky trio by A. Dvořák. Free. 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM. American Art Museum.