December 5, 2012
The curators and researchers spend a lot of time reading, everything from classic novels to the latest exhibition catalog. We asked some of them to lend us their reading lists to see which titles rose to the top and why.
For the Art Connoisseurs:
Leslie Umberger, from the American Art Museum, recommends:
“James Castle: Show and Store, an exhibition catalogue produced by the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sophia in 2011 brilliantly navigates the complex depths of Idaho artist James Castle (1899-1977). Fresh, insightful, and deeply moving, the images and essays explore a truly, astonishing, poetic and enigmatic body of work–drawings of soot, paper constructions, and carefully rendered books and letters–entirely in its own terms. Perfectly magical.”
Lisa Hostetler, from the American Art Museum, recommends:
“Photography Changes Everything, edited by Marvin Heiferman (Aperture/Smithsonian Institution, 2012). It’s an interesting look at the wide variety of ways that photographs are used and how photography itself has affected contemporary culture. Two exhibition catalogues that I’ve been looking forward to reading are Cindy Sherman (MoMA, 2012) and Rineke Dijkstra (Guggenheim, 2012). Sherman and Dijkstra are two of today’s most compelling artists, and these retrospectives are important compendia of their careers.”
Maya Foo, from the Freer and Sackler, recommends:
“Rome by Robert Hughes. In college, I studied art history in Rome and I have wanted to return to Italy ever since. Robert Hughes’ Rome is a readable and rich history of the city told through art, architecture, literature and the author’s personal narrative.”
For the Wordsmiths:
David Ward, from the National Portrait Gallery, recommends:
“What with the opening of Poetic Likeness at the museum this fall and co-editing Lines in Long Array: A Civil War Commemoration, which includes 12 newly commissioned poems, my mind has been mostly on poetry the last year or so. I have been especially taken by the following titles: First, work by two of the great “voices” in modern American poetry, one still vital even at 85, John Ashbery, and the other sadly gone, Adrienne Rich, who passed away earlier this year after an amazingly powerful career. Adrienne Rich, Later Poems: Selected and New, 1971-2012 (WW Norton, 2012). John Ashbery, Quick Question: New Poems (Ecco, 2012).
The writer Eavan Boland is not only a first-rate poet but she is continually interesting on the subject of writing, literary history and social roles. Her latest book explores the sense of doubleness that she navigates in her career: A Journey with Two Maps: Becoming a Woman Poet.
Two prize-winning books by two of America’s best poets are also of note: Jorie Graham’s Place (Ecco, 2012) and Tracy K. Smith’s Life on Mars (Greywolf, 2011), which won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 2012.
Also, a pitch for a book that was published a couple of years ago that I don’t think got as much attention as it should have, from Greil Marcus and Werner Sollors, A New Literary History of America (Harvard University Press, 2009), which came out in paperback in 2012. It provides a really valuable, entertaining and incisive view of 500 years of American writing.”
For the Scientists:
John Grant, from the National Air and Space Museum, recommends:
Roving Mars: Spirit, Opportunity and the Exploration of the Red Planet by Steve Squyres is good for adults. Squyres writes about his work as the principal investigator on both the Spirit and Opportunity missions to Mars in 2004. A good read for people following the more recent Mars developments with the Curiosity mission.
And for the younger set: Fly Me to Mars by Catherine Weitz is a terrific kids book.
For the History Buffs:
Cory Bernat, co-curator of FOOD: Transforming the American Table at American History, recommends:
Paradox of Plenty: A Social History of Eating in Modern America by Harvey Levestein, which covers America’s eating habits from the 1930s to present day.
John Edward Hasse, at the American History Museum, likes:
Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood and How It Changed America, by John M. Barry, because it’s a “fascinating story told so compellingly that it reads almost like a novel.”
Nancy Bercaw, of the American History Museum, suggests:
Tiya Miles’ Ties That Bind: The Story of an Afro-Cherokee Family in Slavery and Freedom, first published in 2006, but an interesting read for readers looking for something different in the Civil War sesquicentennial.
December 19, 2011
Events Dec. 19-22: Fly Me To Mars, Holiday Arts and Crafts, American Craft Masterpieces, Butterfly Pavilion
Monday, December 19 Fly Me To Mars
Author and illustrator Catherine Weitz’ award-winning children’s book Fly Me To Mars tells the story of wayward planet on a fantasy journey. Weitz, a senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute, focuses on Mars geology in her research. Come meet Dr. Weitz and have your copy of the book signed in time for the holidays. Free. 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Air and Space Museum, at the entrance to the museum store.
Tuesday, December 20 Holiday Arts and Crafts
Join museum staff for a morning of arts and craft making with a holiday theme. Participants will have their own chance to create memorable ornaments with materials provided by the museum. Free; please call 202 633 4844 to make reservations. 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Anacostia Community Museum, program room.
Wednesday, December 21 American Craft Masterpieces
As part of the Renwick’s monthly gallery talks series, experts discuss the masterpieces in small, intimate groups. This month, join Rebecca Robinson as she provides insight into Jon Eric Riis’ Pair of Prickly Pairs. Riis is an internationally-known tapestry artist whose intricate works often incorporate precious materials such as metallic and silk threads. Pair of Prickly Pairs was acquired by the museum in 2001 and features an unusual cactus-like roughness on the surface of the fruits that was produced with the incorporation of glass seed beads into the work. Free. 12 p.m. Renwick Gallery, first floor lobby.
Thursday, December 22 Butterfly Pavilion
Come out of the chill of winter and discover a tropical oasis in the middle of the Mall. Located next to the “Butterflies + Plants: Partners in Evolution” exhibit at the Natural History Museum, the Butterfly Pavilion is home to hundreds of rare butterflies and exotic plants from all over the world. Tickets are required, and can be purchased in person at the Butterfly Pavilion Box Office or online. $6 for adults, $5.50 for seniors (60+), $5 for children (2 to 12), and $5 for members. Natural History Museum, 2nd Floor West, open 10:15 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily.
For a complete listing of Smithsonian events and exhibitions visit the goSmithsonian Visitors Guide. Additional reporting by Michelle Strange.
July 20, 2011
Calling all Martians from across the galaxy: celebrate Mars Day this Friday at the National Air and Space Museum. The annual event pays homage to the red planet with a variety of fun and educational activities for extraterrestrials and humans alike.
Perhaps no other planet in our solar system is surrounded with as much mystery as Mars, so we have put together a list of facts to help you prepare for the party:
1. Mars features the largest volcano in the solar system. Olympus Mons is located in the Tharsis Montes region, which is the largest volcanic region on Mars, and is approximately 2,485 miles across. Volcanoes in the Tharsis region are up to 100 times larger than those anywhere on Earth.
2. Mars has two moons, Phobos and Deimos, and both are shaped like potatoes. Named after the mythological sons of Ares, the Greek counterpart of the Roman god, Mars, the moons are among the smallest in the solar system. Because Phobos is spiraling inward and coming 3 feet 2 inches closer to Mars each century, it will either crash into Mars or break up and form a ring in about 50 million years.
3. Scientists have found proof of water on Mars. NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft found water in the form of ice below the surface of the planet. Due to the planet’s lack of an atmosphere, water simply cannot exist for very long. Channels can be found all over the planet where running water used to be.
4. Mars appears red because its surface is consists of iron-rich minerals that oxidize. That dust is kicked up into the atmosphere and gives the planet its reddish hue. Discovered in ancient times, both the Romans and Egyptians named the planet because of its color. Mars was the name used by the Romans for their god of war because of the planet’s bloodlike color. The Egyptians named the planet “Her Desher,” which means “the red one.”
5. The annual event marks the July 20, 1976 landing of Viking 1, the first spacecraft to operate on Mars. Since the first landing, many missions to Mars have failed for a variety of reasons leaving some to speculate that a “Mars Triangle”—similar to the “Bermuda Triangle”—exists.
Check out the Mars Day celebration on this Friday, July 22 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the National Air and Space Museum where NASA will announce the landing site for their next Mars rover, and where you can see an actual piece of Mars!
April 4, 2011
Monday April 4: FONZ Photo Club
If you’re a shutterbug with a penchant for snapping shots of critters, come on out to the National Zoo and participate in the Friends Of the National Zoo (FONZ) photo club’s monthly meeting. Share your photos, hear from speakers and learn about new techniques that may help you capture that picture perfect moment. You must already be a FONZ member to participate. For more information on the FONZ photo club and how to participate, go here. National Zoo, 7:00-9:30 PM
Tuesday April 5: Art Collector’s Roundtable
Former Utah Senator Bob Bennett will talk about collecting Western art, his personal collection, and tips on how to start your own collection. Event will also be webcast live. Free. American Art Museum, 7-8 PM.
Wednesday April 6: Discovery Theater: Mad Science
Mad Science returns to Discovery Theater! Dr. Jekyll is back to show you all about things that spin, pop and go boom and brings a kid-friendly and fun approach to complex scientific concepts. For ages 6-16. Tickets are required. Rates are $4 child member; $4 member; $5/child nonmember; $3 child under 2; $6 general admission. Tickets may be purchased online or at the Resident Associate Program box office located in the Ripley Center on the National Mall. Natural History Museum, 10:15 AM, repeats at 1:30 PM.
Thursday April 7. Meet the real Mars
The film “Roving Mars” was made using footage taken by the Spirit and Opportunity rovers. After the screening, stay around for a discussion with Dr. Alfred McEwen, who will talk about his work on the high resolution camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Weather permitting, take your own look at Mars. Free, but tickets required. Reserve tickets online or call 202-633-2398. Air & Space Museum, 6:30 PM.
Friday April 8: Secret Reunion, first film in the New Korean Cinema series at the Freer Gallery
It’s spy vs. spy in a thriller set in Korea. At their first meeting, two spies—one from North Korea, the other from South Korea—go head-to-head, only to later join forces to work toward a common goal. But do they really? In Korean with English subtitles. Free. Freer Gallery of Art, 7:00 PM.
For updates on all exhibitions and events, visit our companion site goSmithsonian.com
July 9, 2010
Just a few weeks after the White House released its new National Space Policy, stating its intent for NASA to send humans to orbit Mars by the mid-2030s (among other things), the National Air and Space Museum hosts its annual Mars Day. The event, now in its 15th year, will be held next Friday, July 16, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Mars Day promises a museum abuzz with activities for visitors young and old—from story times to presentations on the latest Mars research. In fact, it is the only day of the year when all of the museum’s planetary scientists, many of whom provide the scientific support for NASA’s Mars missions, are on the museum floor interacting with visitors. Even the director of NASA’s planetary science division Jim Green will be in attendance to inform the public about ongoing and upcoming missions to Mars. And if that isn’t enticing enough…
ATM’s Five Reasons Why You Need to be at Mars Day:
1. To take an artistic tour through space. Artist Michael Benson’s “Beyond: Visions of Planetary Landscapes,” an exhibition of 148 restored and reprocessed photographs of space taken from unmanned interplanetary probes, has been on view since May 26. You’ve been meaning to head over to check it out, and now is your chance. Added bonus for visiting the exhibit on Mars Day: Planetary geologist Jim Zimbelman will be using the photographs as a jumping off point for discussing the major geologic features of the red planet, at 10 a.m. and again at 2 p.m.
2. To see a real meteorite that came from Mars. The National Museum of Natural History is loaning the National Air and Space Museum Mars meteorites—and a few scientists who are particularly knowledgeable about them—just for the day. The scientists will be stationed at the Milestones of Flight exhibit.
3. To imagine a Mars Rover exploring the planet’s surface. The museum’s full-scale model of a Mars Exploration Rover (MER) has just recently been reinstalled in the Exploring the Planets exhibit. (Maybe you missed it your last visit?) MER Science Team Member John Grant will be on hand to paint a clearer picture of the rovers’ current operations on Mars.
4. To test your own rover maneuvering skills. The museum won’t let you lose on a life-size rover, but there will be mini-robot explorers on hand in the Independence Lobby. In past years, curators have laid down mazes of tape on the lobby’s carpet floor through which visitors can navigate the mini rovers and practice collecting samples with the gadgets’ robotic arms.
5. To see Mars through rose-colored, 3D glasses. Also on display solely for Mars Day are the museum’s 3D Mars landscape images. This always-popular station will be in Space Hall. Additional up-to-the-minute images of the planet, captured on current missions looking for landing sites on Mars, can be found in the Mars corner of the Exploring the Planets gallery.
For the full schedule of events, click here.