Smithsonian Focus newsletter

Smithsonian Focus

Have you seen this?  the Smithsonian’s monthly ‘Focus’ newsletter collects interesting goings-on from around the Institution about collections, events, research, online features and fun factoids.

si focus.jpg  Smithsonian Focus September 2007.htm

This month, I discovered that the Smithsonian owns the collection of (often) specially-commissioned Time magazine covers, now numbering over 2,000 works of art.  Did you also know that the Portrait Gallery has a collection of ‘hedcuts’ – those iconic portraits from the front page of the Wall Street Journal?  Both collections have awesome websites – Cover Art, The Time Collection and Picturing Business in America

Regardless of their scale, the portraits here are poignant, inspirational, sometimes humorous -basically, the essence of great portraiture. (and of the Portrait Gallery itself!)

To sign up for Smithsonian Focus, click here.  and enjoy!


Report from the field: Western Pennsylvania

I just got back from a short but lovely trip to the rolling hills of western Pennsylvania.  SITES’ Booming Out: Mohawk Ironworkers Build New York opened at the California University of Pennsylvania.  As a special treat during the opening ceremonies, LaDonna Harris, trustee of the National Museum of the American Indian, spoke to students about ‘Sharing Core Values.’  She was wonderful, and the show looks great.  Congratulations Cal U!

While there, I also visited friends at our Pittsburgh affiliate, the Heinz History Center.  The exhibition team had just come in from repelling one of their walls (the History Center is located in an old ice warehouse) to install a mural complementing the permanent reinstallation of their Clash of Empires exhibition.  (I wish I had a picture of that!! and that I could have tried it myself 🙂 )  They have many other exciting things happening – an exhibition on the Steelers’ 75th Anniversary; the upcoming 150th anniversary of the Civil War; PA’s Quest for Freedom initiative that links underground railroad sites statewide; and what sounds like a super fun ‘Night at the Museum’ sleepover party for families, inspired by the Ben Stiller movie.  Check them out at

western PA 007.jpg         western PA 018.jpg 
LaDonna Harris          Fun directional signage @ Heinz


Director developments at the Smithsonian

The National Museum of the American Indian named its new director, Kevin Gover.  Mr. Gover grew up in Oklahoma and is a member of the Pawnee Tribe.  He is a professor of law at Arizona State University, an affiliate professor in its American Indian Studies Program, and co-executive director of its American Indian Policy Institute.  Prior to his career in the west, Mr. Gover served as the assistant secretary for Indian Affairs in the U.S. Department of the Interior in the late ’90s, and was responsible for policy and operational oversight of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.  Welcome Kevin!

 Kevin Gover  Kevin Gover

Olga Viso, Director of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, announced her resignation, effective at the end of this year.  Ms. Viso will be taking the director position at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.  Ms. Viso was at the Hirshhorn for 12 years, rising from assistant curator to director, and engaging in significant board and strategic planning initiatives.  Good luck Olga! 

 Olga Viso  Olga Viso

So many announcements!

Whew!  it’s hard to keep up with all the great new developments and announcements that have been advertised recently on the Affiliations list, so here are the synopses again…


canal.jpg Building America’s Canals by the National Canal Museum (affiliate) & the Science Museum of MN
Ideal for children’s history and science museums, the interactive exhibition puts the visitor in the role of canal engineer.  1600 square feet, $6,500 per 13-week period, plus inbound shipping.  Dates available from October 2009.

Soul Soldiers Soul Soldiers: African Americans and the Vietnam Era by the Senator John Heinz History Center (affiliate)
Explores the impact of the Vietnam War on African American life and culture through  artifacts, photographs and more.  2600 square feet, $12,500 for 12-week period, plus prorated transport, medium security.  Dates available from February 2008

Artists in Studios Artists in their Studios from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art
55 framed original photographs of American artists in their studios, and approximately 20 related documents including letters & unpublished writings.  There’s a companion book, speaker list, and bibliography.  150 running feet,  $10,000 per 10-week period, prorated shipping with a AAA designated carrier, medium security.

SEEC  SEEC workshop, September 25-26
A two-day seminar for museum professionals, “Learning Through Objects: Museums and Young Children” at the Smithsonian, $300 for affiliates.

Holidays  Holidays on Display, lecture and booksigning by American History curator Larry Bird
Bird’s newest book traces the art and industry of holiday displays.  Dates in October, November, early December.  Cost is airfare, accommodations, and a modest per diem stipend. 



The Encyclopedia of Life

September 6, 2007 – The New York Times published an interesting editorial today about an ambitious new project announced earlier this year, in which the Smithsonian is taking a leading role.  The goal of the Encyclopedia of Life is nothing short of organizing all basic information on the 1.8 million known species on the planet within 10 years, and making all of this information accessible to everyone on the web.  Scientists predict this project should deliver immediately practical benefits for agriculture, medicine and other uses, “while disease-causing bacteria and viruses may be discovered and controlled before they can cause widespread harm.”

Bravo to our colleagues who are making this important initiative happen!!

Office of exhibits central old logo


Check out one of the Smithsonian’s newest blogs, from the Office of Exhibits Central (OEC).  OEC is a dynamic unit that produces exhibits and exhibition services for Smithsonian museums, SITES, and others, like the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum, our affiliate in Arizona.
rotunda_elephant_sm_feather.jpg (a well-known example of OEC’s work on the Mall)

The blog is a fun glimpse into the workings of OEC.  You’ll see examples of their cool technology (like a skull being made on their CNC machine), projects they’re working on (like SITES’ Jim Henson’s Fantastic World) and exhibitions in development (such as Natural History’s Going to Sea, which will coincide with the opening of their new Ocean Hall.)

The best part is experiencing the process from their perspective – all the behind-the-scenes challenges and creative solutions that our colleagues confront on a daily basis (which no doubt are the same issues that Affiliate staffs deal with as well.)  It’s a good reminder to consider all that goes into the wonderful exhibits we enjoy in our museums every day… imagine if the public knew!?!