Cupcake love at American Art

Portraits of Obama and Lincoln, in cupcakes

Our friends at the American Art Museum celebrated Valentine’s Day by inviting cupcake artist Zilly Rosen to create “A New Birth of Freedom,” a double portrait of Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama made from more than 5,600 cupcakes. As you can see, each cupcake played a vital role as one “pixel” in the sugary work of art.

I was part of the lucky crowd that got to help “de-install” the work by eating the cupcakes. When the artist’s assistants started moving the “pixels” from portrait to plate to pass them out to the crowd, three floors of onlookers cheered those cupcakes. My husband commented, “that may have been the first work of art I’ve ever eaten.” Me too.

Read more about the event & see more pictures on SAAM’s blog and website.

what’s the most unusual event you’ve ever done at YOUR museum?!

Jen -about to eat a cupcake:     🙂

Jennifer about to eat (cup) cake 




Jewish Museum “Steels” Spotlight

 Thanks to Ilana Blumenthal, Public Relations Associate at NMAJH for this guest blog post.    

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With the sun in our eyes, frostbite nearly setting in, and huge grins on our faces, the staff and board members of the National Museum of American Jewish History watched as the final 31-foot steel beam was placed on the northwest corner of the 121-foot and six-inch high, 100,000-square-foot, five story new Museum building. This traditional steel workers “topping off” ceremony took place on a 20-degree day on January 21, completing a significant milestone for the building being constructed on Independence Mall in Philadelphia that will serve as a cornerstone of the modern-day Jewish community.

Designed by Polshek Partnership Architects of New York, the new Museum will be in the heart of historic Philadelphia and will join Independence Hall, the National Constitution Center, the Liberty Bell and other landmarks at the site of America’s birth. The new Museum will open in 2010.

Prior to being hoisted with banners from the Museum, Ironworkers Local Union 401, and INTECH Construction Inc., the Museum’s contractor, ironworkers, staff, board, and INTECH employees signed their names on the beam as a sign of pride, accomplishment, and ownership. Atop the beam sits an American flag and evergreen tree (not to be confused with a Christmas tree), traditional symbols of the ironworkers’ceremony.

With the steel structure finished, the next steps for the building will be pouring its concrete floors and the construction of the north and west walls. The west wall facing Independence Mall will be a glass prism, expressing the accessibility of the museum and the openness of America, as well as the perennial fragility of democracy. The north wall will be constructed of terra cotta, expressing the strength of Jewish survival and the protective shelter of American freedom.

“With this phase of the construction complete, and as the Museum takes shape on Independence Mall, I think it becomes clear that there could not be a more fitting place for a museum that will explore the promise and challenges of liberty through the lens of the American Jewish experience,” said Gwen Goodman, the NMAJH’s Executive Director/CEO.

The new National Museum of American Jewish History will be the first and only major museum dedicated to chronicling the American Jewish experience. It will explore the challenges of identity and assimilation they faced and celebrate the contributions they have made to every facet of American life. The Museum is dedicated to telling the still unfolding story of Jews in America – who embraced freedom with its choices and challenges as they shaped, and were shaped by, our nation. The Museum envisions its new home as a place that welcomes all people, inviting them to discover what they have in common with the Jewish experience in America, and to explore the features that make this history distinctive.

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 high steel NMAJH.jpg


American Indian launches its “4th Museum”

Penobscot dollsThis week, the National Museum of the American Indian launched a new site for searching its collections. This new resource includes over 5000 objects from its 800,000-plus collection, and will continue to grow.  Eventually, it will be one of the largest Native American collections online. You can visit this site at The launch is a milestone in the museum’s “Fourth Museum” project to bring the collections to those who may not have the opportunity to visit the museum’s three buildings in New York City, Maryland, and Washington, D.C.  According to museum director Kevin Gover, “As the museum on the National Mall approaches its fifth anniversary, our promise to reach out to tribal communities, schools, libraries, museums… throughout the world is being realized.  Though we have a long way to go before completing this project, I am pleased to offer the first phase of our fourth museum–our museum without walls.”  

2.0 and you

2.0 graphic

As the Washington Post put it this morning, “The subject: dragging the world’s greatest museum complex into the current century.”  And of particular interest: “Of the Smithsonian’s 137 million artifacts, however, not only is less than 1 percent on display, but most of that is in Washington. You have to come to the Smithsonian. It doesn’t much come to you.”  The writer must not know about Affiliates.

Nonetheless, one of the earliest initiatives of Secretary Clough was to brilliantly ask advice on this topic from 31 luminaries of the digital realm – digerati – in town this past weekend for days-long brainstorming and idea sharing with Smithsonian staff.  The result was some of the most stimulating dialog I’ve heard, and so many ideas about navigating this whole new world of 2.0.  Ideas applicable to all, not just the Smithsonian.

(You can participate too – check out and the Post article about the gathering.)

Case in point – the kickoff keynoter, Bran Ferren of Applied Minds, threw out this idea – give away  your collection to the American people.  The concept?  Give one item from our collection to each citizen. The Smithsonian would retain the stewardship of the item, but that citizen would accept the responsibility for the online dialogue about that object. They would, in a new sense, perhaps a 21st century sense (?), “own” it.

So which object would you choose?


new funding opportunity

Vodafone Americas FoundationThe Vodafone Americas Foundation has launched the Wireless Innovation Challenge to promote innovation and increase implementation of advanced wireless related technology for a better world. To that end, the Wireless Innovation Challenge will provide up to $600,000 in total awards to support projects of exceptional promise using wireless-related technology to address critical social issues around the world.

The challenge is open to projects from universities and nonprofit organizations based in the United States. Projects must demonstrate a multi-disciplinary approach that uses an innovation in wireless-related technology to address a critical global issue in one or more of the following areas: access to communication, education, economic development, environment, or health. The technology should have the potential for replication and large scale impact. 

Vodafone Americas Foundation will select up to eight finalists who will present their projects before a panel of judges with expertise in the areas of wireless engineering, international development, and social entrepreneurship. Winners will be selected for awards of $100,000, $200,000, and $300,000, which will be paid in equal installments over three years.

Proposals are due February 2, 2009. For complete program information, visit  

What a great challenge!

Rainforest survival

STRI caterpillar  On Monday, January 12, the Smithsonian will be hosting some of the world’s leading scientists to discuss and debate the differing perspectives on the changes in tropical landscapes, and their impacts.  The event will be webcast live from 1 – 6:30pm – at   

The symposium’s 8 specialists will discuss topics related to tropical extinction including deforestation, climate change, values and threats to tropical nature reserves, and possible conservation actions.  Hope you can join!


  • ·         Joseph L. Wright,  Staff scientist,  Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
  • ·         William Laurance,  Staff scientist,  Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
  • ·         Gregory Asner,  Staff scientist,  Carnegie Institution
  • ·         Elizabeth Bennett,  Director, Hunting and Wildlife Trade Program,  Wildlife Conservation Society
  • ·         Robin Chazdon,  Ecology and Evolutionary Biology professor,  University of Connecticut
  • ·         Thomas Rudel,  Human Ecology and Sociology professor,  Rutgers University
  • ·         Claudio Valladares-Padua,  Conservation scientist,  Wildlife Trust Alliance
  •              Nigel Stork, Head,  Resource Management & Geography Dept., University of Melbourne  

Introductions will be made by Smithsonian Secretary G. Wayne Clough and panel discussions will be moderated by Cristián Samper, director of the National Museum of Natural History.