“It’s more than just an instrument.” Smithsonian cultural specialist travels to Charlotte, NC, for Native American Heritage Celebration

I met Dennis Zotigh (Kiowa/Ohkay Owingeh/Santee Dakota), museum cultural specialist at the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), after he had finished a short performance in the rotunda at the museum. He had begun softly beating the drum and as it grew louder, heads appeared over the railings three floors up and visitors gathered from all over the museum. 

Dennis Zotigh at the National Museum of the American Indian.

 “There’s a technique in this.  It’s more than an instrument. It’s an embodiment of the human spirit and it speaks from spirit to spirit.  There is a natural progression that is not evident unless you know it’s happening,” said Zotigh. “I start very low and the louder it gets, people back up and a natural circle is made around the instrument drawing people all over to gather in the circle.”  

People in mid-conversation, couples arguing, and even children playing in the hallway naturally stopped to focus on his drumming. “It’s soothing. It speaks to them. And for just a few moments, they leave their problems. The drum is more than just an aesthetic piece. It’s an embodiment of the heartbeat of the Indian culture,” said Zotigh after the performance. 

Most days you can find Zotigh in the hallways and galleries at NMAI where he’s engaging with visitors and teaching them about Native American culture. He’s been asked everything from the most basic to the most scholarly of questions and is eager to share his knowledge with anyone.  A performer all his life, Zotigh has traveled all over the world performing for multicultural audiences and oftentimes introducing them to something they’ve never been aware of before. 

Zotigh performing a Hoop Dance in Sao Paolo, Brazil.

This November you can find Zotigh at The Charlotte Museum of History (CMH), a Smithsonian Affiliate in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he’ll be participating in the 3rd Annual American Indian Heritage Month Celebration. Never having been to Charlotte, Zotigh was invited by a former Smithsonian Affiliations Intern Partner, Brandie Macdonald (Choctaw/Chickasaw), whom he met while she interned in the Education Department at NMAI during the summer of 2011. At the CMH, Macdonald is Education and Volunteer Coordinator and has already taken the practical experience she learned on the national level from the Smithsonian and translated it to successful programming on the state level for docents and CMH’s educational programs. Zotigh’s appearance at the American Indian Heritage Month Celebration also coincides with the exhibition Native Words, Native Warriors, organized for travel by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, and currently on view at CMH.

At the American Indian Heritage Month Celebration, Zotigh will be participating in a blessing of the grounds, a hoop dance workshop, hand drum demonstration and a performance called “Musical Journey Through Indian Country: Diverse Songs from Alaska to Florida.”  He’s spoken before queens, attorney generals, heads of state, presidents, university students, and children with the goal of crossing cultural divides and reaching out to communities.  When he’s not traveling, Zotigh continues the conversation on his blog, Beyond FAQ: Let’s Talk, at NMAI. 

**Smithsonian Affiliates interested in bringing Smithsonian speakers like Dennis Zotigh to their neighborhoods should contact their Smithsonian Affiliations National Outreach Manager for more information.**

Remembering America’s Real War of Independence

Most of us know little about the War of 1812.  What were its causes, when did it start, who were its heroes and how did it end?  If we remember anything at all, it may be the burning of Washington, D.C., the bombardment of Baltimore’s Fort McHenry – the event that inspired Francis Scott Key to pen our national anthem – and perhaps Andrew Jackson’s victory at the Battle of New Orleans (fought two weeks after the signing of the treaty that ended the war).  For most of us the rest is a long-forgotten chapter in dusty old textbooks.  An upcoming exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery will assemble a remarkable number of paintings and artifacts from the War of 1812 in an effort to remind us that it was this war that completed the unfinished business of the American Revolution and secured our true independence from the British, once and for all. 

The Star Spangled Banner at the National Museum of American History. Photo courtesy National Museum of American History.

As the 200th Anniversary of the War of 1812 approaches, two artifacts stand out as enduring symbols of this era:  the original Star Spangled Banner, on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, and the USS Constitution, the victorious naval vessel, still commissioned and now docked at the Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston. 

The USS Constitution near the USS Constitution Museum in Boston. Photo by Smithsonian Affiliations.

On October 20, I had the honor of announcing our new Affiliation with the USS Constitution Museum, thus symbolically joining these two great artifacts into one family.  Both tell us much about the sacrifices of prior generations and the many hardships endured along the road to freedom. Both are also amazing examples of the combined efforts of generations of concerned citizens, public officials, historians and museum professionals to preserve these precious legacies  of our nation’s early and fragile years. 

We hope that the upcoming Bicentennial of the War of 1812 will draw further attention to the work that museums are doing to preserve our nation’s past and draw lessons for our future.  Are there any War of 1812 stories, artifacts, or historic landmarks in your communities?  Let us hear from you so that we can work together to present the fullest picture of this critical part of our history. 

Harold A. Closter
See more photos from Harold’s visit to the museum here.

Smithsonian Affiliations Director, Harold Closter, with USS Constitution commanding officers. Photo by Smithsonian Affiliations.

We want YOU! (to share your conference ideas with us)

2011 conference attendees at the roundtable session "What's the Big Idea?: Revitalizing Education Through Partnership and Collaboration." Photo by tony brown/imijphoto.com

Each June, we invite all of our Smithsonian Affiliates to Washington, D.C., to participate in our Smithsonian Affiliations National Conference.  We host sessions, workshops, tours, and receptions designed to give you more tools to make the most of your Affiliation.  We’re currently planning the 2012 conference, and would like your feedback. 

  • Is there a session you’d like us to organize? 
  • Is there a Smithsonian museum you’d like to visit in a behind-the-scenes tour? 
  • Are there resources that you’d like to have better access to? 
  • Are you working on an app?  What uses of technology would you like to share with your fellow Affiliates?

Please tell us!  Your input helps us craft a conference that helps you fulfill your organization’s mission and hopefully, inspires you in the year ahead. 

And of course, we’re interested in your dislikes too. 

  • Do we not allow enough time in between sessions? 
  • Would you like different speakers, food or transportation? 
  • Would you like us to bring back the ice cream social instead of a happy hour reception?  We want to know!

Please drop us a line!  Send all suggestions, comments, and critiques to BugbeeE@si.edu.  You’re our shareholders- help us do a better job.  Thank you!

Mark your calendar- The Affiliations National Conference is scheduled for June 12- 14, 2012!

2011 Conference photos:

coming up in affiliateland in november 2011

The National Museum of Natural History’s David Hunt will be the keynote speaker at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana Spurlock Museum’s 100th anniversary celebration in Champaign, 11/1.

The City of Las Cruces Museum System will host SITES’ NASA | ART: 50 Years of Exploration in Las Cruces, 11/4.

Apollo 15 astronaut Al Worden speaks about his book, Falling to Earth, at the Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland, 11/4.

The Sonoma County Museum will host SITES’ Singgalot: The Ties that Bind in Santa Rosa, 11/12.

The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture will host two SITES exhibitions –  IndiVisible: African-Native American Lives in the Americas and Beyond Baseball:The Life of Roberto Clemente, opening in Baltimore, 11/5.

The National Museum of American Indian’s Dennis Zotigh will present a workshop and lecture at the Charlotte Museum of History in Charlotte, 11/5.

The Greensboro Historical Museum will host a lecture from the Smithsonian Associates in Greensboro, 11/7.

The Anniston Museum of Natural History celebrates its 10th Anniversary as a Smithsonian Affiliate in Anniston, 11/10.

Apollo 15 astronaut Al Worden speaks about his book, Falling to Earth, at the Tellus Science Museum in Cartersville, 11/11.

Richard Kurin, Smithsonian Under Secretary for History, Art, Culture, will present a lecture about the Hope Diamond at the Museum of American Finance in New York, 11/15.


An inspiring exhibition for your neighborhood

"The Healing Power of Art" while on view at the Smithsonian's S. Dillon Ripley Center in 2010.

Thirty-five seconds. That’s all it took to forever change the world for millions of Haitians on January 12, 2010. Now imagine those 35 seconds from a child’s point of view.  

Soon after the devastating earthquake, first lady of Haiti Elisabeth D. Préval called on Haitian artist Philippe Dodard and his fellow artists, as well as psychologists, educators and politicians, to create a safe place for children to express their feelings through art. Operating from converted buses at two sites in Port-au-Prince, Plas Timoun (The Children’s Place) uses the power of the visual and performing arts to bring healing to children, ages 6-10. 

Exhibition works of art in the concourse of the S. Dillon Ripley Center.

The simple works on paper created immediately following the earthquake were dark in color and imagery. Soon after, drawings began to reveal glimmers of hope and healing. The children of Plas Timoun were using brighter colors and depicting the innocence of childhood and their vision for a brighter future, attesting to the resilience of a nation and the power of art. With the help of Plas Timoun, these children will move more confidently toward their future and the lasting reconstruction of Haiti. “This exhibition gives the children of Haiti a chance to present to the world their vision of themselves and of the reconstruction of their country,” said Préval. “Their voices, so well expressed by colors and emotions, reflect our imaginary and social reality as vectors encouraging viewers to think with us of solutions to the problems facing contemporary Haiti.” 

Simple works on paper in "The Healing Power of Art" reveal glimmers of hope and healing.

Nearly 100 paintings and drawings created by Haiti’s young people at Plas Timoun are featured in the exhibition The Healing Power of Art: Works of Art by Haitian Children after the Earthquake, organized by the National Museum of African Art. Now, Smithsonian Affiliates can be the first to host this inspiring exhibition in their own community.  

While several of the artworks depict images relating to death and destruction, they also include illustrations of houses – both standing and damaged – with local architectural features, planes and helicopters reflecting rescue and recovery efforts, as well as colorful Haitian flags, nature scenes, abstract designs and children at play. Drawings by former First Lady Elisabeth Préval, First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, and Second Lady of the United States, Jill Biden who participated in a painting session at Plas Timoun, are included. 

"The Healing Power of Art" at the S. Dillon Ripley Center in 2010.

In addition, the exhibition includes three videos: Thirty Five Long Seconds: Haiti’s Deadly Earthquake, an 18-minute film chronicling the earthquake and its aftermath written and narrated by Mario L. Delatour, and two short video segments, one in which Dodard discusses the concept behind Plas Timoun and the other on a visit to Haiti by Mrs. Obama and Dr. Biden. An outstanding beaded Haitian flag, map of Haiti and didactic panels complement the exhibition. 

For more information on booking this exhibition, click here to download the exhibition prospectus.

kudos affiliates! november 2011

Nice going, Affiliates!

The Allegheny Regional Asset District board has proposed a $25,000 increase for the Senator John Heinz History Center (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) in the upcoming 2012 budget. The increase is to oversee the operating for the Fort Pitt Museum.

The Wisconsin Maritime Museum (Manitowoc, Wisconsin) has received a $39,550 award through the Wisconsin Department of Tourism Joint Effort Marketing Grants to promote the fun that visitors can have when they come to Northeast Wisconsin.

The Museum of Nature & Science (Dallas, Texas) announced two $1-million challenge grants from Dallas-based Highland Capital Management, L.P., and Atmos Energy Corporation that will extend matching gift opportunities for the new $185 million Perot Museum to provide funding for site acquisition, exhibition planning and design, construction of the new building, education programs and an endowment.

The Rubin Museum of Art (New York, New York) announced that its founders, Shelley and Donald Rubin, had donated $25 million to help support operations, exhibitions and programs over the next five years.