coming up in Affiliateland: May 2016

Washington, D.C.
The National Inventors Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will take place at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery, 5.5.

Smithsonian Affiliations welcomes staff from Affiliate organizations at a reception celebrating our 20th Anniversary on the first day of the American Alliance of Museums Annual Meeting, 5.26

Maria del Carmen Cossu, Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service project manager, will serve as a juror at the Mayfaire Arts Festival at the Polk Museum of Art, 5.7.

The Mennello Museum of American Art opens Pop Art Prints, an exhibition of 37 items from the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The installation includes works from the 1960s by Robert Indiana, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, Robert Rauschenberg, and others. The installation is part of a series that highlights objects from the collection that are rarely on public view, opening 5.6.

Last chance to see Above and Beyond at the Saint Louis Science Center. The exhibition celebrates the power of innovation to make dreams take flight and features two artifacts from the National Air and Space Museum. The exhibition closes 5.8.

California, Michigan, Washington, Hawaii, Colorado
Four Affiliates– Arab American National Museum, Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience, Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor, and History Colorado – and the National Museum of American History will connect via webcast to a live Youth Town Hall at the Japanese American National Museum for National Youth Summit: Japanese Incarceration in World War II, 5.17.


The Ohio History Connection will host a videoconference featuring Dr. Jeremy Kinney, curator at the National Air and Space Museum.  The videoconference will connect NASM with the Ohio History Connection and Stone Gardens Assisted Living Complex near Cleveland. Kinney will discuss the Enola Gay and its restoration while a curator from OHC will address the Ohio connections to the plane, 5.19.

Last chance to see two of George Washington’s battle swords together for the first time in over 200 years. One sword is on loan to George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens from the National Museum of American History. Exhibit closes 5.30.

There’s still time to see Titanoboa: Monster Snake at the Idaho Museum of Natural History, an exhibition organized by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service. On view through 6.12.

SITES: 65 Years and Counting

Special thanks to our colleagues at the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) for this guest post.

Since our founding in 1951, we have traveled over 1,500 exhibitions to more than 13,300 host venues, and we’re still counting. When was the last time you hosted a SITES exhibition? Let us know of your interest in our latest offerings listed below and you’ll be among the first to receive more information as it becomes available.

Here’s what’s new:

Drought damage on Walnut Creek Ranch in CA in 2014. USDA photo by Cynthia Mendoza.

Drought damage on Walnut Creek Ranch in CA in 2014. USDA photo by Cynthia Mendoza.

H20 Today
Water is the most vital resource for life. Through immersive content, interactives and digital media, H20 Today explores the diversity and challenges of our global water sources. This fully designed, build-it-yourself exhibition is licensed and provided to host venues as print-ready graphic files, detailed design drawings, videos and computer interactives. Host venues can choose from a suite of engaging interactives and build what works best for your museum.

Dolores Huerta with bullhorn by Jon Lewis, gelatin silver print, 1965. ©Yale Collection of Western Americana, Beinecke Rare Books & Manuscript Library

Dolores Huerta with bullhorn by Jon Lewis, gelatin silver print, 1965. ©Yale Collection of Western Americana, Beinecke Rare Books & Manuscript Library

Dolores Huerta
Presidential Medal of Freedom-winner Dolores Huerta has shined in many roles over her celebrated life: teacher, human rights activist, civil rights pioneer, and National Farm Workers Association (later the United Farm Workers) co-founder. Huerta is an integral figure in women’s history, Latino history and American history, and SITES is proud to announce plans for a new exhibition that will explore her life, inspirations, and her social activism with César Chavez in the 1960s and 70s. Featuring bilingual text (Spanish and English), reproductions of historic and personal photographs and documents, stunning graphics, select videos, and supplemental educational resources, the exhibition is a collaboration with the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery.

National Museum of African American History and Culture Courtesy of Freelon Adjaye Bond/Smithgroup

National Museum of African American History and Culture
Courtesy of Freelon Adjaye Bond/Smithgroup

National Museum of African American History and Culture Poster Exhibition
SITES is proud to work with the National Museum of African American History and Culture to create an historic, limited-edition poster exhibition to celebrate the opening of the newest Smithsonian museum on September 24, 2016.  Based on the Museum’s inaugural exhibitions exploring African American history, culture and community, the poster exhibition will be accompanied by a broad range of programming ideas and educational resources to help venues connect to the Museum’s opening events.  A limited number of poster exhibition sets will be available by request beginning early this summer. Check to learn more.

Last Painting, 1985-1993 Robert De Niro, Sr. Courtesy Estate of Robert De Niro, Sr.

Last Painting, 1985-1993
Robert De Niro, Sr.
Courtesy Estate of Robert De Niro, Sr.

The Art of Robert De Niro, Sr.
As New York City emerged as the center of the contemporary art world in the 1940s and 50s, a small group of artists achieved fame and became known as the New York School. SITES reintroduces the work of one of its members, Robert De Niro, Sr. (1922-1993). This retrospective, comprised of the artist’s most important works spanning several decades, will explore De Niro’s importance as an American artist, illuminate his personal artistic journey and critique the schools of art represented in his works. The Art of Robert De Niro, Sr. is organized in cooperation with the Estate of Robert De Niro, Sr. and DC Moore Gallery.

For additional information on any of these exhibitions, please contact us at or 202.633.3140. Highlight your special connection to the Smithsonian by hosting a SITES exhibition!

Traveling to the AAM Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. later this month? Don’t forget to stop by SITES’ Booth #7045 for more information about our offerings, plus fun giveaways and raffle prizes. You’ll also have the chance to connect with SITES and Affiliations staff.

kudos affiliates! may edition

Congratulations to these Affiliates on  their accomplishments! Have an award, a funding announcement, or significant staff change you’d like to see here? Email us!


Three charitable foundations gifts totaling $650,000 were awarded to Union Station, Kansas City, Inc.’s expansion and bridge project. The Gary Dickinson Family Charitable Foundation donated $250,000. The Sunderland Foundation donated $250,000. The Victor E. and Caroline E. Schutte Foundation donated $150,000. The expansion will include an interactive outdoor exhibit at Science City based on a winning entry in the last Battle of the Brains competition. The project also will include a new entrance to the theater area and planetarium.

The Wisconsin Maritime Museum announced the upcoming expansion of the exhibit “Wisconsin’s Underwater Treasures,” thanks to an $85,000 donation from the Ruth St. John and John Dunham West Foundation. The exhibit is focusing on the historic and cultural significance of many notable shipwrecks and unique personal stories from communities along Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan shoreline and will include new technology-based experiences along with a variety of interactives for visitors.

The South Dakota Historical Society Foundation has received a $5,000 grant from the BNSF Railway Foundation and a $1,000 grant from the Midco Foundation to digitize historic photographs and make the images available online.

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) announced $21.1 million in grants for 248 humanities projects including the following Affiliate initiatives:

Ohio History Connection: $74,943
Project Title: TourSites for WordPress: Digital Tour Experiences for Multi-site Museum Networks
Project Description: The development of a platform that supports the sharing of humanities content through mobile tours in both exterior and interior spaces, building on Curatescape and WordPress platforms.

National Museum of American Jewish History: $40,000
Project Title: Leonard Bernstein: The Power of Music
Project Description: Planning for a traveling exhibition, a scholarly catalog, and curriculum materials exploring the life, music, and influence of composer Leonard Bernstein.

YIVO Institute for Jewish Research Match: $260,000
Project Title: The YIVO Vilna Collections Project
Project Description: The arrangement and description of 301 linear feet of manuscripts and archives and the creation of over 458,000 digital images from these sources, which form part of the “Vilna Collections” held by the YIVO Institute, a repository housed in the Center for Jewish History. Images created by YIVO will be merged with extant holdings of the Lithuanian Central State Archive and National Library of Lithuania as part of a larger seven-year initiative.

Dane County approved $17,087 in grant awards through the Dane County Environmental Council’s Community Partners and Capital Equipment programs including $1,000 to the Madison Children’s Museum (Madison, Wisconsin). The funds will be used for purchasing supplies and equipment needed to develop a traveling homing pigeon program for local events, camps, and summer school programs that serve low-income areas in Dane County.

Connecticut Humanities granted Mystic Seaport $10,415 for the development of an exhibition centered on the newly re-installed captain’s cabin of the Down East merchant ship, The Benjamin F. Packard. The planning phase of this project requires extensive research in the museum’s collections and an audience study on engagement. This exhibit will teach about the maritime cargo trade that shaped Connecticut throughout history.

PPG Foundation Donates $10,000 to Frontiers of Flight Museum for Tech-Focused Program Grant supports expansion of Young Women’s STEM Leadership Initiative. The program serves 6th through 12th grade students from three public all-girls schools in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area.

Awards and Recognition

The Institute of Museum and Library Services announced the 10 recipients of the 2016 National Medal for Museum and Library Service, the nation’s highest honor given to museums and libraries for service to the community including Mid-America Science Museum (Hot Springs, Arkansas).

Kristin A. Swain, executive director of The Rockwell Museum, was honored during the Museum Association of New York’s annual conference. Swain received the Anne Ackerson Innovation in Leadership Award for guiding “staff and the museum board of trustees through the broadening of the Rockwell’s mission, transitioning focus from the American West to ‘art about the American experience.

The U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center was recognized with the Keepin’ it Fresh and New Award for its Vietnam Exhibit – Courage, Commitment, and Fear. The center was recognized by the Hershey Harrisburg Visitors Bureau Partner in Tourism Platinum Award Ceremony.

Leadership and Staff Changes

Michael Hammond, Ph.D., Executive Director of Agua Caliente Cultural Museum for the past 17 years, has announced his retirement effective July 31, 2016.

The San Diego History Center has a new director.  Bill Lawrence previously served as operations manager and trustee and comes from a background in broadcasting.

The San Diego Natural History Museum has announced that Judy Gradwohl, who has held numerous positions at the Smithsonian Institution, will be its new president and CEO, replacing Michael “Mick” Hager, who’s retiring June 30 after 25 years at the Balboa Park institution.

Mystic Seaport announced that Nicholas R. Bell has been named Senior Vice President for Curatorial Affairs, a new position at the Museum that will be responsible for the care, management, strategic development, and exhibition of the Museum’s collections. Bell will assume the position June 1, 2016. Bell is presently The Fleur and Charles Bresler Curator-in-Charge at the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery in Washington, DC.

A new CEO with extensive fundraising, strategy and communications experience takes the helm at the Space Center Houston. William T. Harris has more than 30 years in nonprofit leadership and was previously at the California Science Center Foundation as senior vice president of development and marketing. 

David Wood has been promoted from director of exhibits and operations to chief operating officer at The Children’s Museum of the Upstate. In his new role, Wood will direct and oversee the daily operations and logistics of the museum, including exhibit development and management.

Bethlehem’s National Museum of Industrial History has hired Andria Zaia as curator of collections. Zaia will be responsible for overseeing the museum’s collection of iron, steel, textile, and industrial artifacts and archival materials.

Affiliates in the news: May edition

Congrats to these Affiliates making news!  If you have a clipping that highlights a collaboration with the Smithsonian or with a fellow Affiliate, or a clipping that demonstrates leadership in education, innovation, and arts/culture/history/science you’d like to have considered for the Affiliate blog, please contact Elizabeth Bugbee

The musicians Terri Davis, left, and Bill Saxton at the opening of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem. Credit Yana Paskova for The New York Times The National Jazz

The musicians Terri Davis, left, and Bill Saxton at the opening of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem. Credit Yana Paskova for The New York Times

National Jazz Museum in Harlem (New York, NY)
National Jazz Museum in Harlem reopens in new location
On the very same day that the United States Postal Service held a ceremony in Newark, New Jersey, to celebrate the new Sarah Vaughn postage stamp, Harold Closter, Director of Smithsonian Affiliations, told a funny anecdote about his contribution to the history of jazz. Addressing the audience at the opening night of The National Jazz Museum in Harlem’s new location, Closter joked that his contribution to jazz history was the time he was tasked with carrying the train of “the Divine One’s” (as Vaughn was known) dress onstage once.

The National Jazz Museum in Harlem Finds a Permanent Home
The museum found its footing, in incremental steps, under the executive leadership of Loren Schoenberg. A veteran saxophonist, pianist, educator and historian, Mr. Schoenberg brought an air of authority to the museum, while strengthening its bonds with the jazz public and institutions like the Smithsonian.

Saint Louis Science Center (St. Louis, MO)
Saint Louis Science Center selected as Smithsonian Institution Affiliate
“We are very pleased to join the ranks of some very distinguished organizations and institutions across the country,” said Bert Vescolani, president and CEO of the Saint Louis Science Center. “Having the opportunity to share Smithsonian artifacts, including space capsules, aircraft and rare minerals with our visitors will help to spark interest and excitement in science and the important role it plays in our lives.”

Mid-America Science Museum (Hot Springs, AR)
Mid-America Science Museum wins prestigious national award
Mid-America Science Museum in Hot Springs has landed the Institute for Museum and Library Services National Medal for Community Service. The award stands out as only 10 museums and libraries around the country are awarded it each year.

Visitors at "The Art of Video Games" exhibition. Photo courtesy Frost Art Museum.

Visitors at “The Art of Video Games” exhibition. Photo courtesy Frost Art Museum.

Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum (Miami, FL)
Remember ‘Pac-Man’? Museum exhibit has fun with classic video games
From “Pitfall!” and “Space Invaders” to “Super Mario Brothers,” the collection celebrates the artistic and creative factors involved in creating the games’ virtual landscapes and moving images.

1960s Living Room at the Senator John Heinz History Center. (Photo: Rachellynn Schoen)

1960s Living Room at the Senator John Heinz History Center. (Photo: Rachellynn Schoen)

Senator John Heinz History Center (Pittsburgh, PA)
Playing With the Past
There were many other surprises in this exhibit of nearly 500 favorites developed in partnership with the Minnesota Historical Society. For those of you who destroyed or failed to hold on to your childhood treasures, the 8,000 square-foot exhibit may well be worth the trip to Pittsburgh. Your head will be swiveling as Mr. Potato Head, Gumby, Barbie, and action figures from three decades vie for your attention.

National Inventors Hall of Fame
The Greatest Celebration Of American Innovation Inspiring The Future And Honoring The Past
The National Inventors Hall of Fame and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will host the Greatest Celebration of American Innovation May 4-5. The two-day event will include the Induction of 16 innovation trailblazers into the Hall of Fame [at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery] and the unveiling of the expanded National Inventors Hall of Fame Museum.

DuSable Museum of African American History (Chicago, IL)
DuSable Museum named as Smithsonian Institution affiliate
Chicago’s DuSable Museum of African American History has been granted affiliation status by the Smithsonian Institution. The distinction, announced Thursday, gives the museum access to Smithsonian artifacts and traveling exhibits. The DuSable is the second Chicago facility to receive Smithsonian Affiliate status, joining the Adler Planetarium.

YWCA Bristol TechGYRLS: Radio Stars at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum

Special thanks to Rene Rodgers, curator of exhibits and publications at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum in Bristol, Virginia, for this guest post.

As a new museum, this past September was the Birthplace of Country Music Museum‘s first time participating in Smithsonian magazine’s Museum Day Live! So we were excited when a special Museum Day Live! event was planned for March 12, 2016. Having been open for a year and a half, we were ready to make something special of this special day.

Being held during Women’s History Month, this year’s Museum Day Live! was focused on encouraging all people – and particularly women and girls of color – to explore our nation’s museums and cultural institutions. We wanted to see new visitors come through our doors for this March event – and we did! We saw around 340 visitors bearing their free admission ticket, many of whom had never been to the museum before, along with several dedicated volunteers and members.

TechGyrls1More importantly, we wanted to create a learning opportunity at the museum for underserved girls within our community. Therefore, in keeping with this year’s theme, we partnered with the YWCA Bristol TechGYRLS, a local afterschool program based on a STEM-focused curriculum and geared towards supporting girls aged 9–15 who would otherwise have limited access to and experience with technology.

We decided that a fun focus for this partnership would be helping the TechGYRLS to create a special radio program for WBCM, our in-museum working radio station. To prepare for their radio debut, the girls toured the museum in early February, exploring the exhibits to find topics to cover in their radio program. They also got the chance to record a “radio drop,” or teaser, to promote the show. With very little rehearsal, the girls nailed their radio drop – they were complete naturals!

Using the ideas they had gathered from their tour, the TechGYRLS then worked directly with museum and radio staff to develop their script and create a lively complementary playlist of songs from Orthophonic Joy: The 1927 Bristol Sessions Revisited. They also got the chance to learn more about how a radio station works and how to put together a radio program from our radio staff.

For their Museum Day Live! radio program, we decided on three main spoken segments:

  • Telling radio listeners about the YWCA Bristol TechGYRLS program and how being a TechGYRL will impact their future
  • Talking about which exhibits they enjoyed during their tour of the museum
  • Picking one subject in the museum that particularly interested them and doing a feature on it

After a bit of tweaking and some rehearsal time, the TechGYRLS came back to the museum a few days before Museum Day Live! to pre-record their show. Their interviews were filled with energy and enthusiasm. They described how their visit to the museum showed them how important the Bristol Sessions were in American music history and that the old-time music playing in our exhibits made them want to dance! And they shared the many ways the YWCA Bristol TechGYRLS program impacts their lives, with one student saying that it “teaches you to include everyone no matter how different…and that just because you aren’t a man, doesn’t mean you can’t grow up and be what you want to be.” Wisdom out of the mouths of babes!


When March 12 finally arrived, we were excited – and so were the girls. YWCA Bristol brought several of them to the museum an hour or so before their radio broadcast, giving them plenty of time to explore the museum further and take a peek at our new special exhibit “Made in Tennessee: Manufacturing Milestones.” A few parents came along too, and we heard that a couple of families were ready to listen together at home to the show on WBCM. While the show was broadcasting on the radio, we streamed it into the museum’s performance theater, inviting our museum visitors to come in and listen as part of their Museum Day Live! experience.

Seeing the girls faces as they listened to themselves on the radio, seeing them really realize that listeners throughout Bristol (and possibly across the world!) were hearing their ideas and thoughts, was amazing. The TechGYRLS shared their time and energy with us, they gave voice to their lives and experiences, and the result was one of the most fulfilling and proudest moments we’ve had at the museum so far.

TechGyrls2Tonja Leonard, Director of TechGYRLS, emphasized how important it is to provide the girls with experiences and opportunities to see technology as part of their everyday lives. She noted that this experience brought huge value to the TechGYRLS program – it not only provided a wonderful learning experience for the girls but also helped to broaden their perspectives and further their educational values, giving them an opportunity that was not possible through the school system. Tonja added, “this opportunity certainly empowered our TechGYRLS.”

We also got to hear directly from the girls about their experience at the museum and on the radio (along with a lovely thank you card, signed by all of them!):

  • Holly:  “It was really amazing to know that the songs I picked were going to be on the radio. I really enjoyed learning the history behind the music and all about the radio and how the broadcast is done.”
  • Michaela:  “It was really fun to have the experience to get to work with the technology in the radio booth. I learned a lot from the museum and learning about classic country music.”
  • Allie:  “As a future engineer, it’s important to learn about technology in other fields.  While at the museum I learned that technology-based equipment is a fun necessity.”
  • Jayda:  “I liked learning about the Carter Family and the Carter scratch [Maybelle Carter’s well-known and influential guitar-playing technique]. The karaoke booth [Sing-Along Station in the Making Music area of the exhibits] was also very fun because we got to sing different types of music and learn about the instruments that were used.”

Hearing the impact this partnership – inspired by Museum Day Live! – had on the TechGYRLS has been incredibly moving. But the things we gained from this experience were just as positive: the use of our radio station as a wonderful community learning tool; the ability to share our museum with young girls and get their feedback in a direct and meaningful manner; the possibilities for further partnerships and outreach programs in the future; and the way a program like this, written and produced by local youth, took our museum and its mission further into our community – to name just a few.

March’s Museum Day Live! was a huge success for us – and an amazing experience. Most importantly, it had as significant an impact on us as it did on the TechGYRLS, and for that we couldn’t be more grateful.


All photographs courtesy Birthplace of Country Music Museum.