naturalist center expands its branches

The York County Culture and Heritage Museums are on a roll! Just a few months ago, the Museum of York County celebrated its 60th Anniversary by opening its first Naturalist Center, modeled after the Smithsonian’s Naturalist Center. And just a few weeks ago, the they added a new museum, the Main Street Children’s Museum.

Naturalist Center.

The Museum of York County received assistance in developing the Naturalist Center from the manager of the Smithsonian’s Naturalist Center, Richard Efthim. The center provides a unique and engaging atmosphere for inquiry-based learning. It brings students, teachers, artists and others who are interested in natural history together with collections of objects, scientific equipment, technology, books and references.   The center is filled with taxidermy animals such as lions, Cape buffalo and a giraffe. In addition to a painstakingly detailed, wildlife-filled African plains recreation, visitors can touch more than 1,000 specimens such as the skulls of big cats and buffalo hooves.   Center Curator of Natural History, Steve Fields, encourages visitors to open drawers filled with fossils and other specimens and handle them for closer inspection.  Teachers are encouraged to bring their students to the center to apply their lesson plans using some of the specimens from the collection. The Naturalist Center at the Museum of York County provides a hands-on, discovery-based approach to learning using hundreds of natural history specimens, many of which are on view to the public for the first time. Participants may enjoy self-guided discovery and educational programs and handle mounted specimens, skins, skulls, rocks, minerals, and fossils from all corners of the globe.   

Main Street Children's Museum.

The new Main Street Children’s Museum opened to the public on December 2, 2010.  Smithsonian Affiliations’ Director, Harold Closter, was present to give remarks. The design of the Main Street Children’s Museum was inspired by the artworks of late local artist Vernon Grant.  The museum serves as a center for early childhood education, with a focus on infants to age 6.  Children are encouraged to utilize their creative and developmental skills through interactive exhibits and role-playing with audio and visual experiences. Some highlights of these exhibits include: an interactive Tree House, where children can climb to new heights; a Baby Pumpkin filled with toys and areas of seating; a Dress Up Vault, where children dress up in costumes and learn to role-play; a Sailing Ship, where children can engage in several sailing related activities; and lastly a Train Table with wooden building blocks and train sets to engage the future engineers!

The York County Culture and Heritage Museums’ activity with the Smithsonian doesn’t stop there. Now they are in the planning stages to build a new Records Center that will house the museum’s archives and collections. Latasha Richards, collections manager, will visit the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. to meet with staff at the National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery to learn more about space planning, organizing, and moving in January 2011. Check the Affiliate blog in January for a recap of her visit.

Smithsonian artifacts help tell the story at new National Museum of American Jewish History

The new National Museum of American Jewish History hosts its grand opening celebration this weekend. And you’ve probably already heard the buzz that VIPs such as Bette Midler, Jerry Seinfeld and Vice President Joe Biden will be on hand for the opening.  But did you know there will be some quieter stars sticking around long after opening weekend concludes?  Thanks to loans from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and National Museum of the American Indian, 13 amazing artifacts from the Smithsonian collection that document the history and achievements of Jewish Americans will be on view for visitors long after the fanfare ends.  Here’s a few of the Smithsonian artifacts visitors will encounter:

Albert Einstein’s pipe
One of only 18 Jewish Americans to be featured in the Museum’s prestigious “Only in America” gallery, Albert Einstein, creator of the theory of relativity, Nobel Prize winner, and striver for world peace, is almost as well known for his physical appearance as for his epochal work in theoretical physics. Characteristic of that appearance was a pipe. Although in his later years he restricted his smoking on doctors’ orders, he couldn’t bear to give up the tactile experience of a pipe itself. This one, in fact, gives evidence of Einstein’s long usage in a hole he wore through its bit.   

Polio vaccine vial
Jonas Salk first tested his polio vaccine on humans in July 1952 when he inoculated thirty children at the D. T. Watson Home for Crippled Children near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This vial contains residue of polio vaccine from these first tests, which had a profound effect on American medical history.

 

 

Sandy Koufax’s Rawlings Mickey Mantle Professional Model mitt
Sandy Koufax was signed to his hometown Brooklyn Dodgers in 1955 and started pitching regularly for them when they moved to Los Angeles. In 1961, with a wicked curve ball, Koufax won 18 games and triggered one of the most exciting five-season performances ever seen on a mound. This included the lowest earned-run average in baseball for five straight years, a no-hitter in each of four consecutive seasons, and three World Series championships. Koufax used this left-hander’s glove during his career with the Dodgers.

Shofar (Central Europe, 19th century)
This shofar, a Jewish ceremonial instrument made from a ram’s horn, was the first object of Judaica collected by former curator Cyrus Adler for the (Smithsonian) National Museum in 1889. Want to hear what one sounds like? Click here to listen at Smithsonian Folkways!

Irving Berlin’s Uniform Jacket from WWI
Irving Berlin’s jacket will be exhibited in a gallery devoted to telling the American Jewish experience during WWI.  While a doughboy in WWI, Berlin wrote songs and presented musicals which raised money for Camp Upton.

Did you know that the character of Superman was created by Jewish Americans?   Smithsonian artifacts such as a Superman doll, a gold rush coin, sheet music and more, add an important complement to the Museum’s exhibitions, which chronicle 350 years of American Jewish history.   The Smithsonian could not be prouder to be part of this historic opening event. 

The National Museum of American Jewish History officially opens to the public on November 26.  For more information about this museum, visit http://nmajh.org/

Interested in more headlines about the museum’s opening? See our blog post, Affiliates in the News, for more info.

All images courtesy National Museum of American History.

annette shumway: summer at the smithsonian

We invited our recent Smithsonian Affiliate interns and visiting professionals to blog about their experiences in our “Summer at the Smithsonian” series. Below, Annette Shumway, intern partner from the Frost Art Museum (Miami, FL) shares the story of her summer internship at the National Postal Museum.  Special thanks to Annette for this post!

As a graduate student in the Museum Studies Certificate program at Florida International University I’ve focused much of my research efforts on digitization projects being undertaken by museums and archives.  I am particularly interested in the effective administration and proper usage of current technologies for digital projects and believe that without organization much time and resources could be wasted. I was looking for an internship that would provide a meaningful, sensory experience that would enhance all of the learning that I had acquired, but couldn’t quite find one. When my Museum Studies Coordinator suggested I look into Smithsonian Affiliations Internship Program (our campus museum –The Frost Art Museum- is a Smithsonian Affiliate), I was excited because I would actually be able to execute my own project at the Frost, after I acquired hands-on skills at the Smithsonian.

I was placed with Kate Diggle, Database Administrator at the National Postal Museum (NPM). At NPM digitization of the collection is a high priority.  While at the museum I had the opportunity to work on two different projects involving digitization. 

We worked on one collection consisting of modern philatelic and postal history artifacts which are being transferred from the USPS to the National Postal Museum’s care.  We re-housed, marked, and cataloged all of the objects during the first phase. Next, we created digital records for more than 4000 records down to the item level.   Hard work, but we accomplished our task a month ahead of schedule!  With the help of curators and conservation staff, we identified the items that would be the best candidates for imaging. Some of the artifacts in the collection were larger than the imaging equipment we had in-house, so we couriered these objects to a facility that would be able to handle our imaging needs. It was fascinating to courier the objects and to have access to some of the most state-of-the-art equipment in the field of image capture.  

The second project involved the actual image capture of artifacts for an upcoming exhibit.  These images were added to the museum’s database and will be available online when the exhibit opens. This helps to preserve artifacts like letters from revolutionary war, civil war, and both world wars for future generations of researchers.  Thanks to instruction from the preservations, collections, and web team at NPM, I was able to hone the handling, technical and editing skills necessary for completing projects in digitization field.

Taking part in both of these projects has helped me understand the logistics behind coordinating loans and standards involved in collections’ imaging projects. I feel that much of the experience that I gained through this period will aid in the second portion of my internship at the Frost Art Museum. I look forward to contributing valuable knowledge to the digitization plan and efforts at the Frost.

Goodbye Texas. Hello New York! The 10,000 Springs Pavilion is on the move

Special thanks to Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute Conservator Don Williams for this guest post.

Two weeks ago found me in Irving, Texas, along with Groopsters Bob Klein and Bill Ferguson from the Professional Refinisher’s Group (aka “Groop”), dismantling the Ten Thousand Springs Pavilion at Smithsonian Affiliate, Irving Arts Center.  We’re packing it for travel to its next temporary home in Flushing, NY, at Affiliate, Flushing Town Hall. Thus far Groop members have donated over 75 man-days toward the installation and de-installation of the exhibit, which could not be accomplished otherwise. Here’s a peek at the de-installation:

The setting for the Ten Thousand Springs Pavilion in the lobby of the Irving Arts Center was truly spectacular, exposing the magnificent artifact to tens of thousands of patrons.

Bill (l) and Bob (r) were real troopers. This was Bill's second rodeo with me, and Bob's fifth(!).

We were joined in our endeavor by the skilled and burly crew for the Irving Arts Center when it came time to handle the really heavy and awkward stuff.

The building crew for the Irving Arts Center was an amazingly helpful and professional group. The gigantic roof portions had to be hand carried a few hundred feet through the building to get reunited with the crates.

Not too surprisingly, it comes apart much faster than it goes together.

A place for everything, and everything in its place.

Bill got the honors this time of removing the impossibly ornate carved finial.

All packed up with somewhere to go.

 The project went smoothly and quickly.  I had allotted three full days of work, but we were done by late  afternoon of day two. It was truly a delight to spend productive time with these two Groop brothers and the fellowship it entailed.

Next stop is Flushing, New York, where the local logistics will require a sunrise Sunday beginning.  The exhibit will open October 16, 2010.

About the Ten Thousand Springs Pavilion
The structure is a 1 to 5 model of the celebrated and intricate classic Chinese pavilion that stands within the Forbidden City in the heart of Beijing. The model of the pavilion was gifted to the Smithsonian by Dr. Chan Laiwa and the China Red Sandalwood Museum in Beijing. Dr. Chan founded the museum to preserve and perpetuate the ancient Chinese art of red sandalwood carving.

Made by Chinese artisans using traditional Chinese carving and fine furniture techniques, the model captures the beauty of the original pavilion, and is an outstanding example of traditional Chinese carving. Artisans at the China Red Sandalwood Museum constructed this model of red sandalwood, treasured for its dark glossy color and musty floral fragrance. No nails are used; the entire structure is put together with mortise-and-tenon joinery. Currently, nearly 60 percent of red sandalwood carvers are women. Red sandalwood was highly prized in imperial China, and was used to create intricately carved furniture and decorative objects. Because of the demand for this wood, the tree nearly disappeared in China – along with the art of carving it.

The Ten Thousand Springs Pavilion is one of the 20 or so structures that are part of the private pleasure grounds for two dynasties of Chinese emperors. The Imperial Garden of the Forbidden City was a retreat for the emperor and his family allowing quiet contemplation of nature and communion with the spiritual world. 

affiliates at the folklife festival

In addition to Mexico and Asian Pacific Americans, this year’s Folklife Festival features ‘Smithsonian Inside Out’ – a section devoted to explaining the inner workings of the Institution.  Tents are dedicated to work in our strategic  grand challenges, how we make exhibits and tend our grounds, our research activities around the globe, and more.

Affiliates are playing an important role in demonstrating to Festival visitors how the Smithsonian reaches audiences well beyond Washington.  The Littleton Historical Museum in Colorado and the Historic Arkansas Museum are featured on giant festival maps about the Smithsonian’s work outside D.C.  Icons for Affiliates that show the breadth of the network are highlighted as well.

The B & O Railroad Museum‘s executive director Courtney Wilson will be on the Festival’s discussion stage on July 1 with Bill Withuhn, curator emeritus at the National Museum of American History.  They’ll be discussing our decade of collaboration, and the numerous Smithsonian artifacts on view in Baltimore as a result of our relationship.

On July 3, the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture will host a table at the Festival to demonstrate the fruits of their affiliation, such as hosting several major SITES exhibitions, artifact loans from the new National Museum of African American History, and sharing expertise with a range of Smithsonian scholars.

Throughout the Festival, Affiliations staff have been engaged in explaining outreach efforts to visitors.  National Outreach Manager Alma Douglas took to the discussion stage on June 27 to describe the Affiliations Program.  Other staff members are manning the “Ask the Smithsonian” tent, finding out about visitors’ hometowns and encouraging them to visit their local Affiliates.  It’s great to be able to tell Festival visitors from across the country about our extended family of Affiliates, and the Smithsonian experience they can have, even  in their own backyards.

smithsonian jazz comes to omaha

Thanks to the Durham Museum’s distance learning coordinator Mike Irwin for this guest post.  

Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra performing at the Durham Museum.

Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra performing at the Durham Museum.

It was late afternoon and the current visitors at the Durham Museum began to filter out, replaced by Jazz enthusiasts of all ages ready for a concert to remember. They were here to be entertained (and educated) by the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra (SJMO).  They certainly got what they came for!

Jazz at the Durham Museum in Omaha Nebraska? Three years ago the Durham began celebrating Jazz Appreciation Month and the interest from the community has been tremendous. Mick Hale, director of education at the Durham stated, “As a proud Affiliate of the Smithsonian we are always looking for ways to expand our relationship with the Smithsonian and to provide our community with access to great programs such as the jazz appreciation program provided by the SJMO. ”

Durham Museum's Executive Director Christi Jannsen with SJMO's Artistic and Musical Director David Baker

Durham Museum's Executive Director Christi Janssen with SJMO's Artistic and Musical Director Dr. David N. Baker

The community offering began with an evening performance at the Holland Performing Arts Center by the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra.  The evening opened with a special lecture by Dr. David N. Baker, the orchestra’s artistic and musical director, followed by a big band jazz performance.

The two-day “on-site” schedule was extensive, taking the SJMO to schools around the Omaha area for two and a half hour workshops connecting with over 400 students from eight high schools, two junior highs, and two colleges.

Dr. David Baker warming-up the crowd at the Durham Museum.

Dr. David N. Baker warming-up the crowd at the Durham Museum.

SJMO unpacked and set up for their final public performance at the Durham Museum’s Stanley and Dorothy Truhlsen Lecture Hall.  The setting for the performance couldn’t have been more appropriate. The Durham Museum, formally a grand train station, was built in 1931 with a strong Art Deco influence. Thousands of passengers passed though the doors each day during the station’s operation.  Today when you walk through the Great Hall you can almost hear a Count Basie or Duke Ellington melody. When all were seated and the lights went down, Dr. Baker began the evening with an engaging brief history of Jazz highlighting the great musicians and their contribution to this American musical phenomena. His low-key, humorous overview put the mid-western audience at ease and ready for a great jazz performance.

SJMO alto saxophonist Scott Silbert ‘s narration sprinkled between songs citing little know facts and tips on what to add to your jazz collection only added to the overall interest in the musical selection of iconic jazz tunes.

As one participant commented in an e-mail about the night, “Needless to say a fun time was had by all…and everyone was tapping their feet to the music all evening.  I’m still tapping my feet this morning!”

SJMO performing for guests at the Durham Museum.

SJMO performing for guests at the Durham Museum.