Smithsonian Affiliations at 25: Chapter 3: 10 Years of Reaching for the Stars Together

Affiliations Anniversary Series: 25 Years in Your Neighborhood
Chapter 3: 10 Years of Reaching for the Stars Together

By: Tricia Edwards, Deputy Director, Smithsonian Affiliations and Natalie Wimberly, Management Support Specialist and Universe of Learning Project Manager, Smithsonian Affiliations

A young boy crouches in front of a telescope next to an adult in a bright green shirt seated next to him.

Student astrophotographer at Carolinas Aviation Museum (Charlotte, NC). Photo credit: Carolinas Aviation Museum.

“Working with Affiliations over the last 10 years has been one of the most productive collaborations for our Science Education Department,” says Mary Dussault, a STEM education program director at Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) in Cambridge, MA. Since 2012, with generous support from the Smithsonian’s Youth Access Grant program (YAG), Smithsonian Affiliations and Affiliates have collaborated with SAO to bring astronomy and astrophotography education to their communities through the Youth Capture the Colorful Cosmos program (YCCC). Dussault adds, “Right from the get-go, we realized that the educational goals of the YAG program, the strategic partnership capacity and national network of Smithsonian Affiliations, and the scalable and accessible technology resources of SAO’s MicroObservatory Robotic Telescope Network were a case of the stars aligning.”

YCCC introduces communities, especially students, to the wonders of the universe. Participants can access SAO’s robotic telescopes, take images of the cosmos, and manipulate the photographs to produce their own artistic and scientific interpretations of the stars and galaxies. Along the way, they gain important technology skills and engage in—and apply—science, technology, engineering, art, and math content. As one young participant said, “I loved editing the photos. It grew my imagination and made me want to do more with it.”

A black and white image of the moon is pictured to the left of a brightly colored red, green, yellow and blue interpretation of the moon on right.

Photo captured by the MicroObservatory robotic telescope (left) alongside a student’s interpretation of the image.

Many Affiliates have participated in the program for multiple years and used YCCC to reach new audiences or forge deeper partnerships with existing collaborators. One Affiliate commented, “As a direct result of implementing the program we have already begun discussions with [our local] high school to develop a more intense astronomy program for next year.”

Since 2012, YCCC has grown to include 29 Smithsonian Affiliates and has reached more than 7,000 participants across the nation.

“Each Affiliate brings particular expertise and knowledge of their local community to adapting our SAO resources and materials, thereby creating wonderful program models that we never would have anticipated on our own,” says Erika Wright, SAO Education Specialist. For example, arts educator Annette Eschelman from the Springfield Museum of Art (Springfield, OH) was able to combine visual arts and astronomical imaging techniques to engage incarcerated youth. Starr Kelly from the Abbe Museum (Bar Harbor, ME) developed a summer camp program in which indigenous knowledge of the Wabanaki Nations informed the experience of students in the local Indian Township School.

Pieces of the Astronomy Kit rest on a table

Astronomy Kit for virtual NASA UoL 2020 Programming at Cape Fear Museum (Wilmington, NC). Photo credit: Cape Fear Museum

The successful collaboration model itself has also expanded, as SAO and Affiliations have teamed up to pursue a number of other astronomy-based education programs funded by the National Science Foundation and NASA. NASA’s Universe of Learning (NASA’s UoL), for example, connects the science, technology, subject matter experts, and adventure of NASA Astrophysics with STEM concepts, education standards, and 21st century skills central to science understanding and literacy. Resulting products, programs, and professional development experiences span a spectrum of environments and applications, enabling a rich learning “ecosystem” across the traditional boundaries of education. The goal of the program is to create and disseminate education products, programs, and professional development experiences that use NASA Astrophysics science, technology, and subject matter experts to advance NASA’s Science Mission Directorate education objectives on a national scale.

In partnership with Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, 15 Smithsonian Affiliate partners, over the course of 3 years, were identified to join the national network of collaborators for this project. The majority of the Affiliates who participated were already building on the long-term partnerships and successful implementations of the Youth Capture the Colorful Cosmos program. Growing from these past project relationships, NASA’s UoL is able to extend its reach through Affiliates and the communities they serve.

“We have great content that we’ll share in our virtual portfolio and will gladly share with any other organization that can make use of it. I also hope to do other projects with Universe of Learning when possible.” Nathan Meyer, Cosmosphere, Hutchinson, KS

NASA’s UoL project asks 3 main questions: How does the Universe work? How did we get here? Are we alone? The project creates and delivers science and audience-driven resources along with experiences designed to engage and immerse learners of all ages and backgrounds in exploring the universe for themselves. Its main goal is to expose astrophysics content to a wider underserved audience as well as create a Community of Practice within the Affiliate partners to document, share, and discuss ideas about how this information could translate into their own institutions.

Astronomy resources are placed on a table at the Anchorage Museum

NASA’s UoL Science of Light Program at Anchorage Museum (Anchorage, AK). Photo credit: Anchorage Museum.

“Students wanted to spend more time doing these activities and engaging with astronomy related STEM resources. For some of the students, it was their first time in a planetarium, and being able to go there twice was their favorite part of the program. Others really enjoyed learning about the MicroObservatory resource and said they would continue using it on their own.” Aaron Slonecker, Anchorage Museum, Anchorage, AK

Within the 3-year program period, our Affiliate partners have created long-term NASA UoL community programs and are actively still engaged with Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory to help broaden the scope and reach of NASA’s UoL future programming.

Through both YCCC and NASA’s UoL, Affiliates have helped to broaden access to SAO resources and magnify the reach of their expertise, all while engaging young learners in their communities in astronomy. Affiliates have also built their capacity. They have bolstered their astronomy knowledge and expertise, while also learning how to implement public workshops and programs for audiences of all ages. They have created a community of learners through online discussions and webinars, brainstormed programming ideas, and learned with and from one another.

Later this year, Smithsonian Affiliations and SAO will debut the Youth Capture the Colorful Cosmos toolkit, developed in collaboration with the Abbe Museum, Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum (Honolulu, HI), and Springfield Museum of Art. The toolkit will provide how-to instructions for accessing the MicroObservatory, along with successful YCCC program models implemented by Affiliates with different audiences and in different settings, enabling even more Affiliates and their communities to explore the wonders of the cosmos. We also look forward to rolling out the Observing with NASA program soon. Affiliates will have the opportunity to apply to host Observing with NASA kiosks that allow public audiences to request their own telescope images and to practice image processing skills. Stay tuned for more details on these two exciting projects!

Stay tuned next month for another chapter in our 25th Anniversary Series! Until then, catch up on stories you’ve missed:

Smithsonian Affiliations at 25: Chapter 2- National Youth Summits

Affiliations Anniversary Series: 25 Years in Your Neighborhood
Chapter 2: National Youth Summits

Catch up on Chapter 1: The Ten Thousand Springs Pavilion here.

The late John Lewis seated next to filmmaker Stanley Nelson on stage at the National Youth Summit

The Late Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) and filmmaker Stanley Nelson at the 2011 National Youth Summit on Freedom Rides. Photo courtesy National Museum of American History.

Engaging younger audiences has always been a goal of the Affiliate network. As an ongoing reflection of the past 25 years of working with our Affiliates, this month we focus on the role of the National Youth Summit and the regional youth conversations produced by Affiliates to complement and amplify the Smithsonian’s national program.

In 2010, Smithsonian Affiliations met with colleagues at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History on a concept for a new program— one in which students confront enduring questions of power, representation, privilege, and choice through peer-to-peer discussions, individual reflections, and shared action planning. The National Youth Summit would take place at the National Museum of American History, while Affiliates would host regional youth summits to amplify and augment the national program, allowing middle and high school students in Affiliate communities to discuss local issues.

With the assistance of five Affiliate museums, the first National Youth Summit launched on February 9, 2011, and commemorated the 50th anniversary of the 1961 Freedom Rides. The Summit featured Freedom Ride veterans and scholars discussing civic activism and the history of the Freedom Rides. Since that original program, there have been seven Youth Summits with Affiliate collaboration, with topics ranging from women’s suffrage to systemic racism, Japanese American incarceration to the war on poverty, and featured speakers like the late Congressman John Lewis-(D-GA) and documentarian Ken Burns.

five people sit on a stage in an auditorium filled with young people

National Youth Summit at the Japanese American National Museum. Photo courtesy JANM.

The topics are national, but the impact is local. Affiliates exemplify this with customized programs for local students—programs that reflect the demographics and lived experiences of youth in their community and center the community’s history through museum programming and interpretation. Over the past decade, the regional summits have reached thousands of young people and inspired numerous discussions about important events in America’s past that have relevance to the nation’s present and future.

Auditoriam at the birmingham civil rights institute

National Youth Summit at Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. Photo courtesy Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.

The National Youth Summit with Affiliate regional conversations continues to grow and play a vital role. By extending the reach to schools who might otherwise not be able to participate, by expanding historical content available through the program, and by creating deeply meaningful learning that relates to the actual lived experiences of students in underrepresented communities, Affiliates continue to show why they are critical venues for a national conversation.

An eighth Youth Summit is in the works for Fall 2021. Until then, catch up on past programs and conversation kits on the National Youth Summit website.

Stay tuned next month for Chapter 3: 10 Years of Reaching for the Stars Together, in our 25th anniversary series.

Kudos Affiliates! May 2021

Congratulations to these Affiliates on their recent accomplishments! Do you have kudos to share? Please send potential entries to Aaron Glavas, GlavasC@si.edu.

FUNDING

The Minnesota Historical Society announced the newest recipients of 30 Minnesota Historical and Cultural Heritage Small Grants including The Bakken Museum (Minneapolis, MN). The Museum received $9,994 to process the Earl Bakken Legacy Collection, allowing for greater public access to these resources. The Bakken Museum will also be a core research partner as part of a $1.5 million grant awarded to Binghamton University faculty. The grant will help improve makerspace learning for youth.

Frank Leta Honda has donated two new 2020 Honda Odyssey minivans to the Saint Louis Science Center (Saint Louis, MO) to transport Youth Exploring Science (YES) Program teens and Science Center educators to events during the summer as COVID-19 safety protocols allow. The YES Program was founded to help teens, particularly those from underserved communities, to recognize their potential in science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics (STEAM) career fields.

Framingham State University (Framingham, MA) has been awarded a $62,250 grant from the Massachusetts Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF) to coordinate a multi-day Racial Equity Policy Review Institute. Designed for up to 150 leaders within the campus community, participants will gain a better understanding of systemic racism in higher education and how it manifests on campus, be able to define what a racist policy is and how it shows up in student outcomes, and create an initial yearlong plan to undertake policy review.

History Colorado (Denver, CO), Hagley Museum (Wilmington, DE) and USS Constitution Museum  (Boston, MA) were among several Affiliates awarded humanity grants from The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Grant awards support the preservation of historic collections, humanities exhibitions and documentaries, scholarly research, and curriculum projects.

  • History Colorado was awarded a Media Projects Production grant for $310,536 to support the production of the Lost Highways Podcast series, an eight-episode offering focused on Colorado and Western history. History Colorado also received an Exhibitions-Implementation grant for $400,000 for The Sand Creek Massacre Exhibition. The permanent exhibition details the 1864 Sand Creek Massacre of Cheyenne and Arapaho tribal members.
  • Hagley Museum and Library ($194,400) and Center for Jewish History (New York, NY) ($153,292), each received a Fellowship Programs grant. The grants will support 12 months of stipend support for 1–3 fellowships per year for two to three years.
  • USS Constitution Museum will receive a Dialogues on the Experience of War grant for $96,264 to develop Sailors Speak: The Impact of War on Naval Veterans, their Families, and the Country. The award will be used for the training of facilitators to lead three discussion series for naval veterans and their families, based on historical documents and material culture from the War of 1812 and the post-9/11 wars.
  • City Lore (New York, NY) was awarded an Exhibitions-Planning grant for $75,000 to create a traveling exhibit about the 1970s Federal Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA), that provided work for artists.
  • American Jewish Historical Society (New York City, NY), part of the Center for Jewish History, received $131,681 for a Humanities Collections and Reference Resources grant for The People’s Relief Committee Project to preserve and digitize materials that document the work of the People’s Relief Committee for Jewish War Sufferers (1915–1924), an American Jewish organization that sought to help Jewish communities and individuals in Europe during and after World War I.

The Rhode Island Historical Society (Providence, RI) received a donation of $50,000 from Walmart to pay for the creation of a curriculum to teach Black history and heritage in the local schools. The curriculum will include lesson plans, teacher training, and virtual learning tools.

AWARDS & RECOGNITION

The Rockwell Museum (Corning, NY) announced Janelle Steiner, events coordinator, and Kate Swanson, interpretation and public engagement educator, have been selected to participate in The Museum Association of New York’s (MANY) “Building Capacity, Creating Sustainability, Growing Accessibility” program. The IMLS Cares Act grant project is designed to help museums impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic share their collections and reach audiences who cannot physically visit their museums. In this two-year program, museums will identify an event or project to deliver virtually to their audiences, focusing on developing programs from stories found in their collections that reveal cultural and racial diversity in their communities.

LEADERSHIP

Stephanie Haught Wade was named the new director of Historic Arkansas Museum (Little Rock, AR). Wade has been a historian with the Department of Arkansas Heritage since 2017, where she managed the Arkansas Historical Marker Program and was a member and administrator of the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commemoration Committee. She began work on April 5.

“See Me” workshop with Access Smithsonian

Professional Development Opportunity: Developing and Implementing Programming for Adults Living with Dementia and Their Care Partners

four people participate in a workshop at an art museumAccess Smithsonian invites Smithsonian Affiliates to participate in a virtual professional development training workshop on the development and implementation of programming for adults living with dementia and their care partners. The two-day workshop, June 17-18, 2021, 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time, will present attendees with tools and strategies on how to adapt the See Me model at their organizations. Led by Access Smithsonian staff and contractors, topics will include: our approach, active listening & close looking, program content development, shifting from on-site to virtual learning, meeting the needs of our participants, and a program demonstration.

Created by Access Smithsonian, See Me at the Smithsonian has made it possible for people with dementia and their care partners to continue to enjoy Smithsonian museums, engage with the Smithsonian’s most beloved objects, sustain lifelong learning, and connect with and contribute to a larger community. Since our pilot in 2017, See Me now includes seven participating Smithsonian museums, relationships with community-based care facilities, See Me en Español, and a virtual model for delivering See Me to individuals in their homes and larger groups residing in assisted living facilities and memory care units. Most importantly, Access Smithsonian has remained connected to its audiences throughout the COVID-19 pandemic providing opportunities for intellectual engagement, socialization, and stress reduction.

A workshop instructor stands in front of a seated group and points to a large black and white painting

The number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s is growing. One in nine Americans age 65 and older is living with Alzheimer’s dementia, and it is anticipated this population will more than double by 2050. Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has further laid bare the vulnerabilities of adults living with Alzheimer’s dementia. Museum-based programs like See Me offer positive emotional and cognitive experiences, enhance verbal and non-verbal communication, reduce isolation and depression, and build social networks – for both individuals with dementia and their care partners.

Live captioning will be provided for the workshop. Other access services (e.g., ASL, audio description, etc.) are available upon request. *Registration has closed.

A person in a red tshirt seated at a green table paints For more information about the program, please contact Ashley Grady, Senior Program Manager, Access Smithsonian, at GradyA@si.edu.

All photos courtesy of Access Smithsonian.

The Ten Thousand Springs Pavilion Highlights the Best of Affiliate – Smithsonian collaboration

Three people stand in front of an exhibition at its opening.

The director of the Peoria Riverfront Museum, community leader, and Affiliations Director Emeritus Harold Closter stand in front of the Ten Thousand Springs Pavilion at its debut opening in Illinois in 2008.

During the Affiliations annual conference in 2007, an Affiliate director marveled at a red sandalwood carving on display in the Ripley Center on the Smithsonian’s campus. The structure was one-fifth scale model of the celebrated and intricate classical Chinese pavilion that stands within the Forbidden City in the heart of Beijing, the Ten Thousand Springs Pavilion.

The director of Lakeview Museum (now Peoria Riverfront Museum in Illinois) had been exploring ways to connect with the local Chinese community and inquired about the availability of the exhibition. After a series of conversations with staff from the Smithsonian’s Museum Conservation Institute, the exhibition was approved for travel. This simple inquiry sparked a national tour that reached several Affiliate communities and connected with thousands of visitors.

What is the Ten Thousand Springs Pavilion exactly? 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 the 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. The China Red Sandalwood Museum in Beijing donated the model to the Smithsonian.

Pieces of the Ten Thousand Springs Pavilion are laid out on the floor prior to assembly.

The Pavilion’s thousands of pieces are unpacked from customized crates and laid out prior to assembly.

Obviously, the Pavilion was no ordinary exhibition. The model contains 3,000 individual pieces packed into special crates constructed specifically to fit each piece into its own slot. Design and installation advice was provided in both English and Mandarin, and the Smithsonian provided files of photo murals and bilingual labels for Affiliates’ use.

Still, the Pavilion’s specialized construction and installation required specialized expertise. In another stroke of collaboration serendipity, the former senior furniture conservator at the Museum Conservation Institute, Don Williams, was available to travel to Affiliate sites to both assemble and dissemble the Pavilion. In whichever Affiliate city Don traveled, he recruited volunteers from the “Professional Refinishers Group” from across the country to travel to Affiliate cities to assist with the installation.

Expert Smithsonian furniture conservator Don Williams dusts the roof of the Pavilion.

Senior Smithsonian furniture conservator Don Williams accompanied the Pavilion to all of its stops, overseeing installation and deinstallation.

 

 

A volunteer carefully installs the top piece of the Pavilion.

A volunteer expert carefully places the crowning decoration atop the Pavilion.

 

The Pavilion traveled to five Affiliates between 2008-2013. Its tour after Peoria included the International Museum of Arts and Sciences in McAllen and the Irving Arts Center in Irving, TX; Flushing Town Hall in Queens, New York; and the Headley-Whitney Museum, a former Affiliate in Lexington, KY;.

A child makes Chinese lanterns from art supplies.

Crafting Chinese lanterns was one of the many educational programs that Affiliates created to celebrate the Pavilion in their cities.

In every city that hosted the Pavilion, the Affiliate was able to craft significant and meaningful outreach to its Chinese community. Programming included traditional Chinese art workshops such as calligraphy and tea ceremony, as well as presentations on tai chi, traditional medicine, folklore and opera. For the Pavilion’s opening ceremonies, Affiliates invited the Chinese diplomats from their cities, and featured traditional dance troupes. Community relationships forged as a result of the Pavilion flourish still.

While in Flushing Queens, our collaboration saw yet another instance of serendipity. Volunteers assembled at Flushing Town Hall to unpack the Pavilion a day before Don Williams was able to arrive. They had some trouble deciphering the unpacking directions. Flushing Town Hall sits in the center of one of the largest Chinese immigrant communities in America, so a staff member suggested they seek the help of a local resident. A waiter from a nearby restaurant was recruited to translate the instructions from Mandarin so the team could lay out all the pieces to be ready when Don arrived.

Such is the magic—and impact—of Smithsonian and Affiliate collaborations.

The fully assembled Ten Thousand Springs Pavilion made from sandalwood.

The beautifully completed Ten Thousand Springs Pavilion in Flushing, New York (thanks in part to a waiter in a Chinese restaurant near the gallery!)

Coming Up in Affiliateland in March 2021

Is that spring we see coming?!

NATIONWIDE
Smithsonian Affiliations wraps up the collaboration with the National Museum of American History and its Pandemic Perspectives series with the talk, How the National Museum of American History is Collecting COVID-19, on 3.23. Thank you to all the Smithsonian Affiliates that helped us make the series a success! Previous recordings can be found at https://americanhistory.si.edu/pandemic-perspectives

Smithsonian Affiliations kicks off Women’s History Month with a weekly virtual series co-hosted by Affiliates. The series begins Wednesday, March 3. Contact your local Affiliate or affiliates@si.edu for more details.

Lego sets showing women innovators in space history, positioned in a gallery at the National Air and Space Museum

Happy Women’s History Month from the original prototypes of the  LEGO® Ideas “Women of NASA” set displayed in front of the Apollo Lunar Module in the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, August 20, 2018. Credit: National Air and Space Museum

TEXAS
The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History will be hosting a ‘drive-in’ screening showcasing two-minute videos that their teen collaborators created for a Smithsonian Earth Optimism initiative to cultivate youth action for the environment, in Fort Worth,  3.5.

FLORIDA
Tampa Bay History Center will host a virtual lecture by National Museum of American History curator Lisa Kathleen Graddy on Creating Icons: How We Remember Woman Suffrage, 3.17.