Sounds of Iraq in Michigan

Oud virtuoso records for Smithsonian Folkways

Oud virtuoso records for Smithsonian Folkways

If you happen to be in the Detroit area on October 1, be sure to stop in at our Affiliate, the Arab American National Museum (AANM) in nearby Dearborn, to hear Smithsonian Folkways, Grammy-nominated, oud virtuoso Rahim Alhaj.  Alhaj performs in conjunction with the opening of the museum’s new Connecting Communities exhibition and as part of the ongoing Global Thursdays performing arts series.

Alhaj is considered one of the world’s masters of the oud, a pear-shaped, stringed instrument, often seen as the predecessor of the western lute.  Born in Iraq, Alhaj studied at the prestigious Baghdad Conservatory of Fine Arts, under the renowned Munir Bashir.  His opposition to the rule of Sadadam Hussein led to imprisonment and thirteen years of exile in Jordan and Syria before coming to the United States in 2000 under a UN refugee resettlement program. Now a resident of Albuquerque, New Mexico, Alhaj teaches, composes, and maintains an active performing schedule throughout North America and around the world.

The Smithsonian Folkways recording When the Soul is Settled: Music of Iraq, featuring Alhaj and Lebanese-born percussionist Souhail Kaspar, received a 2008 Grammy nomination in “The Best Traditional World Music Album” category.  The Los Angeles Times called the album “a convincing affirmation of an embattled area of the world,” and another critic likened Alhaj’s oud playing to “god breathing life into clay.”

AANM was established to bring the voices and faces of Arab Americans to mainstream audiences, and works to dispel misconceptions about Arab Americans and other minorities. Opened in 2005, the museum has received widespread acclaim for its architecture, exhibitions, and educational programming.

We look forward to the upcoming event when the museum and the musician join forces for what guarantees to be an unforgettable evening.

Smithsonian Folkways, the nonprofit record label of the Smithsonian Institution offers Affiliates savings on recordings at www.folkways.si.edu. Enter code SIAFFILIATE during checkout and save 10% on any purchase. From the Oud mastery of Rahim AlHaj and other international music to traditional American folk music from Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie, and children’s favorites by Ella Jenkins and Elizabeth Mitchell, Smithsonian Folkways presents a world of sound that is “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

Dive into Deep Space

A glimpse at the Black Holes exhibition.

a glimpse into the Black Holes exhibition

Black holes are regions in space with gravity so powerful that nothing can escape, and where time and space are warped beyond our understanding. A new traveling exhibition from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics will guide visitors on a journey to the edge of these strange objects to discover how the latest research is turning science fiction into fact, challenging our notions of space and time in the process.

Created by educators and scientists at the Center for Astrophysics (CfA), Black Holes: Space Warps & Time Twists is an exploration of the most mysterious and powerful objects in the universe. It opened at the Boston Museum of Science, and is now available to travel.

Project director Mary Dussault explains, “In this exhibition, we wanted to use the inherent fascination of black holes as a compelling vehicle to engage museum visitors in the larger story of how scientific discovery works–and how science is connected to human curiosity, imagination and culture.”

The interactive stations in the 2,500-square-foot exhibition address a number of questions:

    What is a black hole?
    Where are they?
    How do we find black holes if they are really black?
    What would happen if you were sucked into one?

One station allows visitors to experience their own black hole adventure. Using one of three “excursion pods,” visitors will embark on a fantasy “adventure vacation” to the black hole at the center of our own galaxy. As they make their way toward this “deep space dive,” travelers explore the phenomena around the black hole, including warped space, the slowing of time, and the dangerous magnetic fields and radiation that could leave them stranded on their cosmic adventure.

The exhibition is being traveled by the Association of Science – Technology Centers, and is available to Smithsonian Affiliates at the members’ price. Affiliates also receive exclusive access to CfA staff, including a special lecture from a Smithsonian scientist working with the Chandra X-ray Observatory (the world’s best black hole hunting machine); and the opportunity to collaborate with educators from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory to offer a special teacher workshop to their local school-based audiences, among other programming. 

Headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics is a joint collaboration between the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the Harvard College Observatory. CfA scientists, organized into six research divisions, study the origin, evolution and ultimate fate of the universe.

what can your toaster teach you?

Design your Life

“Design Your Life is an utter pleasure, like a delicious tray of warm brownies that also happen to be nutritious.” – Kurt Andersen, author

 

Design is not my thing.  It’s embarrassing to admit, but I’d sooner jump out of a plane than wander through a shop like Target or IKEA where rows and rows of modern gadgets remind me that I’m just not chic enough.  I have a feeling I’m not the only one.  So in my search for uniqueness in an overwhelmingly mass-produced world, I found Design Your Life: The Pleasures and Perils of Everyday Things by Ellen and Julia Lupton (St. Martin’s Press, May 2009). 

 

Ellen and Julia argue that design is more than the stuff we buy at these high end stores or the modern look that moves products at Target and IKEA.  It’s about critical thinking and looking at the world and wondering why things work and why they don’t.  It’s about finding the beauty in the mess of everyday life. 

 

Covering the pitfalls of the modern toaster, the challenges of a ‘smart’ kitchen, what’s wrong with rolling luggage, and why no one wants to read your blog, this thoughtful book examines the highs and lows of everyday design in a brainy and delightful way that is sure to leave you thinking differently.

 

And now Affiliates can have the opportunity to meet Ellen Lupton in person!  Ellen is curator of contemporary design at the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in New York City and director of the Graphic Design MFA program at Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore.  She is interested in traveling to Affiliates to speak about design to anyone who will listen.  Contact your Smithsonian Affiliations Outreach Manager today to see about inviting Ellen to your museum.

 

Read the review in the Washington Post.  Or even better, read the blog that inspired the book. 

grab your compass

historyexplorer.americanhistory.si.edu


Affiliates Plimoth Plantation and the Senator John Heinz History Center extend their reach through Smithsonian’s History Explorer and Thinkfinity!

Smithsonian’s History Explorer is a gateway to innovative, standards-based online resources for teaching and learning American history.  History Explorer is designed and developed by the National Museum of American History, a partner in Verizon’s Thinkfinity.org consortium of leading national education experts. The National Museum of American History is an integral part of Verizon’s Thinkfinity.org consortium. 

Teachers need only to visit Thinkfinity.org to search free educational resources from all of the partners. Thinkfinity is a free, comprehensive digital learning platform for high-quality education content, and serves as a portal for millions of American teachers, parents, and students.  The site makes it easy for educators to enhance their classroom instruction with lesson plans, interactive activities, and other online resources.

Now, the unique resources of two Smithsonian Affiliates will be added to History Explorer and will be Smithsonian recommended resources on Thinkfinity.org.  You Are the Historian, from Plimoth Plantation, investigates the first Thanksgiving and what really happened at the 1621 harvest celebration.  The Heinz History Center’s Worlds in Motion examines the complexities of interaction among eastern American Indians, colonists and Europeans from pre-contact through colonial times.

Affiliates, do you have exemplary or unique materials on American history that you would like to share?  To nominate your resource or website, or to find out more about the process, please contact your outreach manager

climate change online conference

Ginkgo biloba  Ginkgo biloba

The Smithsonian addresses the global challenge of climate change in a range of ways, including through exhibitions and scientific research. 

From September 29 through October 1, 2009, the Smithsonian will offer an education online conference on climate change to allow teachers and the general public to participate in the Institution’s investigations, meet and question Smithsonian curators and scientists, and deepen our understanding of this critical issue.  Alongside Smithsonian scientists and curators, you’ll look at the issues surrounding climate change from the perspectives of science, history, and art. Registration is free, and now open. 

The conference is broadly organized around three topics: Evidence, Impact, and Response to climate change.  Participants will sample  some fascinating Smithsonian research–everything from an artist’s attempts to document sustainability issues, to a paleoclimatologist’s findings about prehistoric climate change and why it matters, to a discussion about how polar bears are faring in our warming world. 

Curators, researchers, and educators from the Archives of American Art, the National Museum of American History, the National Museum of the American Indian, the National Museum of Natural History, the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, and the National Zoo will conduct twelve different live sessions, and several other units will deliver content in a “virtual exhibit hall.”  The conference features talks, interactives, and resources such as lesson plans and classroom activities, to help make this knowledge as accessible and usable as possible. (See the full agenda.)

 Affiliations is pleased to acknowledge the participation of educator Paisley Cato from the Western Center for Archeology and Paleontology, our Affiliate in Hemet, California.  Paisley worked side-by-side with Smithsonian educators throughout the summer to develop educational materials to complement the conference.

How can Affiliates be involved?  Like the virtual conference on Abraham Lincoln which took place in February (replay at smithsonianeducation.org/lincoln), Affiliates are encouraged to act as hosting sites for shared viewing and discussion with their  local area teachers, educators, and the scientific community.  Follow and comment on the climate change blog, or follow updates on Twitter (#SIClimate) and Facebook (Smithsonian Education).  

Show me the money

In these tough economic times, it’s nice to see some bright spots.  
Congratulations to all these Affiliates who’ve received grants and awards recently.  Well done!

Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art has been awarded a $25,800 grant from the Mississippi Arts Commission (MAC) to support ongoing education and exhibition programming.

The American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar has received a $3,000 grant from the Preservation Fund of the National Trust for Historic Preservation to assist with a condition assessment of historic structures on the Center’s 8.3-acre property. 

Birthplace of Country Music has received approval of $1.7 million by the Special Projects and Innovation Committee of the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission for the development of the new museum.

 

The Institute of Museum and Library Services announced the recipients for the Museums for America grant program including the following Affiliate organizations and their projects:

The National World War II Museum received $150,000 to help finance live performances at the museum including music and entertainment from the World War II era and modern pieces inspired by the war.

B & O Railroad Museum received $110,000 for their “Whistlestop Gateway Project” to develop an interpretive program and a regular rail link to the west end of the museum’s 40-acre campus.

Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center received $137,373 to develop a 4,000-square-foot immersive and interactive exhibit on space exploration from the 1970s into the future.

Michigan State University Museum received $136,323 to complete critical database and technological enhancements for its natural history and cultural collections including imaging more than 10,000 ethnographic objects to the Web.

Durham Museum was awarded $122,850 to digitize and preserve its photo archive collection, which consists of approximately 500,000 images reflecting the history of Omaha, Nebraska.

Nevada Test Site Historical Foundation’s Atomic Testing Museum was awarded $34,933 to conduct a planning project based on establishing a best practices approach to the day-to-day business of the organization that will enhance the capacity of the organization to better serve the southern Nevada cultural and educational community.

Historic Bethlehem Partnership received $57,650 to inventory, pack, and move the collections of the Kemerer Museum of Decorative Art to a new Collections Resource Center.

Heinz History Center was awarded $90,859 for the Life in Western Pennsylvania: A Digital History Resource project to address the critical need for assessment tools for planning digital history sites and measuring the impact of online resources to increase the use of archival collections.

Culture and Heritage Commission of York County received $148,875 to transform the Museum’s static natural history dioramas and exhibits into active, inquiry-based learning experiences by using real specimens and scientific investigation and to create a curriculum-based program for middle school students that meets state curriculum standards.

Wing Luke Memorial Foundation was awarded $150,000 to support Art Beyond Downtown, an initiative to engage new visitors, create opportunities for them to learn about art, culture, and history related to Asian Pacific Americans, and to encourage them to return to the museum and its neighborhood.