the sky’s the limit at NASM

What do an object loan coordinator, digitized posters, a public observatory and a virtual conference have in common? All are opening the collections and resources of the National Air and Space Museum in new and exciting ways!

Hunter Hollins,

Hunter Hollins, loan coordinator, space history

New Loan Coordinator: Hunter Hollins

Hunter joined the Space History Division of the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) in May of this year.  With almost 20 years of experience working with museums to manage exhibitions of art and artifacts of cultural heritage, Hunter is excited to help Affiliates get the most from their relationship with the NASM. He’s currently working with the Challenger Space Center, a Smithsonian Affiliate in Peoria, Arizona, on a loan of artifacts related to life in space. There’s some surprising items on the list- including “ChapStick” (to ensure the astronauts’ comfort) and fishing line and hooks, in case they had too much time floating in the Pacific Ocean when they returned!

Hunter works closely with borrowers to maintain our national treasures while on exhibit so they can be enjoyed and studied by generations to come.

NASM’s “Fly Now!” Poster Collection online


At the end of this summer, staff at NASM achieved a milestone: they had photographed, scanned and catalogued most of the museum’s collection of 1,300 posters.  The posters, which date from 1827 and include contemporary examples, are available for the first time online.  View them here.


Amelia Brakeman Kile, an intern who worked on the project, said that their efforts will allow scholars to “contribute to knowledge, study and discussion of this valuable resource.”  Read more in her blog post.


NASM's telescope, on loan from Harvard

NASM's telescope, on loan from Harvard

Harvard on the Mall: NASM Opens a Public Observatory
400 years ago, Galileo made the first recorded astronomical observations with a telescope. To commemorate his achievement, NASM opened a public observatory on the National Mall. The observatory features a 16 inch, 3,000 pound telescope on loan from the Harvard College Observatory. During daylight hours, visitors can view the moon, bright stars and planets, and with a special filter, the sun. And, for the next three months, visitors can see the Smithsonian Dibner Library’s first edition of Galileo’s “Sidereus Nuncius” after they view the heavens.

Apollo Space Program Virtual Conference for Educators

Join experts from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum for the Apollo Space Program Virtual Conference, a FREE one-day online conference on Tuesday, November 10. Forty years ago the Apollo Space Program met President Kennedy’s goal of landing a man on the moon, one of the most significant achievements of the 20th Century. Join experts as they present the challenges of the Apollo Program and examine the remarkable technologies that made the moon landings possible.  Click here for session details and registration .

B & O Railroad Museum celebrates 10th Anniversary as Smithsonian Affiliate

The B&O Railroad Museum (Baltimore, Maryland) celebrated the 10th anniversary of their association with the Smithsonian on October 15, 2009.  The B&O was both the first museum in Maryland and the first railroad history museum to formally affiliate with the Smithsonian when it joined the program on April 16, 1999.

Director Courtney Wilson and Affiliations staff Jennifer Brundage in front of the fireless locomotive.

Director Courtney Wilson and Affiliations staff member Jennifer Brundage in front of the fireless locomotive.

A look back at the collaboration between the Smithsonian and the B&O shows that they have been an exceptional Affiliate from the beginning, taking full advantage of sharing the Smithsonian’s resources. Shortly after they became an Affiliate, the B & O secured the loan of the Stourbridge Lion, the first locomotive to operate in the United States or anywhere in the Western Hemisphere.

Not long after, they became the new home of over 50 locomotive and railroad car models documenting significant advancements in railroad technology.  Originally housed in the Smithsonian’s Railroad Hall at the National Museum of American History [NMAH], these artifacts are considered by many to be the finest examples of railroad scale models ever produced.

Most recently, during the 10th anniversary celebration, the 1938 PEPCO fireless locomotive was unveiled. The locomotive was recently donated to the B&O from NMAH and will be on public display at B&O for the first time in 30 years.

While the B&O has been successful in securing many exceptional Smithsonian loans, their partnership has never been limited to loans alone.  Over the years, the B&O has been a consistent participant in Smithsonian Magazine’s annual Museum Day, opening their doors to visitors for free. They share information about their tours and teacher programs with over 2500 local teachers every year at Smithsonian Teacher’s Night.

They’ve even been a frontrunner in securing advertorial space in Smithsonian Magazine to highlight their restoration projects. They are also the first Affiliate to consult with the Smithsonian’s experts on early childhood education to carve out education spaces in the galleries for the B&O’s youngest visitors.

We are extremely proud and excited to have the B&O Railroad museum as one of our outstanding Affiliates.  Congratulations to the B&O and we look forward to many more years of successful collaborations!

In 2010, almost 30 Affiliates will be celebrating their 10th anniversaries as a partner of the Smithsonian.  Is your organization one of them?  If so, drop us a line at so we can start planning your celebration!

kudos, Affiliates!

In these tough economic times, it’s nice to see some bright spots.

Here’s our congratulations roundup for November 2009.

The Lincoln Park Coast Cultural District (Newark, NJ) received $300,000 from the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities for job training in environmentally-friendly construction.


The National World War II Museum (New Orleans, LA) received $25 million from the Department of Defense to expand the museum and construct the United States Freedom Pavilion, an expansion that will include an exhibit focused on the American home front during the war.


Museum of the Rockies (Bozeman, MT) accepted a donation from Eleanor “Ellie” Hamilton Povah of more than 1,200 items from her family’s collection on Yellowstone history and gave a gift of $250,000 over five years to the museum, which will be used to match federal funds and cover the costs of the collection’s care, storage, cataloguing and preservation.


The Museum of Science and History (Jacksonville, FL) was awarded $304,737 through the Cultural Service Grant Program. The program is funded through the city and administered by the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville.


Michigan State University Museum  (East Lansing, MI) has been awarded $319,284 from IMLS to support the “Oral History in the Digital Age” project. Michigan State University Museum, will partner with the Smithsonian Institution Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, the Library of Congress’ American Folklife Center, the American Folklore Society, and the Oral History Association to recommend standards and best practices for digital oral history.

Congratulations and good luck to the National World War II Museum (New Orleans, LA) on their $60 million expansion and grand opening, November 6-8.

What’s Coming Up in Affiliateland in October?

PANAMA is in DC!
Museo del Canal Interocánico de Panamá and the Smithsonian Latino Center collaborate on programming, including the Panamanian Passages exhibition, opening at SI’s International Gallery on 10.5.
10.1-9 – The Tremendous Encounter puppet show is presented in SI’s Discovery Theater.
10.15 – The Latino Center’s annual gala celebrates Panama.
10.16 – Interpreting 500 Years of Panamanian History panel at the DC Historical Society.

MONTANA: Smithsonian historian Michael J. Neufeld lectures on his book Von Braun: Dreamer of Space, Engineer of War at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, 10.1.

MICHIGAN: Oud virtuoso Rahim AlHaj, Smithsonian Folkways recording artist and three-time Grammy nominee, presents a concert at the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, 10.1.

NEBRASKA: Smithsonian Teachers Night at the Durham Museum in Omaha, 10.9. SITES’ American Letterpress: The Art of Hatch Show Print opens, 10.30.

TEXAS: The Women’s Museum: An Institute for the Future in Dallas will host an opening reception for their Leadership America Program at the Smithsonian’s African Art Museum in Washington, 10.11.

MARYLAND: The B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore celebrates their 10th anniversary as a Smithsonian Affiliate, 10.15.

CONNECTICUT: Dwight Blocker Bowers, curator at the National Museum of American History, gives a lecture about his forthcoming book on the Museum’s puppet collection at Hunt Hill Farm in New Milford, 10.17.

Say hello to our new Affiliates


A look at the interior of the Hiller Aviation Museum

 This summer, Smithsonian Affiliations was pleased to welcome three new organizations to its network of 165 Affiliate partners in 41 states, D.C., Panama and Puerto Rico. Here’s a chance to get to know them a little more– 

Hiller Aviation Museum (San Carlos, CA)

Ever heard of the Black Diamond? No, it’s not a sparkling gemstone, but an airplane built by a couple of shipyard buddies in 1910. After a successful flight in 1912, the Diamond was crated and stored until 1930 when the Yuba College Aeronautical School fixed it up and displayed the airplane at the Oakland Airport. The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum acquired it in 1948, before subsequently loaning it to the Hiller Aviation Museum for restoration. Visitors to the Hiller today can experience a piece of the Smithsonian, and America’s aviation history. Through unique aircraft collections, exhibits, and programs, the museum provides a stimulating environment with multiple ways for visitors to experience the adventure and innovation of flight and to use aviation as a portal for exploring science, history, and technology. Take a virtual walkthrough of the Hiller Aviation Museum and find out more about the Black Diamond restoration project!

Tellus: Northwest Georgia Science Museum   (Cartersville, GA)

tellusThis mining museum located just north of Atlanta just got an $18 million facelift. The Tellus: Northwest Georgia Science museum is a new version of the old museum. In fact, the old museum – all 9,000 square feet of it – could fit into just one of its four new galleries that make up the 120,000 square foot museum today. The Tellus is a museum on a mission to bring the latest research and information on current science topics to visitors from Atlanta to Chattanooga. Only recently announcing their Affiliation with the Smithsonian, the Tellus hopes to bring more artifacts to its new space through the Affiliations program and enhance their already eye-popping collection of minerals, rocks, gems and fossil specimens, and objects related to Georgia’s rich mining heritage in Cartersville and Bartow County. The museum also has artifacts related to science in motion with motorized vehicles and a recent library in the museum space.

Georgia Aquarium   (Atlanta, GA)

Whale sharks, belugas, and rays. oh my! Those are just a few of more than 100,000 animals from 500+ species that can be found at the Georgia Aquarium. Looking for mystery? Visitors to the aquarium can see a giant squid specimen, on loan from the National Museum of Natural History. Recently, the VP of Guest Services at the aquarium visited NMNH and met with the Ocean Hall educators and curators to talk about collaboration ideas in the future. And, two Affiliations team members recently made the trip from Washington, D.C., to the aquarium and documented it in a recent blog. Didn’t get a chance to see it? Click here to read about their adventure and become a fan of Smithsonian in your Neighborhood, our Facebook page, to see the photo album.


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 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.”