Mastodon Menagerie

Special thanks for this guest post to James “Zach” Zacharias, Senior Curator of Education and Curator of History at The Museum of Arts and Sciences, a Smithsonian Affiliate in Daytona Beach, Florida. 

James "Zach" Zacharias, Senior Curator of Education at the Museum of Arts and Sciences, with one of the tusks from an adult mastodon. Photo courtesy of The Museum of Arts and Sciences.

The Monday morning before Thanksgiving 2011 seemed like any other day at the Museum of Arts & Sciences (MOAS) until the City of Daytona Beach emailed me a picture of what appeared to be a large lower jawbone. The City had been excavating a drainage pond two miles north of the Museum and workers found massive and mysterious bones. Upon closer inspection of the image, it became clear to me that I was looking at the lower mandible and teeth of an American Mastodon

The City promptly postponed construction so MOAS could dispatch personnel to the site. Although I was in a shirt and tie, I jumped into the mud- and muck-filled pit for a closer look! Within five minutes, I located a partially exposed tusk protruding from the pond’s north wall. As I investigated the layers of earth, I knew right there and then this was the tusk of an Ice Age mammoth or mastodon. It dawned on me this was turning into an incredible prehistoric discovery for our area. With hopes of unearthing the full skeleton, we set to work. 

An army of Museum staff and associates quickly converged on the site to help in the excavation effort. With painstaking care and effort, two delicate partial tusks were removed. These precious pieces of the Pleistocene were each placed in a “plaster jacket” (a protective covering used by paleontologists to move fossil specimens from the field) and moved to their secure home at the Museum. 

Assorted museum staff and volunteers at the construction site at the bottom of the drainage pond being excavated. Photo courtesy of The Museum of Arts and Sciences.

The rest of the excavation soon turned into a salvage operation. Unbeknownst to the workers, a portion of the skeleton (other than tusks) which was interspersed amongst the rocks and stones had been routinely put through a giant rock screener. This broke up some parts of the skeletal remains. As MOAS representatives sifted through the debris piles, a plethora of broken vertebra, ribs, limbs and skull bones were found. Currently, MOAS is cleaning, sorting and accessioning the fossils. A portion of the femur is currently being prepared for carbon dating by the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.  

A construction worker found this lower mandible of the American Mastodon. Photo courtesy of The Museum of Arts and Sciences.

This is the second significant paleontological find for the Museum of Arts & Sciences – the first being the 1975 discovery of the remains of 13 giant ground sloths in a barrow pit near Nova and Reed Canal roads. MOAS proudly displays the most complete and best preserved giant ground sloth skeleton in the world.  

Florida’s peninsula has submerged and re-emerged numerous times as the earth has passed through ice ages and warming trends. The paleontology of Florida demonstrates there were no dinosaurs here (the state was underwater during the Mesozoic Era) and this is reflected in the abundant marine fossils found in Central Florida. The animal fossils found here belong to “mega-fauna” mammals such as the giant ground sloth, mastodons and mammoths, saber cats, dire wolfs, paleo llamas, and the glyptodon. They roamed our landscape from 130,000 to 10,000 years ago.  

James "Zach" Zacharias with the assorted bone fragments from the mastodon. Photo courtesy of The Museum of Arts and Sciences.

The discovery of the Daytona Beach American Mastodon is thrilling and exciting for the Museum, the City and our community. MOAS is looking forward to adding the fossils to an exhibit for all to see –encouraging inspiration, curiosity, and the love of knowledge.

First Look: SITES’ Evolving Universe

Our Sun is only one of 100 billion stars in our galaxy. Without it, life on Earth would not be possible. What we know about our Sun serves as the foundation for what we understand about distant stars. Credit: NASA/Lockheed Martin/SAO.

Special thanks to Ed Liskey, Senior Scheduling & Exhibitor Relations Coordinator, Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, for this guest post.

The Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) is pleased to offer Smithsonian Affiliates an early opportunity to be among the first venues to host the new The Evolving Universe traveling exhibition.  The Evolving Universe will feature 27 full-color, oversize images that will explore what we know about the history and structure of our solar system, the Milky Way and other galaxies and the universe as a whole. 

Two bright pinpoints of light in NGC 6240 show two supermassive black holes merging in the galaxy’s center. The black holes are only 3,000 light years apart and have been spiraling toward each other for about 30 million years. Credit: NASA/CXC/MIT, NASA/STScI.


Through these stunning photographs and engaging text, visitors will travel back in time and space to the beginnings of our universe.  With specialized content targeting both the young and curious as well as more technically-savvy visitors, The Evolving Universe will have wide appeal.  Act now to host this exciting exhibition of the latest cosmological knowledge and the amazing technologies scientists use to attain that knowledge.  Learn more and see additional exhibition images on SITES’ The Evolving Universe website.


During the supergiant and supernova phases of star death, nuclear reactions fuse helium and carbon into heavier elements, such as silicon (seen in green in this image) and iron (red). These elements are ejected forcibly in clouds that are light-years in diameter, seeding the next generation of star formation with the elements that make up planets like Earth. Credit: NASA/CXC/MIT/UMass-Amherst.



SITES in your neighborhood this winter

Smithsonian Affiliates across the country are bringing Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) exhibitions to their communities this winter. Here’s what’s opening at an Affiliate near you:  

In 1954, Clemente signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates. “I didn’t even know where Pittsburgh was,” Clemente later admitted. This image was taken on the field in 1957. AP/Wide World Photo

November 5, 2011 – January 1, 2012
Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture(Baltimore, Maryland)
Beyond Baseball: The Life of Roberto Clemente
The baseball diamond has produced legendary athletes who have broken records and shattered barriers. But for many, Roberto Clemente is the most inspiring of all. With a cannon arm and lightning speed, he was an outstanding ballplayer. But the Puerto Rico native was also a dedicated humanitarian.
Special programming in conjunction with the exhibition

  • On Sundays throughout the month of November, visitors to the museum can participate in SUNDAYS @ 2 FILMS series. Featured films are: Béisbol: The Latin Game, Third World California, From Mambo to Hip Hop: A South Bronx Tale, and Yo soy Boricua, pa’que tu lo sepas! (“I’m Puerto Rican, Just So You Know!”).
  • Raise Your Brown Black Fist: The Political Shouts of an Angry Afro-Latino (Book Talk) (Saturday, December 10, 2 p.m.) Through political commentary, author, screenwriter, activist and journalist Kevin Alberto Sabio addresses the unspoken African heritage of Latino culture, the exclusion of Afro-Latinos from mainstream American and Latino society and the hidden history of unity between the two. 

Radmilla Cody, Miss Navajo Nation, and her grandmother, 2006. Radmilla Cody became Miss Navajo in 1997. Although she proved her cultural knowledge, her selection was controversial in the Navajo community because she has mixed race heritage. © 2009 John Running

November 5, 2011 – January 1, 2012
Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture(Baltimore, Maryland)
IndiVisible: African-Native American Lives in the Americas
IndiVisible: African-Native American Lives in the Americas explores historical and contemporary stories of peoples and communities whose shared histories are woven into the fabric of American identity but whose presence has long been invisible to many in the United States.
Special programming in conjunction with the exhibition:

  • Painted Gourd: Red and Black Voices (Saturday, November 5, 3 p.m.) Penny Gamble Williams, a descendant from the Chappaquiddick Band of the Wampanoag Nation of Massachusetts, examines the intercultural relationships between Native American and African Americans.
  • Genealogy Workshop: Researching Black Indian Ancestry East of the Mississippi (Saturday, November 19, 10:30 a.m.)Join author and blogger Angela Walton-Raji for a presentation on research methods of documenting African American and Native American family history.
  • Native American Dance Presentation (Cultural Program) (Saturday, November 26, 2 p.m.) Native American dancers with the Baltimore American Indian Center perform social dances that explain their history.
  • SUNDAYS @ 2 FILMS:  Black Indians: An American Story (Sunday, December 4, 2 p.m.) 

Filipino and other Asian immigrants were recruited as early as the mid-1800s to accommodate the agricultural demands of the West Coast and Hawai’i. Courtesy Center for Labor Education and Research, University of Hawai’i at West O’ahu

November 12, 2011 – January 22, 2012
Sonoma County Museum
(Santa Rosa, California)
Singgalot: (The Ties That Bind) Filipinos in America, from Colonial Subjects to Citizens
Today there are more than 2.5 million Filipino Americans in the U.S. Yet many, including Filipinos themselves, aren’t familiar with the details of their history in America: their experiences, rich traditions, and culture. Singgalot is their story.
Special programming in conjunction with the exhibition:

  • Film Screening: Remembering Our Manongs: Sonoma County’s Filipino History (Fri Dec 9, 2011 6:00pm – 8:00pm) A moving film documenting the Filipino presence in Sonoma County, produced with the help of the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS).
  • Filipino-themed Family Day(Sat Dec 10, 2011 11:00am – 2:00pm) Activities will include dance and martial arts demonstrations, traditional Filipino children’s games, face painting, hands-on musical instruments, and more.

Salute to Matkatamiba. Photo by Kate Thompson

December 3, 2011 – February 26, 2012
Littleton Museum
(Littleton, Colorado)
Lasting Light: 125 Years of Grand Canyon Photography
Covering nearly 125 years of photographic history, the exhibition includes images of early photographers dangling from cables to get the perfect shot, their cumbersome camera equipment balanced precariously on their shoulders. More modern images are bold and dramatic, revealing the canyon’s capricious weather, its flora and fauna, waterfalls and wading pools, and awesome cliffs and rock formations. 



Untitled Still Life, Flowers, ca. 1936-1938. Oil on burlap. Courtesy Morgan State University and SITES.

December 24, 2011 – March 18, 2012
Mennello Museum of American Art
(Orlando, Florida)
William H. Johnson: An American Modern
A virtuoso skilled in various media and techniques, William Henry Johnson (1901-1970) produced thousands of works over a career that spanned decades, continents, and genres. Now, on view in its entirety for the first time, a seminal collection covering key stages in Johnson’s career. This exhibition of 20 expressionist and vernacular landscapes, still life paintings, and portraits explores the intricate layers of Johnson’s diverse cultural perspective as an artist and self-described “primitive and cultured painter.”  

Legendary New York Mets’ coach Yogi Berra shares his line-up with Clemente before a 1972 spring training game in St. Petersburg, Florida. AP/Wide World Photo

January 21 – March 18, 2012
Orange County Regional History Center (Orlando, Florida)
Beyond Baseball: The Life of Roberto Clemente
The baseball diamond has produced legendary athletes who have broken records and shattered barriers. But for many, Roberto Clemente is the most inspiring of all. With a cannon arm and lightning speed, he was an outstanding ballplayer. But the Puerto Rico native was also a dedicated humanitarian.
Special programming in conjunction with the exhibition:

  • Steve Blass on Baseball: A Pirate’s Life (January 21, 2012 – 6:00pm – 9:00pm) Steve Blass, former teammate and close friend of Roberto Clemente, helps the History Center celebrate the opening of the exhibition with a showing of the rare 1975 film, Roberto Clemente: A Touch of Royalty, that chronicles the contributions of Clemente. 

Find a Smithsonian Affiliate in your neighborhood here.
Find more Smithsonian traveling exhibitions and programs here.

“It’s more than just an instrument.” Smithsonian cultural specialist travels to Charlotte, NC, for Native American Heritage Celebration

I met Dennis Zotigh (Kiowa/Ohkay Owingeh/Santee Dakota), museum cultural specialist at the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), after he had finished a short performance in the rotunda at the museum. He had begun softly beating the drum and as it grew louder, heads appeared over the railings three floors up and visitors gathered from all over the museum. 

Dennis Zotigh at the National Museum of the American Indian.

 “There’s a technique in this.  It’s more than an instrument. It’s an embodiment of the human spirit and it speaks from spirit to spirit.  There is a natural progression that is not evident unless you know it’s happening,” said Zotigh. “I start very low and the louder it gets, people back up and a natural circle is made around the instrument drawing people all over to gather in the circle.”  

People in mid-conversation, couples arguing, and even children playing in the hallway naturally stopped to focus on his drumming. “It’s soothing. It speaks to them. And for just a few moments, they leave their problems. The drum is more than just an aesthetic piece. It’s an embodiment of the heartbeat of the Indian culture,” said Zotigh after the performance. 

Most days you can find Zotigh in the hallways and galleries at NMAI where he’s engaging with visitors and teaching them about Native American culture. He’s been asked everything from the most basic to the most scholarly of questions and is eager to share his knowledge with anyone.  A performer all his life, Zotigh has traveled all over the world performing for multicultural audiences and oftentimes introducing them to something they’ve never been aware of before. 

Zotigh performing a Hoop Dance in Sao Paolo, Brazil.

This November you can find Zotigh at The Charlotte Museum of History (CMH), a Smithsonian Affiliate in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he’ll be participating in the 3rd Annual American Indian Heritage Month Celebration. Never having been to Charlotte, Zotigh was invited by a former Smithsonian Affiliations Intern Partner, Brandie Macdonald (Choctaw/Chickasaw), whom he met while she interned in the Education Department at NMAI during the summer of 2011. At the CMH, Macdonald is Education and Volunteer Coordinator and has already taken the practical experience she learned on the national level from the Smithsonian and translated it to successful programming on the state level for docents and CMH’s educational programs. Zotigh’s appearance at the American Indian Heritage Month Celebration also coincides with the exhibition Native Words, Native Warriors, organized for travel by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, and currently on view at CMH.

At the American Indian Heritage Month Celebration, Zotigh will be participating in a blessing of the grounds, a hoop dance workshop, hand drum demonstration and a performance called “Musical Journey Through Indian Country: Diverse Songs from Alaska to Florida.”  He’s spoken before queens, attorney generals, heads of state, presidents, university students, and children with the goal of crossing cultural divides and reaching out to communities.  When he’s not traveling, Zotigh continues the conversation on his blog, Beyond FAQ: Let’s Talk, at NMAI. 

**Smithsonian Affiliates interested in bringing Smithsonian speakers like Dennis Zotigh to their neighborhoods should contact their Smithsonian Affiliations National Outreach Manager for more information.**

At the Controls in your neighborhood

"At the Controls" exhibition at the Tellus Science Museum. Photo courtesy Eric Long.

Ever wondered what the cockpit looked like in Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis? Or what the viewpoint was inside the Wright brothers’ 1903 Flyer? Affiliates now have the opportunity to show their visitors an up-close view of some of the most famous cockpits in aviation history. At the Controls, an exhibition created from a book of the same title published by Eric Long and Mark Avino from the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum (NASM), invites visitors to get a pilot’s point of view through 22 large-scale, color photographs. 

Originally a Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service traveling exhibition, At the Controls completed its five-year tour in 2009 and returned to NASM where it is now being offered exclusively to Affiliates at a special rate. Interested Smithsonian Affiliates will only be responsible for the cost of shipping and insurance – there is no participation fee.  “The exhibition offers a never before seen and very unique perspective of the history of cockpits from some of the world’s most impressive air and spacecraft,” said Long.  

"At the Controls" at Tellus Science Museum. Photo courtesy Eric Long.

The exhibition is currently on view at the Tellus Science Museum, a Smithsonian Affiliate in Cartersville, Georgia, and will close on November 13, 2011, after which time it will be open for additional booking.  

The images are printed on flexible material which can be displayed on lightweight, freestanding structures or on exhibition walls.  Each photograph is labeled with aircraft information and details specific to each cockpit.  Some of the extraordinary aircraft included are the Wright brothers’ 1903 Flyer, Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis, Chuck Yeager’s Bell X-1 Glamorous Glennis, John Glenn’s  Mercury Friendship 7, Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, and the Space Shuttle Columbia. 

For more information on exhibition availability, please contact Smithsonian Affiliations National Outreach Manager, Caroline Mah, at or 202-633-5308. 

Exhibition Specifications: 

  • Contents: 22 large-format color digital images with text printed on flexible banner material, freestanding units
  • Size: 130 running feet
  • Crates: 3
  • Weight: 173 kg (382 lb.)
  • Estimated Shipping: For example, recent costs from Washington, D.C. to Cartersville, GA via Fed Ex were approximately $300.   Shipping prices will vary. 
  • Insurance Value: $22,000 ($1,000 per banner). Venues must have adequate general commercial liability insurance or be self-insured.
  • Space Requirements: minimum 700 sq ft.

**Affiliates are responsible for shipping and insurance costs.


A record-breaking sailplane of the 1930s, the Senior Albatross Falcon looks like an otherworldy life form.


Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship Program

The Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship (SARF) offers visual artists the opportunity to spend between one and three months working among the vast collections of the Smithsonian Institution with experts on the Smithsonian staff. The fellowship offers a dynamic research environment in which to investigate the objects, discoveries, and historical events that inspire creative work rather than a studio. The program brings artists together with Smithsonian scholars from a variety of disciplines at museums and research centers in the United States and abroad to explore cross-disciplinary connections between history, art, culture, and science. SARF fellows are chosen by a panel of Smithsonian art experts with input from representatives from the Smithsonian history, culture, and science research communities. Fellowship terms are one to three months and must begin between June 1, 2012 and March 1, 2013. 

The program seeks to recognize outstanding established, mid-career and emerging artists with a demonstrated record of accomplishment. Artists should have a strong exhibition history; experience with public projects or commissions is desirable. Undergraduate students and MFA candidates are not eligible. The fellowship is open to U.S. citizens and foreign nationals. Successful applications will make a strong case for research projects that utilize Smithsonian-specific collections and resources. 

Candidates are nominated by Smithsonian curators of contemporary art and research staff; outside nominators representing international curators and scholars; and former and current Smithsonian Artist Research Fellows. Artists who are nominated and asked to submit an application are strongly encouraged to communicate with Smithsonian staff whose research relates to their project interests before applying to confirm the feasibility of projects.  A research staff directory is available online in the publication Smithsonian Opportunities for Research and Study, at .  A complete list of Smithsonian museums and research centers may be found online at:  and .   

Nominators should consider the following in making nominations:  the quality of the artist’s work; his or her record of career accomplishments; and the feasibility and potential significance of the research proposal. 

Nominations must be submitted no later than September 15, 2011
Application Deadline: November 15, 2011
Notification of Decisions: by March 15, 2012

For questions, application guidelines, or to request a nomination form, please contact Pamela Veenbaas at  or 202-633-7070.