Road Report: discoveries in Denver

We’ve all had this experience right? You have a favorite museum that you visit all the time. Then one day, you hear from staff about all the behind-the-scenes work they did to bring something amazing to the museum floor, and you gain a whole new perspective and appreciation of their work.

I had this delightful experience this week. Being from Colorado, I’ve visited the Denver Museum of Nature and Science (DMNS) many times with my family growing up. But I was fortunate to attend one day of the Mountain Plains Museum Association (MPMA) Conference in Aspen this week, and heard two staff from DMNS talk about two very different programs that revealed another dimension of their contributions to the community.

Kirk Johnson, former chief curator (and now director of the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian) gave the keynote talk at the MPMA Conference about their Snowmastodon Project, a massive and utterly unique discovery of Ice Age fossils at Ziegler Reservoir near Snowmass Village in the Colorado Rockies.

National Museum of Natural History director Kirk Johnson, digging for mastodon bones in Colorado.

National Museum of Natural History director Kirk Johnson, digging for mastodon bones in Colorado.

In 2010, a bulldozer driver working on an expansion of the Reservoir uncovered bones of a juvenile mammoth. Years later, having tapped an army of volunteers including local school teachers from the Aspen area and world-renowned Ice Age scientists, the Museum recovered over 6000 bones from 50 different species from the site including Ice Age horses, a camel, mastodons of all ages, and a giant bison. There are no other comparable sites at this elevation (over 6000 feet), and the diversity of the mammals represented is extraordinary.

The fossils are now cleaned and preserved, and are in top-rate storage or on view for the benefit of scholars and the public. And the finishing touch? Just this week, the Museum installed a 19-foot bronze sculpture of a mastodon (which would have dwarfed a modern-day elephant by the way). Here’s a timelapse video of its installation.

Later in the afternoon, I sat in on an excellent session with Andréa Giron from the Museum’s Visitor Insights Department (and a Affiliations Visiting Professional alumna). Andréa discussed all the ways the Museum has researched its Latino audiences in particular, and the ways they are honing their programming to attract this important audience. Why? Because the Museum wants its visitation to mirror the demographics of its community (as we all do!), and can boast Latino visitation that is slightly higher than the national average as a result of their efforts. Andréa shared some great ideas such as:

Staff makes sure kids feel right at home at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science

Staff makes sure kids feel right at home at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science

1) crowdsource translation of your materials so they actually make sense to your audience. Google Translate just doesn’t capture nuance!

2) Think about your family membership category. Latino audiences in particular tend to visit in multi-generational groups of 6 or more. DMNS created a Family Plus membership to respond.

3) Language can sometimes be a barrier. Andréa surveyed DMNS staff and found a range of Spanish-speakers, including security and facilities staff, who now wear buttons on the floor offering help to visitors in Spanish. (She also found unexpected speakers of Dutch and ASL experts as well!)

I am always inspired by the great work of our Affiliates, especially when I have the privilege to hear it first-hand from the colleagues doing it. Bravo DMNS! Can’t wait to bring my family back on my next visit to Colorado.

Jennifer Brundage is a National Outreach Manager in Smithsonian Affiliations.

Road Report: The Biomuseo Grand Opening in Panama

National Outreach Manager Alma Douglas is on the road in Panama this week celebrating the grand opening of the new Frank Gehry-designed Biomuseo (which opened on September 30, 2014). Dr. Matthew Larsen, Sharon Ryan and Beth King of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute joined in celebrating. While on her travels, she shared some great photos of the opening ceremony!

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The colorful, Frank Gehry-designed museum which tells the story of Panama’s biological diversity from the formation of the isthmus of Panama over three million years ago.

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Maria del Pilar Aroseman de Aleman, president of the Biomuseo gave opening remarks and introduced the new president of Panama Juan Carlos Varela.  President Varela acknowledged the long history (more than 100 years) of the Smithsonian in Panama and the special relationship the Biomuseo has with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and the research and scholarship that the Institute has made available to the Panamanian people. Bruce Mau and the team of exhibition designers were also in attendance.  At a gala later that evening, Dr. Matthew Larsen, presented the Biomuseo with a Certificate of Affiliation with the Smithsonian Institution.

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While in Panama, Alma had meetings with Dr. Larsen, STRI director, and with Public Programs Director Sharon Ryan at Punta Culebra, one of STRI’s education sites, and toured the exhibitions.  Not the best photo, but these are fossils found in Panama in a new exhibit by STRI at the Biomuseo.

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And this is Sharon Ryan getting a tour of the Biomuseo with Alma.

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And finally, everyone enjoying the Panamarama exhibit, a three-story projection space with ten screens will immerse the visitor in an audiovisual rendering of the natural marvels that compose all of Panama’s ecosystems.

 

Keep checking our blog for more Road Reports from Affiliateland!

coming up in Affiliateland in August 2014

The lazy end of summer is seeing no slowdown of activity in Affiliateland.  Get out there and experience some terrific Smithsonian programs in your neighborhood!

TENNESSEE
The Birthplace of Country Music Museum hosts its grand opening weekend with concerts, contests, exhibits and more in Bristol, 8.1-3.

MISSOURI
Union Station will open a satellite Spark!Lab, developed by the Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation, in Kansas City, 8.5.

FLORIDA
History Miami opens SITES American Sabor: Latinos in U.S. Popular Music exhibition in Miami, 8.6.

Celia Cruz, Ricky Martin and Gloria Estefan, some of the artists featured in the American Sabor exhibit.

Celia Cruz, Ricky Martin and Gloria Estefan, some of the artists featured in the American Sabor exhibit.

CONNECTICUT
Hunt Hill Farm hosts two public programs by photography curator Shannon Perich from the National Museum of American History, who will discuss photography during the Civil War, and sign copies of the Smithsonian Civil War: Inside the National Collections publication, in New Milford, 8.10

WASHINGTON
The Museum of History and Industry hosts Innoskate, a day-long celebration of skateboarding innovations, including demonstrations, clinics, and talks by skateboard artists in Seattle, 8.16.

SOUTH CAROLINA
The South Carolina State Museum will open Windows to New Worlds, a newly-expanded complex that includes a planetarium and 4-D theater in Columbia, 8.16.

 

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PENNSYLVANIA
Antje Neumann, conservator at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, will participate in Pittsburgh’s Hidden Treasures at the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, 8.17.

MARYLAND
Robbie Davis, Project Director for the Smithsonian’s Museums on Main Street will serve as a juror for Annmarie Garden‘s upcoming exhibition Feast Your Eyes: Food as Art in Solomons, 8.20.

ALABAMA

The U.S. Space and Rocket Center opens SITES Black Wings: American Dreams of Flight exhibition in Huntsville, 8.24.

WISCONSIN
The Kenosha Public Museum hosts a lecture on Mr. Lincoln’s Air Force: Civil War Ballooning on Both Sides of the Line by National Air and Space Museum curator Dr. Tom Crouch in Kenosha, 8.26.

 

 

Coming Up in Affiliateland, April 2014

Spring has sprung and Affiliate collaborations are in full bloom in April! 

FLORIDA
American Art Museum curator E. Carmen Ramos gives a talk on What is Latino About American Art? at the Frost Art Museum. The talk coincides with the opening of the Smithsonian’s traveling exhibition, Our America: The Latino Presence in American Art, in Miami, 4.2.

PUERTO RICO
National Postal Museum educator Kim Harrell leads a workshop on designing educational materials at the Museo y Centro de Estudios Humanísticos in Gurabo, 4.5.

WASHINGTON
The Museum of History and Industry participates in the National Museum of American History’s Let’s Do History, a program which supports teachers in using museum objects in their classrooms in Seattle, 4.7.

MARYLAND
The College Park Aviation Museum welcomes volunteers from the National Postal Museum for a behind-the-scenes tour in College Park, 4.8.

WASHINGTON, D.C.
Staff from California Science Center (Los Angeles) and the Museum of Flight (Seattle) will join National Air and Space Museum’s Michael Hulslander and NASA educator, Jennifer Kennedy at a session during the Mutual Concerns of Air and Space Museums conference to discuss collaborative possibilities related to space shuttle history, 4.14.

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The Wankel Tyrannosaurus Rex fossil specimen travels to the National Museum of Natural History from the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, 4.15.

TEXAS
National Museum of American History curator Dwight Blocker Bowers gives a talk on “That’s Entertainment!” at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History in Fort Worth, 4.17.

NEBRASKA
National Museum of Natural History Director Kirk Johnson gives a lecture on From Fossils to Freeways and Shovel-tuskers to Cornhuskers: Nebraska’s contribution to the great story of life on Earth at the University of Nebraska State Museum in Lincoln, 4.23.

VIRGINIA
The Virginia Museum of Natural History opens SITES’ Farmers, Warriors, Builders: The Hidden Life of Ants exhibition in Martinsville, 4.26.

NEW YORK
Loren Schoenberg, Artistic Director of New York City Affiliate, the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, will give a talk on Painting Jazz at the Long Island Museum of American Art, History and Carriages in Stony Brook, 4.27.

 

The Sun Sets on the Ten Thousand Springs Pavilion

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The IMAS team de-installs the Pavilion. Photos courtesy Don Williams.

After 5-years on the road visiting 5 Affiliates in Illinois, Texas, New York, and Kentucky, a team of experts packed-up the Ten Thousand Springs Pavilion at the International Museum of Art and Science (McAllen, Texas) at the end of August. The Pavilion reached nearly 150,000 visitors while on view at Peoria Riverfront Museum, Irving Arts Center, Flushing Town Hall, The Headley-Whitney Museum and IMAS. We’re grateful to Don Williams from the Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute who traveled to each Affiliate with a team of volunteers to help install and de-install the Pavilion.

Feeling nostalgic? Wander down memory lane through these past posts from The Affiliate Blog:

Goodbye Texas, Hello New York! Part 1

Goodbye Texas, Hello New York! Part 2

Where Will the Pavilion Go Next?

Center Stage at Headley-Whitney

For more information about the Ten Thousand Springs Pavilion, contact affiliates@si.edu.

take me out to the ballgame

Summer is upon us, which means the baseball season is literally in full swing.  Nothing says America more than a sunny afternoon at the ballpark with a hot dog and ball cap, cheering on your favorite team.

Now baseball fans can share their passion outside the ballpark too, with a new initiative launched by the National Museum of American Jewish History, our Affiliate in Philadelphia.  The museum is inviting fans of all ages and backgrounds to submit artifacts, photos, and memorabilia that illustrate their connections to the game.  This collecting effort and national conversation will support a major exhibition opening at the Museum in spring 2014 called Chasing Dreams: Baseball and Jews in America

Dodgers pitcher Sandy Koufax during the 1966 World Series

Dodgers pitcher Sandy Koufax during the 1966 World Series

This exhibition (which is expected to travel around the country) is the first major exhibition to weave together the history of American sport, leisure and national identity with the story of Jewish immigration and integration into American life.  The exhibition will also tell the stories of other minority groups – including African-Americans, Latinos, Italian and Japanese immigrants – for whom baseball provided an important sense of belonging and pride.

The public is invited to share stories and memories of how baseball has affected generations of fans and their communities through the Museum’s site – chasingdreamsbaseball.tumblr.com.  Here, fans can post images of their memorabilia and share their stories with the Museum’s curators and fellow baseball aficionados.

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Sandy Koufax’ glove, on view at NMAJH, 2010-2012

Those who have visited the National Museum of American Jewish History in the past have likely seen Sandy Koufax’s glove, on loan from the Smithsonian and on view in Philadelphia when the Museum opened in its current location in 2010. 

For more information on the exhibition or public collecting initiative, please read the press release, or visit the Museum’s website at www.nmajh.org.

Just think, here’s something else you can do during the seventh inning stretch!