Kudos Affiliates!! May 2019

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 Cosmosphere (Hutchinson, KS) received a $500,000 grant from the Sunderland Foundation of Kansas City to fund the CosmoKids Discovery Area of the Hall of Space at the Cosmosphere. CosmoKids Discovery Area is scheduled to open early in 2020 and will include STEM-based interactives and space where families can learn through interacting together.

Science Museum Oklahoma (Oklahoma City,OK) announced that Schlumberger will provide a matching grant of $90,000 to help renovate the museum’s energy exhibit, Energy Quest. Energy Quest will feature more than 2,000 square feet of space and provide an immersive environment to explore the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) associated with energy production in Oklahoma.

Capital improvement funds of $600,000 were released to the Kona Historical Society (Kealakekua, HI) for the construction of The Kona Museum Gallery. The two-story, 1,360 square-foot building has been designed to blend seamlessly into the historic buildings and landscape surrounding it and will include an exhibit area, retail area, storage, and restrooms.

The Center for Jewish History (New York City, NY) received a $2.5 million matching grant from Arcadia, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin, to make photographs, primary documents, and other archival material detailing the history and living legacy of Jews in the Diaspora more accessible to the public.

LEADERSHIP CHANGES

After 12 years of leading the Putnam Museum & Science Center (Davenport, IA) through some major changes, growth, and exhibits, president/CEO Kim Findlay plans to retire June 30. The Putnam’s fiscal year starts July 1, and Findlay hopes to transition with a new CEO in place by mid-June.

5 Questions With Dr. Matt Shindell

What do we love more than helping you navigate the Smithsonian? Sending someone from the Smithsonian to your neighborhood! Our people are our greatest resource and when new curators join the Smithsonian family, we like to share their stories with our network.

In this edition, we spotlight Dr. Matt Shindell, curator in the Space History Department at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, who has written a new book, The Life and Science of Harold C. Urey, scheduled to be released in the October 2019.

Harold Clayton Urey was an American physical chemist whose pioneering work on isotopes earned him the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1934 for the discovery of deuterium. He played a significant role in the development of the atom bomb, as well as contributing to theories on the development of organic life from non-living matter.

Matt Shindell portraitTo understand more about Urey,  we asked five questions of Dr. Shindell.

Tell us a little about yourself and how you came to be interested in your area of expertise.

I was always interested in science when I was a kid. I found science museums and books about space fascinating. When I went to college, I thought that I would become a scientist. But I soon discovered a related field called the history of science and found that I enjoyed exploring science’s past even more than I enjoyed science itself. I ended up pursuing a Ph.D. in history – something my younger self would never have predicted. My first big project in history of science was about the history of Mars exploration, in which I asked the question, where did the methods we use to explore other planets come from? A lot of these methods came from the Earth-based sciences of geology and geochemistry. This led me to the topic of my new book, the chemist Harold C. Urey. Urey was one of the first geochemists to devote his research program to the study of the Moon and planets. This brought him into the small group of scientists who worked with NASA on its lunar exploration program, including the Apollo missions to send humans to the Moon. But he didn’t start out as a planetary scientist. He had already had a long and distinguished career – including winning the Nobel Prize for the discovery of deuterium (heavy hydrogen) – by the time the Space Age began. I wrote this book as an exploration of how and why Urey decided to focus his later career on the evolution of the solar system.

Harold Urey book coverWhat have you enjoyed most about writing this book? What has been an unexpected discovery, if any?

As I spent time researching in Harold Urey’s personal papers, I discovered that he had a very interesting past that hadn’t really been explored by other historians. He was born into a very poor, rural, and religious family. His father was a minister in the German Baptist Brethren church – today known as the Church of the Brethren. When Urey was born at the end of the 19th century, the church was still very much a traditional Pennsylvania Dutch organization. Their style of dress and agricultural way of life was a lot like what we today associate with the Amish church. Urey’s parents grew up on small family farms in Indiana. And, at least during his childhood, this is the life that Harold Urey lived, too. It was a life full of prayer and religious observance. In his later life, Urey didn’t talk much about this past. However, during the Cold War, when he found himself full of anxiety about the state of the world and the potential destruction of nuclear war, the maintenance of religion became very important to him. When asked to speak publicly, Urey would tell his audiences about the amazing discoveries of science, but also would argue that it was vital to retain the moral teachings of the traditional religions. I found his desire for science and religion to coexist very interesting, and this became one of the major themes I tried to trace throughout the book – including in Urey’s lunar work.

What sparked your interest in him and why is it important to capture his story?

I first became interested in Harold Urey because he had participated in so many big moments in American science. He worked as a chemist in Philadelphia on explosives during World War I, he then went to graduate school at the University of California where the chemists and physicists were arguing about the structure of the atom. This interest in atoms took him to Niels Bohr’s Institute in Copenhagen after he graduated, and then he came back to the US and made his Nobel Prize-winning discovery of deuterium. His big discovery cemented his reputation as one of the world’s leading physical chemists. So when World War II broke out and the physicists stepped forward with plans for an atomic weapon – prompted by their fear that the Nazis were already working on such a weapon – it was Urey who ended up managing part of the operation to purify the uranium-235 fuel for that weapon. After the war, Urey was jaded and not interested in carrying on his pre-war research program, and he instead turned to studying the Earth, Moon, and planets. This eventually brought him into contact with NASA, and he became involved in the lunar science program connected to Apollo. Because he participated in so many important moments of 20th-century science, I believed that following his career would allow me to make connections between these moments that historians often treat as separate and distinct. I also saw in his life story a good example of what it meant to be an “American” scientist; I tried to focus in the book on the ways in which Urey constructed his professional identity in the context of two world wars and a Cold War, during which the definition of what it meant to be a good American shifted. And I also looked at how he struggled with a religious identity that marked him as different from his peers, but that nonetheless remained important to him throughout his life.

What would you like to share with Affiliates? 

I would like to share this story of a pioneering scientist, his place in the dramatic story of the growth of American science in the 20th century, and his struggle to balance scientific modernity with his own religious past.

What is your next project and what are you looking forward to with it?

For my next project, I am attempting to write a history of Mars exploration that focuses on the work done by humans here on Earth to explore a faraway planet on which they will never set foot. Robots will be a part of this story, too, but I really want to put the focus on the people behind the work of the rovers. I am looking forward to making connections between different historical periods of Mars exploration – from telescopes, to spacecraft, to rovers large and small. I am also looking forward to imagining what future exploration may look like – and whether or not it will involve humans on Mars.

Interested in bringing Dr. Shindell or other Smithsonian scholars to your organization? Contact your National Outreach Manager!

coming up in Affiliateland in May 2019

Happy Spring!

ILLINOIS
Smithsonian Distinguished Scholar Dr. Richard Kurin will give a talk on the History of America in 101 Objects at the Peoria Riverfront Museum in Peoria, 5.2.

NATIONWIDE
11 Affiliates will collaborate with the National Museum of American History to present a National Youth Summit on Woman Suffrage: The Ballot and Beyond on 5.21. Thanks to the Arab American National Museum (Dearborn, MI); Cerritos Library (Cerritos, CA); Conner Prairie Interactive History Park (Fishers, IN); the Durham Museum (Omaha, NE); Heritage Farm Museum and Village (Huntington, WV); History Colorado (Denver, CO); International Storytelling Center (Jonesborough, TN); Ohio History Connection (Columbus, OH); The Witte Museum (San Antonio, TX); Upcountry History Museum (Greenville, SC); and UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures (San Antonio, TX).

TEXAS
The Frontiers of Flight Museum will open the Art of the Airport Tower exhibition from the National Air and Space Museum in Dallas, 5.13.

Kudos Affiliates!! April 2019

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

Science Museum Oklahoma (Oklahoma City, OK) announced that Schlumberger will provide a matching grant of $90,000 to help renovate the museum’s energy exhibit, Energy Quest. Energy Quest will feature more than 2,000 square feet of space and provide an immersive environment to explore the science, technology, engineering, and math associated with energy production in Oklahoma.

The Baltimore Orioles announced plans to honor the legacy of Hall of Famer Frank Robinson during the 2019 season by donating $20,000 to the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture (Baltimore, MD) to highlight the achievements of African Americans throughout our nation’s history.

Public Service Co. of Oklahoma announced a $250,000 grant from the American Electric Power Foundation to help the Stafford Air & Space Museum (Weatherford, OK) reach its Legacy Campaign goal. The money raised during the campaign will fund a planned 18,000-square-foot expansion of the museum. Plans include expanding existing exhibit galleries, the addition of new galleries, and renovations to STEM classrooms and work areas.

The Detroit Tigers and the Arab American National Museum (Dearborn, MI) announced a special event- Arab American Night. The special night will take place on Aug. 6 at Comerica Park in Detroit. The evening is sponsored by Tigers partner Saad Wholesale Meats and $3 from every ticket sold as part of the promotion will be used to support the museum.

Sunderland Foundation has awarded Union Station, Kansas City, Inc. (Kansas City, MO) a multi-year grant of $1.5 million in support of Science City’s Early Learning Expansion Project.  The programmatic footprint will fill more than 35,000 square feet and include multiple exhibit zones and interactive experiences to spark curiosity and creativity in Kansas City’s youngest learners.

AWARDS & RECOGNITION

A small yet mighty new dinosaur was recently discovered thanks to the work of Lindsay Zanno, head of paleontology at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, and her team. The new dinosaur — Moros intrepidus, which means “harbinger of doom” after the Greek god Moros — is a relative of the much larger Tyrannosaurus rex, and is the oldest Cretaceous tyrannosaur species discovered in North America.

Warren Washington, a senior scientist from National Center for Atmospheric Research, managed by University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (Boulder, CO), won the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement, considered the “Nobel Prize For The Environment.” He will share the honor and the $200,000 award, with climate scientist Michael Mann, director of the Earth Systems Science Center at Pennsylvania State University.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services announced 30 finalists for the 2019 National Medal for Museum and Library Service including two Affiliates-El Pueblo History Museum (Pueblo, CO), part of History Colorado, and Orange County Regional History Center (Orlando, FL). The National Medal is the nation’s highest honor given to museums and libraries for community service.

LEADERSHIP CHANGES

Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals (Hillsboro, OR) announced Board Member Garret Romaine will serve as interim director. Previous director Julian Gray stepped down and will continue at the museum as a curator and exhibition planner.

The Arab American National Museum announced Dr. Diana Abouali will become the new director of the museum in April. Dr. Abouali becomes the third director of AANM.

The Connecticut Historical Society, has named Robert Kret, former director of The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, as the museum’s new CEO. Robert will begin his position in May.

the Moon is rising in Affiliateland in April 2019

Great events at Affiliates as spring starts blooming!

NORTH CAROLINA
The National Air and Space Museum has loaned three Apollo-related artifacts for the exhibition One Giant Leap: North Carolina and the Space Race opening at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh, 4.5.

WASHINGTON
Destination Moon: The Apollo 11 Mission exhibition, organized by the National Air and Space Museum and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, will open at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, 4.13.

ILLINOIS
As part of the Smithsonian Year of Music, the DuSable Museum of African American History will host A Celebration of Ella!!, a tribute event honoring the music and legacy of Ella Jenkins. At 94, Jenkins is one of the most revered singers and songwriters of the past century, with dozens of albums released through Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, in Chicago, 4.13.

PENNSYLVANIA
A protest armband from the 1960s, on loan from the National Museum of American History, will be part of the The Vietnam War: 1945-1975 exhibition at the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, 4.13.


NEW YORK

Katherine Ott, curator at the National Museum of American History, delivers the last talk of the Questioning Identity lecture series, Poking at Normal: Museums and the History of Real People  at the Rockwell Museum in Corning, 4.24.

WASHINGTON, D.C.
Teens from five Affiliate communities will visit Washington with museum staff and parents, to meet with Smithsonian Secretary David Skorton and participate in person in the final meeting of the Secretary’s Youth Advisory Council. Thanks to the Rockwell Museum, Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, the Arab American National Museum, and the Upcountry History Museum, for helping us to include national teen voices in the work of the Smithsonian over the last two years!, in D.C.,  4.24.

IOWA
Smithsonian Affiliations Director Myriam Springuel and National Outreach Manager Aaron Glavas will participate in the affiliation announcement at new affiliate, the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library in Cedar Rapids, 4.26.

MASSACHUSETTS
Astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory will present the April talk Moon Race: The U.S.-Soviet Competition to Put a Human on the Moon as part of the year-long Moon Landing in Context lecture series at Framingham State University in Framingham, 4.27.

 

Using Artifacts to Inspire Critical Thinking

This article has been re-posted from the Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access page. It was written by Mary Manning, College and Career Readiness Specialist, at Cleveland History Center of the Western Reserve Historical Society, a Smithsonian Affiliate in Ohio.

You don’t need to be a museum curator to use artifacts in a classroom. If you decide to use visual thinking strategies, which offer powerful ways to unravel all the symbolic power of artistic images, they may not seem to apply to artifacts, especially those used in daily life that may not carry symbolic meanings. However, artifacts are the most often forgotten yet most compelling kind of primary source—they may not tell us a story in words and figures, but they can lead us down trails of questions that can stimulate critical thinking and research in the classroom.

Sasaki Family Photograph, 1960.

Sasaki Family Photograph, 1960.
Members of the Sasaki family are shown in their kitchen, preparing the actual cakes and treats that were made from the sticky mashed rice created in the mochi barrel. Cleveland History Center.

Making Sense of Mochi

When I began to design a Learning Lab collection that featured Asian Pacific American stories from the Cleveland History Center’s collections, I found one such compelling artifact—a mochi barrel used by the Sasakis, a Japanese-American family that lived in Cleveland, Ohio. At around two feet tall, our mochi barrel is a deceptively heavy contraption of wood curved around the cement dish inside. Inside the lid, a series of Japanese characters confirms that the barrel  was made in Cleveland in 1947. I became fascinated by this object, so I began exploring its history through all the questions that it brought to my mind.

First, who was the Sasaki family? How did they come to Cleveland? I knew that much of Cleveland’s Japanese population arrived during World War II, and indeed, after being interned on the west coast, they were placed in Cleveland through the local War Relocation Authority office and efforts of local churches. Telling the story of the Sasakis and their mochi barrel meant combing through these local records, seeking references to the specific family or to situations that mirrored their experience. I also realized that I couldn’t explain how the barrel was used.

After some searching, I learned that making mochi could be a very intensive process, but one that has persisted through centuries of Japanese New Year celebrations. Telling the story of the mochi barrel then became about the process and science behind its function. The more I learned the more I saw these lines of questioning coming together: I wondered if their oppressive experience in internment camps made even more important to preserve cultural rituals like mochi making in their lives.

Questioning Through Artifacts

If you ever find one compelling object or image, don’t hesitate to bring it into your classroom, and use it to build out a lesson. Students are curious; when you let them observe an object for some time, and then ask what they see, they often respond with questions that cut to the core of why the object exists in the first place. They are often able to intuit the purpose of an unfamiliar object from what they already know. They can use their questions as a guide to research the historical context that fills in gaps of knowledge about the object and, potentially, creates more questions. In this process, there doesn’t always have to be just one story—strands of history inherently relate because they all tie back to that one original object.

Through this process, students seek a holistic view of an artifact or image, weighing information for value and bias and how it does or does not fit into the object’s story.  There may be no bad questions, but there are certainly deeper questions that lead to higher-quality answers. By pushing students to question what they see through an intensive engagement with a single object, you hone a process of learning to interpret and draw meaning that enhances the way that students view the world around them. The Sasaki family and their mochi barrel provide the perfect example of why these skills serve students so well. The Sasakis do not play a role in any of the great triumphs and magnificent failures that would characterize a history of Cleveland in the twentieth century, but the ways in which they experienced internment and remade their lives tell us much about what is possible to find in between the events in our history books.

The Cleveland History Center is a Smithsonian Affiliate museum that collaborated on the Teacher Creativity Studio program. This program received Federal support from the Asian Pacific American Initiatives Pool administered by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center.