Festivals everywhere!

I love hearing about all the festivals taking place at Affiliates – please send pictures!  Here’s some highlights I’ve been following recently:

Blueberry FestivalHistoric Bethlehem Partnership’s 22nd Annual Blueberry Festival took place last weekend… yum!  (Read the local review.)  This year’s Festival included colonial craft and  Moravian cooking demonstrations, and new this year, an antique auto show, and lots more performances and family activities.  Not to worry, all things blueberry were available too – local bakeries geared up to sell 1,200 pies, 200 blueberry strudels, 300 blueberry coffee cakes and hundreds of tarts.

Mayflower II Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Mayflower II last weekend too, with a brilliant sail into the bay with members of the original crew (from 1957, not 1620!!)  They even brewed a special beer for the occasion.  Visitors enjoyed  anniversary cake and 1950s music courtesy of the Plymouth Philharmonic Symphony’s Swing Band.

Mashantucket Powwow  A couple weekends ago, the Mashantucket Pequot Museum held its 2nd Annual Pow Wow Festival.  (Read the review.)  And the dancing isn’t over… in August, the Pequots will host Schemitzun, its annual Feast of Green Corn and Dance.   

Rock Steady Crew And summer’s not over!!  Lincoln Park Coast Cultural District in Newark NJ is gearing up for their blow-out this weekend, the 2nd Annual Music Festival.  From July 26-29, this year’s festival focuses on gospel, hip-hop and house music.  In addition to great music, there’s a skateboard camp for kids, and a Green Vendor Marketplace.

Lowell Folk FestivalAlso this coming weekend, the internationally-known Lowell Folk Festival not far from Boston will feature such nuggets as weaving, Chinese knot-tying and Oud making; Armenian to Thai food with everything in between; and performers such as the Django Reinhardt Festival All Star Band (gypsy jazz from France) and the New England School for Carnatic Music (carnatic = Hindu devotional songs accompanied by the veena, an Indian stringed instrument.)

Bet on it that Affiliations staff wish we could be in 10 places at once to experience all these great events.  Rock on!!

The Search for a New Secretary

Yesterday, Smithsonian staff were invited to a town hall meeting to share our views on the ideal qualities of the next Smithsonian Secretary.  The chairman of the search committee, Regent Alan Spoon, ran the meeting with Regent Roger Sant, and members of the executive search firm hired for the task.

The discussion was lively, as one might imagine.  A committment to scholarship, intellectual curiosity and a love of lifelong learning seemed to top the list as the most desirable qualities expressed by Smithsonian staff.  Most want someone who understands the breadth and depth of the Smithsonian and its uncomparable particularity. The scientific community in particular described our global reputation and urged that the next Secretary strive to maintain our international relations in regard to research.  Alan Spoon concurred that the next Secretary be committed to “liberating the talent” of the Smithsonian, recognizing that its value lie in staff as well as collections.  One of my favorite comments was about finding someone to wallow in “the delicious fulfillment of our great mission.”

Luckily, the search committee has set up a designated email account to collect more thoughts from SI staff, and plans to hold more listening sessions.  It’s important to know too that Regents’ names, committees, bylaws, reports, proceedings and more are all available to the public on our website.

But I’m curious about your thoughts as members of our “extended family.”  what do you think are the most salient qualities for the next Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution?!  

Mother Earth celebration

Mother Earth Celebration

I often find myself so proud to work at the Smithsonian.

That was especially true yesterday, when I joined the crowds at the National Museum of the American Indian’s Mother Earth celebration to see Al Gore kick off the Live Earth concert series in North America. As I listened to Mohawk and Cheyenne elders describing Native philosophies toward the earth before introducing Al Gore, I was reminded again of how important and relevant museums can be. When a Museum takes the knowledge embedded in the cultural heritage it’s preserving, and uses it to help us imagine our future… well, it doesn’t get much better than that.

Summer at SI

On the education front, several recent gatherings have illuminated interesting research being done in the fields of online learning and museums’ fostering of critical thinking skills.  Check it out –
Goode lecture on Fostering Critical Thinking in Museums; 
Guggenheim’s research on literacy through the arts; and
EduWeb’s Learning Styles & Online Interactives.

Folklife Festival Who doesn’t LOVE the Smithsonian Folklife Festival?!  It’s in full swing on the Mall, and I do mean swing – when I was there on Sunday, there was a huge dance going on to Irish stage with a rocking group called Four Men and a Dog.  One of my favorite things (apart from being there) are the organizers’ videos.

And speaking of videos, Affiliations is cultivating friendships with our newest colleagues in Smithsonian Networks.  Which is to say, if you haven’t checked out their collection of videos and programming previews yet, please do – there are some gems there!  The Networks will be launching as a full-on television cable channel, commercial-free, this fall.  Some of you met Networks’ staff at the conference, but they are definitely an initiative to keep an eye on.

Hope your summer is going well too – what is going on in your neck of the woods?!



Affiliations National Conference 2007 and Affiliate Feedback

The Smithsonian Affiliations Conference commenced on June 5 last week after three days of meetings, tours and receptions in Washington, DC.

When it was all said and done, there were  91 staff members representing 61 Affiliates attended the conference. Registrants came from 29 states, Panama, and Puerto Rico. 

Altogether, 40% of our 153 Affiliates were represented by at least one staff member, and 74% of our locations (39 states, DC, Panama, and Puerto Rico) were represented.  25 Affiliates, or 41% sent more than one staff member, there were four Affiliates who sent either three or four staff members each.Attendees had their choice of touring among four different Smithsonian facilities.  In the formal program there were 30 presenters among 12 sessions. 

In addition, Smithsonian staff from at least 30 museums and units throughout the Institution participated in the Smithsonian Resource Fair, designed to introduce staff and resources to the Affiliate network.

Feedback from Affiliates at the “Open Mic” session on June 5:

Shawn Parker – Heritage Harbor Museum Providence RI : thanks for connecting us with other Affiliates, returning phone calls, setting up meetings

Sarah Henrich – Headley-Whitney Museum :Offering a traveling exhibition of Haydar Hatemi – an Iranian artist who paints in the 16th century tradition with prospectus availableLisa Girolami : Millard Sheets Gallery Pomona, CA: Needs traveling exhibitions of short durations – for the 4 weeks when LA County Fair is happening – short time, but gets 1.8 million people through the gallery;proposed a traveling exhibition created by Affiliates for Affiliates or if a 4-week loan is possible, let her know

Kate Schureman : Peoria IL – Lakeview Museum What is happening with search for new Secretary? And how will this affect Affiliates?

Lawrence J. Pijeaux : Birmingham National Civil Rights Museum –New affiliate : thank you to Harold and his staff

Nancy Bell : VA Museum of Natural History – ask for the elevator speech on what it means to be an Affiliate:“Long-term partnership between SI and Affiliate museums and organizations  to bring SI outside DC and allow people to experience SI in their own communities without having to travel to DC – establish that long-term partnership”

Suggestion: Harold Closter director, should send  a letter  to Affiliates 2-3 times a year to place in newsletters as a personal message to members -Ohio Affiliate

Suggestion : at conference, have peer groups get together to identify issues within their museums and with Affiliates Suggestion – post on Affiliations Web site a list of traveling exhibitions that are available from Affiliates Suggestion – Post confernece participants on the Affiliate only web site – get list of conference participants ahead of time – have each participant list the current challenges of their museum and little bios – then could contact people ahead of time - Lider Sucre Museum of Biodiversity


Suggestion: people are hungry for anything from SI – identify a small group of objects from each museum – put together a catalog of these objects (already conserved and with traveling crates and therefore, ready to go) for Affiliates to tap into in order to borrow

SITES: Why areAffiliates not given preferential treatment for SITES exhibitions and how can Affiliations assist with this?  


Book cover

Spring 2007

Can you believe it’s May already?! Here’s a sampling of some fun Smithsonian activity from this spring.

lost world.jpg Who Knew?

Historian Heather Ewing just published The Lost World of James Smithson, which fills in a lot of the details of his life. The book reveals “not the dour recluse historians had once thought Smithson to be but an exuberant if eccentric man with a zeal for learning and for life.” That seems appropriate as the profile our first benefactor!

by Elaine Heuman Gurian Civilizing the Museum

Smithsonian staff were treated to a recent lecture by museum theorist, professor and guru Elaine Heumann Gurian, speaking on her new book of collected essays, Civilizing the Museum. Issues like sharing authority and maximizing our relevance in the current climate of “Internet 2.0” provided hearty food for thought.

object-gif.jpg Have you seen this new project from the Museum of American History?

A partnership between NMAH and George Mason University’s Center for History and New Media, The Object of History site provides a way for students and teachers of U.S. History to have access to the Museum’s collections and the expertise of its curators. Meet the designers/programmers from George Mason at the Affiliations Conference this summer, and learn how to do it yourself!

MAAM_BM07_banner.jpg Building a Museum?

Affiliations staff attended the Building Museums conference a few months ago. This annual conference is one-stop shopping for all issues related to building, expanding or renovating Museums.  Lots of stellar examples! – including a unique cultural and fundraising partnership in Chattanooga. If you are interested in any of the white papers, session topics or speaker bios – let us know, we’ve got all the peripheral material on a cd.

So how was your spring?! Feel free to share…. and hope to see you soon at the Affiliations Conference !