2006 National Conference

It has been a little over a month since our memorable annual National Conference. All the Affiliations staff members would like to thank the Affiliates who were able to join us to commemorate our 10 Year Anniversary. Here are some pictures for your enjoyment!

Smithsonian Resource Fair


Office of Exhibits Central Tour

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Congressional Reception


10th Anniversary Reception

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Packaging sunlight from cucumbers

On Friday, some of the Affiliations staff attended the first in a new lecture series by SI’s Under Secretary of Science, David L. Evans.  Deriving his title from a scientist in Gulliver’s Travels, his thesis in the lecture was to illuminate the values of pure scientific research, unfettered by a concern for its practical application.  (check it out https://www.si.edu/research/spotlight/lectures_2006.html.)

To illustrate, he told the stories of three former Smithsonian Secretaries, all notable experts in their time, whose devotion to pure research found application only decades later.  Early in the 20th century, a Smithsonian Secretary, an avid ornithologist, preserved entire birds in alcohol, rather than just the skins or bones.  In the last 20 years, researchers were able to access and study the DNA of the birds from that collection for clues on bird flu mutations and transmission rates.

He referenced a seminal work in the history of scientific research, Vannevar Bush’s Science the Endless Frontier. (https://www.nsf.gov/about/history/vbush1945.htm)  As science advisor to FDR, Bush submitted this report to the president in 1945, arguing that pure research would benefit the country in three ways – economically, for public health, and in national defense.  This document ultimately led to the formation of the National Science Foundation.  Again, at the end of the 20th century, legislators revisited the document, and added the benefit of helping to establish public policy.

Dr. Evans finished his talk by sharing three current research projects underway at the Smithsonian, that as yet, have no practical application in mind.  The one I found most striking concerns our universe.  Scientists have long known that dark matter constitutes part of our universe, and that the universe is expanding.  Astronomers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics have also recently discovered that the universe’s expansion is accelerating – it goes faster as it disperses, and they are able to measure this acceleration.  They have determined that approximately 70% of the universe is this dark energy, pushing it apart.  Which means that a very small fraction, less than 10%, of the universe is made up of the stuff we’re on – planets, stars, etc. (cfa-www.harvard.edu/)

How this information will ultimately benefit us is anyone’s guess, but as Dr. Evans pointed out, it does make one “scale our regard in cosmic terms.”   That perspective is always useful.


Puerto Rico Museum Studies Group 2009

My first two months at Affiliations

What a time it’s been! All my friends at Cooper-Hewitt keep asking, how is it?! what is it like to work at the Smithsonian in Washington?!

I anticipated the rewards of this job, and certainly have not been disappointed!  Things are quite different being on the Smithsonian “campus”.  I have really enjoyed gaining a macro view of the Institution, and the sense of community that comes from meeting colleagues across all the units. And even after 10 years with the Smithsonian, I’m realizing anew how much of the collection I still need to see, so it’s been fun to work on that!  but what I like most is meeting and getting to know all of my affiliates, and learning how rich and different they all are in mission, needs, perspective. It means that when I come to work every day, I never know what challenges may come up – all of which will require creative solutions, and all of which were well worth moving to DC for!

I thought I’d attach a few highlights from my first two months, the “wow, I can’t believe I actually work for the Smithsonian!” moments. I’ll be eager to hear about your ah-ha moments too! 


 PR group 095.jpg  in my third week on the job, I got to accompany this group of museum professionals from the Universidad del Turabo, PR on a behind-the-scenes study tour.  Here we are in the ImaginAsia classroom at the Freer Sackler.            

PR group 029.jpg  it’s a little like the Wizard of Oz when Natural History Museum Staff pull back the curtain on their collection objects in storage! 

       PR group 019.jpg Jars and jars of specimens in storage – snakes, eggs, sharks, and more – I’ve never seen anything like it!

 Duck decoys     amazing sash   Amazing objects from the NMAI collection.  Duck decoys that are thousands of years old!  and found in Nevada – imagine what the climate there must have been that long ago, to necessitate this hunting accoutrement!  and a beautiful sash made from woodpeckers… you can probably pick out their red feathers, but do you see their beaks?! 


Left the National Mall for L’Enfant Plaza

We are settling in our new offices at L’Enfant Plaza, just up the hill from the National Mall and the Smithsonian Castle. For close to nine years the Arts & Industries Building, a Victorian gem, was home to Smithsonian Affiliations. Our new telephone number is 202.633.5300.

Visiting Professional Program Deadline

We’re sorry.  The deadline for the fall, 2006 cycle of the Smithsonian Affiliations Visiting Professional program was July 7.

Exhibits office tour 2002

2006 Conference Photos

OEC 024.jpg This year’s conference photos can be found online at Kodak.com.

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