Tag Archive for: albert einstein

Small artifacts, big impact at the National Museum of American Jewish History

Special thanks to Monica Reardon, Smithsonian Affiliations summer intern, for authoring the 2013 Smithsonian #MuseumDayLive! blog series.

An Affiliate since 2001, the National Museum of American Jewish History was established in 1976 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  The museum explores and interprets the American Jewish experience through exhibitions and public programs.  It tells the stories of Jews who migrated to America from around the world, eventually becoming today’s Jewish Americans.

Albert Einstein's Pipe. Photo courtesy National Museum of American History.

Albert Einstein’s Pipe. Photo courtesy National Museum of American History.

During Smithsonian Magazine Museum Day Live! this year, visitors can explore artifacts on loan from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, such as Albert Einstein’s pipe and a vial of Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine.  The artifacts have been on view since November 2010; both installed in the museum’s Only in America® Gallery/Hall of Fame.

Only in America® is an innovative combination of multimedia, original artifacts and interactive experiences.  It illustrates the choices, challenges and opportunities of eighteen Jewish Americans, which include Albert Einstein and Jonas Salk.  Ivy Weingram, associate curator, points out

“visitors to Only in America® have the opportunity to explore both the personal and professional sides of our honorees.  Some are represented through the iconic objects of their careers–Salk’s vaccine, Spielberg’s camera, Berlin’s piano–and others, like Einstein’s pipe, lend a personal touch to an otherwise monumental figure.”

Polio Vaccine Vial. Photo courtesy National Museum of American History.

Polio Vaccine Vial. Photo courtesy National Museum of American History.

Her favorite artifact of the exhibition would have to be the vial of polio vaccine.  “It is one of the smallest artifacts in the exhibition, but its impact is undoubtedly among the greatest. I always think about that as I pass it in the gallery–how tiny and easily overlooked it is, but where would the world be without it?”

Weingram would love for visitors to be able to make connections between their own lives and the achievements and contributions of the 18 individuals.  “The laws of our land, the songwriting that has influenced generations of American music, over a century of innovations in American Judaism, game-changing sports heroes, scientific discovery–all are represented in Only in America®. Where do you feel their impact? How have they affected the way you live your life every day? How do you perpetuate their legacy?”

Is the Smithsonian in your neighborhood? Find out which other Affiliates are participating in #MuseumDayLive on September 28, 2013, here.

Smithsonian artifacts help tell the story at new National Museum of American Jewish History

The new National Museum of American Jewish History hosts its grand opening celebration this weekend. And you’ve probably already heard the buzz that VIPs such as Bette Midler, Jerry Seinfeld and Vice President Joe Biden will be on hand for the opening.  But did you know there will be some quieter stars sticking around long after opening weekend concludes?  Thanks to loans from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and National Museum of the American Indian, 13 amazing artifacts from the Smithsonian collection that document the history and achievements of Jewish Americans will be on view for visitors long after the fanfare ends.  Here’s a few of the Smithsonian artifacts visitors will encounter:

Albert Einstein’s pipe
One of only 18 Jewish Americans to be featured in the Museum’s prestigious “Only in America” gallery, Albert Einstein, creator of the theory of relativity, Nobel Prize winner, and striver for world peace, is almost as well known for his physical appearance as for his epochal work in theoretical physics. Characteristic of that appearance was a pipe. Although in his later years he restricted his smoking on doctors’ orders, he couldn’t bear to give up the tactile experience of a pipe itself. This one, in fact, gives evidence of Einstein’s long usage in a hole he wore through its bit.   

Polio vaccine vial
Jonas Salk first tested his polio vaccine on humans in July 1952 when he inoculated thirty children at the D. T. Watson Home for Crippled Children near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This vial contains residue of polio vaccine from these first tests, which had a profound effect on American medical history.



Sandy Koufax’s Rawlings Mickey Mantle Professional Model mitt
Sandy Koufax was signed to his hometown Brooklyn Dodgers in 1955 and started pitching regularly for them when they moved to Los Angeles. In 1961, with a wicked curve ball, Koufax won 18 games and triggered one of the most exciting five-season performances ever seen on a mound. This included the lowest earned-run average in baseball for five straight years, a no-hitter in each of four consecutive seasons, and three World Series championships. Koufax used this left-hander’s glove during his career with the Dodgers.

Shofar (Central Europe, 19th century)
This shofar, a Jewish ceremonial instrument made from a ram’s horn, was the first object of Judaica collected by former curator Cyrus Adler for the (Smithsonian) National Museum in 1889. Want to hear what one sounds like? Click here to listen at Smithsonian Folkways!

Irving Berlin’s Uniform Jacket from WWI
Irving Berlin’s jacket will be exhibited in a gallery devoted to telling the American Jewish experience during WWI.  While a doughboy in WWI, Berlin wrote songs and presented musicals which raised money for Camp Upton.

Did you know that the character of Superman was created by Jewish Americans?   Smithsonian artifacts such as a Superman doll, a gold rush coin, sheet music and more, add an important complement to the Museum’s exhibitions, which chronicle 350 years of American Jewish history.   The Smithsonian could not be prouder to be part of this historic opening event. 

The National Museum of American Jewish History officially opens to the public on November 26.  For more information about this museum, visit https://nmajh.org/

Interested in more headlines about the museum’s opening? See our blog post, Affiliates in the News, for more info.

All images courtesy National Museum of American History.