Tag Archive for: national museum of american history

For Jazz Appreciation Month, the Reginald F. Lewis Museum is the place to be

Special thanks for this guest post to Dr. David Taft Terry, Executive Director, at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture, a Smithsonian Affiliate in Baltimore, Maryland.  

Photo courtesy of the Baltimore Jazz Alliance.

April is Jazz Appreciation Month, and the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture will celebrate this wonderful art form with great enthusiasm.  For more than a century, jazz has been the sound of democracy; it has grown and expanded as an expression of freedom around the world.  Drawn from African and European influences and developed in the distinctive historical milieu of the American Experience, jazz is “us” – all of us.  And, from ragtime to swing, bop to avante garde, Latin to contemporary, expressions of jazz are as diverse as the musicians that create it.  Jazz is my favorite music. 

Spice Band performs April 1, 2011. Photo courtesy of the band.

Maryland and her citizens have played critical roles in the development of jazz from its beginnings, and that influence continues to the present day: Eubie Blake, Cab Calloway, Chick Webb, Billie Holiday, Ethel Ennis, Lester Bowie, Winard Harper, Cyrus Chestnut, Dontae Winslow, Lafayette Gilchrist, Carl Grubbs – the list goes on!  You can learn about jazz history in Maryland in the “Pennsylvania Avenue” installation inside our Strength of the Mind gallery, one of the permanent galleries located on the third floor of our museum.  You can experience jazz live through our exciting Jazz Appreciation Month programs.   

I invite you to join us this April.  

Reginald F. Lewis Museum Jazz Appreciation Month Programs:

Friday, April 1, 7:30 p.m. 
FIRST FRIDAYS: Spice Band featuring Vocalist Debbie Poole
Poole brings her unique vocals to classic Phyllis Hyman songs such as “Meet Me on the Moon” and “The Answer Is You.”
Cost: $15 members, $20 non-members. Doors open at 7 p.m. Sponsored in part by AARP (includes light food and drinks) 

Saturday, April 16, 3 p.m.
Drama Presentation: “Satchmo and Baby Dolly”
Explore the special bond between early jazz greats Louis Armstrong and Baltimore native Blanche Calloway in this toe-tapping drama by Camay Calloway Murphy and Randy Smith.
Museum admission required. 

Saturday, April 30, Noon
SATURDAY’S CHILD: Music Program: Jazz for Kids (Ages 6-12)
Enjoy children’s songs performed by the Baltimore Jazz Alliance, and try jazz instruments including the flute, clarinet, saxophone, piano, bass and drums.
Museum admission required. 

Saturday, April 30, 2 p.m.
Book Talk: Music at the CrossRoads, Lives & Legacies of Baltimore Jazz
Uncover Baltimore’s rich jazz history with editor Mark Osteen, Loyola University professor and president of Baltimore Jazz Alliance, and co-writers Jennifer Margaret Nordmark and Bob Jacobsen.
Museum admission required. 

For more information, please visit our website.

For more information about JAM programs, visit the National Museum of American History’s Smithsonian Jazz website.

wheeling visitors in…

I have a confession to make.  After 13 years in museum education, I have come to think of educational carts in the galleries as the Clydesdales of the field – the workhorses that are low-tech, straightforward, usually blue or made of sturdy metal.  I fully embrace them as an effective “vehicle” to engage visitors in the galleries… but certainly did not consider them a new frontier of innovation, especially in our world of iPad apps, videoconferencing, and Twitter.

Boy was I wrong.

Students at the Chicago History Museum track the history of the city's great fire of 1871.

Educators at the Smithsonian recently gathered for a brown bag lunch session to explore this idea of innovation in educational carts.  We were treated to a presentation by guest speakers Rich Faron of museum explorer and Heidi Moisan from the Chicago History Museum.  Through a slideshow of case studies and prototypes, it became clear that their examples did not represent the cart I had come to stereotype over the years.  Rather, they presented carts as an appealing, active launch pad for visitor team-building, collaboration, and a deeper engagement with exhibitions.  And they came in all different shapes and sizes.

For example, using an oversized map of the city and 3-D markers (disguised as a cart), students trace the route of the great Chicago fire of 1871 (try making THAT exciting for a 3rd grader otherwise!).  Other carts used oversized skyscrapers to explore the city’s iconic architecture, or ropes to measure the height of native plants on the prairie. 

In short, it was simultaneously humbling and inspirational to think of the workhorse cart in such inventive ways.  And, exciting to know that seasoned professionals can still have the “ah ha!” moments we try to create for our audiences.  That’s what it’s all about, right?

Affiliates, do you have any inspirational cart stories or examples to share?

Chicago History Museum's Skyscrapers cart

 

Students explore Chicago's skyline through improvisation and building activities

Thanks to our friends Susan Nichols at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and Heather Paisley-Jones at the National Museum of American History, for organzing this session!

it’s not too early to plan for jazz appreciation month!

The 2011 JAM poster featuring Mary Lou Williams

This April is the 10th Anniversary of Jazz Appreciation Month (JAM!)   As always, there are many ways to commemorate this unique American art form at your museum. 

Joann Stevens, program director for JAM Initiatives at the National Museum of American History (NMAH), shared information about the programs and resources available to help plan your Jazz Appreciation month event.  “This year JAM celebrates 10 years of advancing appreciation of jazz as America’s original music.  Smithsonian Affiliations has been a great partner in this mission.  Let’s work to strengthen our relationship in 2011 and beyond.  We invite you to order bulk copies of JAM posters for your programs  and send us information to promote your JAM museum and community events on the JAM website, and connect with us via social media.”

 JAM’s 2011 theme honors the history of overlooked musicians, “Women in Jazz: Transforming a Nation.”  The programs at NMAH will tell the story of the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, and their beginnings at Piney Woods School in Mississippi, “the school that music built.”  The Sweethearts gained global recognition as the nation’s first integrated female band, founded in 1937.  Like many other women at the time, the Sweethearts confronted dual biases of gender and race and excelled during a period in history when many Southern blacks lived in slavery without chains and women were second class citizens.  Another female jazz pioneer, Mary Lou Williams, is the face of this year’s celebrations; her portrait by Keith Henry Brown is the centerpiece for JAM’s poster. 

You can learn more about programming on the program’s website, facebook page and follow JAM on twitter.  And keep a lookout for a special webcast of a Latin jazz percussion workshop on April 7th. More details to come!

And don’t forget programming from a Smithsonian Affiliate in New York City, the Jazz Museum in Harlem.  Their executive director, Loren Schoenberg, is once again offering to lead a special program for Affiliates.  Learn more here.  

To get you in a Jazz mood and begin your programming, check out NMAH’s recent tribute blog to Billy Taylor, Jazz’ Elder Statesman.  Enjoy!

Five Smithsonian Affiliates host live webcast for “National Youth Summit: The 50th Anniversary of the Freedom Rides”

From May until November 1961, more than 400 diverse and committed Americans rode south together on buses and trains, putting their bodies and freedom on the line to challenge the Jim Crow laws that enforced racial injustice and inequality in public transportation. The Freedom Rides changed the Civil Rights Movement and demonstrated the power of individual action to change the nation. 

On Wednesday, February 9, 2011, 12:00-1:15PM EST, middle and high school students across the country will join together electronically for a National Youth Summit on the Freedom Rides and activism at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Freedom Rides veterans Congressman John Lewis, D-GA, Diane Nash, Jim Zwerg, and Reverend James Lawson will share how they became involved in the Freedom Rides and how their lives were affected by them. They will join filmmaker Stanley Nelson (Freedom Riders) and scholar Raymond Arsenault to discuss the meaning of the Freedom Rides and the role of young people in shaping America’s past and future. 

Image courtesy Library of Congress.

The discussion in Washington will be joined by five audiences at Smithsonian Affiliate museums around the nation as well as by registered viewers of the webcast.  The Affiliates’ programs will be augmented by a discussion guide produced by the National Museum of American History. Each Affiliate will welcome a veteran Freedom Rider to their museums to participate in the discussion and coordinate with local schools to engage students. 

The Affiliate museums and their legendary Freedom Riders are: 

Students will be encouraged to participate in the discussion through the National Museum of American History’s email, Facebook, Twitter, and the conference portal, and will be asked to think about themselves as makers of history. 

Registration is free, and will include access to preparatory classroom materials, film clips, follow-up materials, and technical assistance. Register today! 

 

The National Youth Summit is presented by the National Museum of American History, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, in collaboration with Smithsonian Affiliations and American Experience/WGBH.

Sonoma County Museum shares local bracero stories through SITES exhibition

Juan Villa and friend performing Corridos at the "Free Family Day" at the Sonoma County Museum.

This past November, Sonoma County Museum opened the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service’s (SITES) Bittersweet Harvest: The Bracero Program, 1942-1964 and they hoped that their local community would help bring the exhibition alive.  The museum was not disappointed.  Through a busy schedule of public events at the museum, visitors responded to the exhibition in a very personal way.  

When the National Museum of American History (NMAH) began researching the Leonard Nadel photographs that were taken to document the lives of the migrant farm workers, curators realized that they had an enormous asset to learn more about the images: the people who were there.  Many braceros are alive today, never having shared their past stories with anyone other than their immediate families.  In some cases, their children are not even aware of their pasts.  Research focused on collecting oral histories and documenting experiences of the thousands of workers that participated in this government program.  When the traveling exhibition was organized, curators hoped that each stop on its tour would yield more stories from this important chapter in American history.  Sonoma County Museum’s programs did just that.  

Oral history screen in the "Bittersweet Harvest" exhibition.

Eric Stanley, Exhibitions and Collections Curator at the Sonoma County Museum told us how they approached the programming that complemented the exhibition so well.  The museum began with video oral histories of local braceros, filmed several months before the opening.  “The oral history project was sponsored in part by a programming grant from SITES, which helped facilitate the project,” said Eric.  Eric also had the opportunity to see the NMAH installation of the exhibition, while in Washington, D.C. as a Smithsonian Affiliations Visiting Professional.  He was able to meet with staff who had planned programming for the original show, which inspired some facets of the installation at the Sonoma County Museum, including a hands on table at which visitors could try out some of the tools braceros used.  

The video oral histories became the centerpiece of the opening reception, which drew many of the interviewed braceros and their families.  One guest, Cruz Leon Martinez, worked as a bracero before settling in Sonoma County- where he found work in a winery.  Mr. Martinez attended with several generations of his family and guests, proud to share the video oral history with them. 

Former bracero Cruz Leon Martinez (seated with hat) and his family at the opening reception.

Sonoma County Museum also hosted a “Free Family Day” which featured live performances of corridos and other songs about labor and migration.  The standing-room only event featured a recent documentary on the Bracero Program and was well covered in the media.   Eric told us that the exhibit has been very popular with tour groups and that he has received many thank you’s from students who have visited the exhibition.  One such note says, “I want to thank you because you gave us the opportunity to go see the museum. I learned about how people were living in their past . I’m going to ask my mom to go to the museum with my sister, because I would like to see my little sister learning about our past.”  

Bittersweet Harvest: The Bracero Program, 1942-1964 is on view at the Sonoma County Museum until January 30, 2011.

All photographs courtesy Sonoma County Museum.

SI and Affiliates collaborate on Places of Invention

 

 

Places of Invention is a planned exhibition at the National Museum of American History organized  by the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation.  Scheduled to open in 2014, it will feature a selection of “hot spots” of invention and innovation–places where a critical mass of inventive people, networks, institutions, funding and other resources come together and creativity flourishes. Focusing on the mid-19th century to the present, each exhibition area will have hands-on experiences illustrating the ways that place and social collaboration shape the inventive process.

Places of Invention represents a new model in exhibition design, where content will be co-created in a collaborative manner by the center, professional partners and the public.   That’s where Affiliates come inPlaces of Invention has received a $2.6 million grant from the National Science Foundation which will, in part, support a community documentation project and related programming at six Affiliates.  Affiliates with strong emphases on invention in their own missions will receive training to work with a community partner to document what makes their city a “place of invention.”  Affiliates for the pilot phase of the initiative include: the American Museum of Science and Energy in Oak Ridge, TN; The Works: Ohio Center for History, Art and Technology in Newark, OH; York County Culture and Heritage Museums in Rock Hill, SC; the Women’s Museum in Dallas, TX; the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, PA; and the American Textile History Museum in Lowell, MA.

Their photographs, interviews, videos, oral histories, archives and more will become a part of the Places of Invention exhibition at the Smithsonian, inviting others to view their cities in new ways.

For more on the grant and project, read the press release.  The pilot phase is set to begin in Fall 2011, so watch out for more updates as the project progresses.  In the meantime, congratulations to our Lemelson Center and Affiliate colleagues on this unique collaboration!