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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.

Sousa and Baseball: Bringing American Icons Together

Sousa Archives and Center for American Music, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a Smithsonian Affiliate in Champaign, Illinois, recently opened “Sousa and His League of Players: America’s Music and the Golden Age of Baseball,” on view through July 2011. Special thanks to Sousa Archive Center Director, Scott Schwartz, for this guest post.  

Sheet music from the Sam DeVincent Collection of Illustrated American Sheet Music held in the Archives Center of the National Museum of American History.

The University of Illinois’ 2010 American Music Month celebration will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Sousa Band’s World Tour 1910-1911 and Sousa’s love of baseball. His band’s musicians served as his baseball team whenever they played against other bands’ and communities’ teams during their unprecedented concert tour around the world.  This November’s celebration includes the opening of a special new exhibit, America’s Golden Age of Baseball through Music, using historic sheet music and rare baseball cards from the Sam DeVincent Collection of Illustrated American Sheet Music, Warshaw Collection of Business Americana, and the Ronald S. Gabriel Baseball Memorabilia Collection on loan from the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center.  In addition, the University of Illinois bands will be giving a special performance in which they will be recreating the Sousa Band’s concerts given during their World Tour. Special performances include, “Rounding the Bases, Circling the Globe: Sousa’s World Tour and Baseball” and a lecture entitled, “The Essence of Uncle Sam: John Philip Sousa’s 1911 World Tour” on November 14, and “The Baseball Music Project” performed by the Champaign-Urbana Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Bob Thompson as conductor and Dave Winfield as host and narrator on November 12. 

Historic baseball cards from the Warshaw Collection of Business Americana and the Ronald S. Gabriel Baseball Memorabilia collections held in the Archives Center of the National Museum of American History.

Music and baseball have played an integral role in the life and culture of America for nearly two and a quarter centuries, but it was not until the late nineteenth and early twentieth century when the two forms of popular entertainment became fully entwined as the country’s greatest past times.  Songs like the “Base Ball Quickstep,” The Umpire Is a Most Unhappy Man,” “Take Your Girl to the Ball Game,” “The Baseball Man for Me,” “Let’s Get the Umpire’s Goat,” “Home Run Bill,” “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” and “Three Strikes Two-step,” dedicated specifically to John Philip Sousa’s baseball team, vividly portray America’s love affair with the national game.  For music and sports scholars and aficionados the years 1900-1920 are considered the golden age of the John Philip Sousa Band and baseball in America. The 1908 World Series is considered the greatest and most controversial baseball series of the twentieth century and the Sousa Band’s World Tour of 1910-1911 is undoubtedly one of the most unique music public relations efforts by a single individual to introduce the early twentieth-century world to American music, culture, and baseball. 

We invite you to join us as we celebrate through concerts, lectures, master classes and exhibitions, John Philip Sousa’s and baseball’s impact on your nation’s diverse music and cultural heritage.  For further information on our programming and exhibitions please visit www.sousaarchives.org  or call 217-244-9309.

affiliates in the news: week of september 20

Congratulations to these Affiliates making headlines this week!

Museum of American Finance (New York, NY)
The Museum of American Finance will unveil the display of an 18-karat solid gold Monopoly set covered with hundreds of precious gemstones, on loan from the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History. READ MORE

Museum of American Finance To Display Jeweled Monopoly Set and Host Tournament. READ MORE

Polk Museum of Art (Lakeland, FL)
Polk Museum of Art is pleased to announce that it has been accepted into the Smithsonian Affiliations Program. READ MORE 

Polk Museum Gets Affiliation With Smithsonian. READ MORE

Lakeview Museum of Arts and Sciences (Peoria, IL)
Lakeview Museum of Arts and Sciences has been awarded a $10,000 Arts Education Invitational Grants Initiative grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to digitize the Picture Person Program educational kits. READ MORE

Hunt Hill Farm (New Milford, CT)
. The Smithsonian curator who got the ball rolling was Rayna Green, curator and director of the American Indian Program, Division of Home and Community Life, who will present “In Julia’s Kitchen”. READ MORE

The Long Island Museum of American Art, History & Carriages (Stony Brook, NY)
The Long Island Museum in Stony Brook announced Thursday it has received accreditation from the American Association of Museums, the highest honor awarded by the national organization. READ MORE

The American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar (Richmond, VA)
Richmond visitors have a new starting point for the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War and the end of slavery: Historic Tredegar. READ MORE

Historic Tredegar: The Region’s Gateway to the Civil War. READ MORE

National Museum of American Jewish History (Philadelphia, PA)
On November 12th, the National Museum of American Jewish History will reopen in its new location at Independence Mall. The weekend of celebration will feature performances by Jerry Seinfeld and Bette Midler. READ MORE

Two of the country’s most famous Jewish performers will highlight the opening of one of the most ambitious Jewish museum projects in years. READ MORE

North Carolina Museum of History (Raleigh, NC)
Exhibit in North Carolina Shows the Real George Washington. READ MORE

National Mississippi River Museum (Dubuque, IA)
Foundation awards river museum $1 million grant for river center. READ MORE

Smithsonian Magazine Museum Day
Everybody loves a freebie and this Saturday, September 25, marks Smithsonian magazine’s 6th Annual Museum Day, when more than 1,500 museum and cultural venues across the United States will honor Smithsonian.com’s special get-in-free ticket for two. READ MORE

lisa falk: summer at the smithsonian

We invited our recent Smithsonian Affiliate interns and visiting professionals to blog about their experiences in our “Summer at the Smithsonian” series. Below, Lisa Falk, Director of Education at Arizona State Museum (Tucson), describes her residency at the Smithsonian. Special thanks to Lisa for this post!

As I crisscrossed the Mall and marched to Smithsonian sites beyond, I clutched my cell phone and lugged my laptop, always mobile and ready for my daily Smithsonian adventure. The Smithsonian is embracing mobile technologies as it strives to serve visitors in their museums and in cyberspace. My Visiting Professional residency provided me the contacts and time to learn about the ways the Smithsonian is engaging visitors through digital means as well as some more low-tech “human” engagements in their halls.

Each week I visited different museums and spoke with my colleagues about their work. Days were filled with talking, observing, and playing. As I texted my way through museum exhibits, playing several digital games and even creating some, I realized that cell phones are more than devices for making calls on; at the Smithsonian they became guides for discovery. With so many excited educators working with content managers and web and mobile developers, many new ways to experience the resources of the museums are being developed and tested. It was exciting to be around so much spark! 

Week One: National Museum of the American Indian, D.C. and NYC. 
In D.C. I learned about their Cultural Interpreter program that has Native educators work with visitors on the floor giving tours, demonstrations, and instruction for hands-on crafts projects (I learned to weave a basket!) among many other exciting initiatives. 

At NMAI in NYC I visited exhibits and spoke with staff about film programming. Arizona State Museum already collaborates on our Native Eyes Film Showcase with NMAI and this gave me the opportunity to learn a bit more about what they do and plan for our next festival. I tested a new text messaging quiz initiative their visitor services manager is offering to attract more Latino visitors to NMAI’s galleries. It has spurred an idea for a text messaging quiz I want to develop in conjunction with a new exhibit opening at ASM this fall. 

Week two: Smithsonian Affiliates Conference and Mobile Media Learning workshops 
During the Affiliations National Conference, I heard and saw a lot! As my focus is digital, the high point for me was playing the Ghosts of a Chance game with my peers. We interacted together in the galleries at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and talked with a developer about how the game was created. We dashed through the halls discovering clues from art works, computer collection information, and even made tin foil sculptures. I think I saw more of the museum in one visit than I ever have before! 

At the Mobile Media workshops, we used Nokia phones to photograph objects and add augmented reality information to them, i.e.: we created short video that added meaning to the objects. It was good to have hands-on time actually trying to create using cell phone technology and to work with other peers as we questioned not only how the technology worked, but how we could use it, and how youth might interact with it. 

Week Three: National Museum of American History 
The high point was talking with Xavier Carnegie, Actor and Trainer for museum theater programs. He spoke about the power of theater to emotionally involve visitors with the history and ideas behind museum objects. Observing him in two different on-floor drama presentations was powerful. 

Week Four: Meetings with digital media strategists and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival 
I hopped around this week, gleaning knowledge from different sources. At the American Art Museum I further explored the digital media text messaging scavenger hunts in the Luce gallery as well as cell phone audio tours, and old-fashioned paper-based treasure hunts. 

At National Museum of Natural History I enjoyed talking with staff about how they approach the use of digital media, particularly with their Facebook page. They see the Facebook page as a very interactive program where they disseminate information, questions, and encourage comments and questions. 

The highlight at NMNH was my meeting with Robert Costello who developed a web comic to go with the Written in Bone exhibit. I’m also trying to develop a web comic so it was great to talk with a colleague who had already done the research on youth use of such a tool and had evaluation notes showing how people were using it (more adults then youth seem to use it!). 

On my last day, in honor of my explorations, I was invited to moderate a panel about digital media at the Smithsonian on one of the stages at the Folklife Festival. Smithsonian staff spoke about how their jobs had changed over time and how they were approaching making their resources available using digital media. The audience expressed interest in access to content and images and applauded their efforts. 

During my residency I was all over the place, but it was a great! The connecting strand was audience involvement with Smithsonian resources and using digital media to engage and reach out. My SI colleagues were inviting, open, and encouraging. Their work is inspiring and has given me many ideas and broadened my understanding of the possibilities and some of the difficulties in creating digital and face-to-face museum interactions! I look forward to sharing what I learned with my ASM colleagues and trying out some of the Smithsonian approaches.