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“lets do history” with Oklahoma History Center

Special thanks to Sarah Dumas, Director of Education at the Oklahoma History Center, for this guest post.

ok_hist_1On February 11 educators from the Oklahoma History Center (OHC) were invited by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History to participate in its Let’s Do History Tour in Norman, Oklahoma. OHC Education Department staff provided a one-hour presentation about various programs offered by the Oklahoma History Center. The presentation included a detailed discussion of our traveling trunk program, with an opportunity for several unique learning experiences. Teachers explored and interacted with four different trunks. They also participated in two hands-on activities facilitated by our staff.

The first activity required teachers to investigate history by analyzing an artifact, and the second activity was to assemble a pioneer family and pack their wagon for a trip to Oklahoma Territory. It was certainly a fun afternoon for us, and it seemed the teachers enjoyed themselves as well. Perhaps the best part of the afternoon was when we returned to the museum and checked our email. Waiting in our inboxes were dozens of email requests for use of OHC resources, including the traveling trunks. In fact, of the fifty teachers who attended the workshop, almost half already made plans to participate in one of our programs or utilize our resources.

What a wonderful end to an exciting day with some fantastic teachers and the great folks at the National Museum of American History.

Interested in participating in a Let’s Do History Tour? Contact your National Outreach Manager for more information.

The Smithsonian Affiliations National Conference is October 17-20, 2016. Join us in Washington, D.C.! 

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what’s up in Affiliateland in March 2016

CONNECTICUT
Roger Connor, Curator at the National Air and Space Museum, will present a talk on “By the Stars to Victory: Making Aerial Celestial Navigation Practical Between the World Wars” as part of the Stars of the Smithsonian lecture series at Mystic Seaport in Mystic, 3.3.

PENNSYLVANIA
The traveling exhibition Toys of the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s opens at the Heinz History Center with two artifact loans from the National Museum of American History – a toy computer from 1965 and a vintage Mr. Potato Head, in Pittsburgh, 3.4.

NATIONWIDE
Over 40 Affiliates nationwide will take place in the special edition of Museum Day Live!, offering free admission and special programming on 3.12.

Carla Dove, Program Manager at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology

Carla Dove, Program Manager at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology

NORTH CAROLINA
Carla Dove, forensic ornithologist at the National Museum of Natural History, will explain to visitors her job in identifying what types of birds collide with airplanes, and how that helps to make aviation a safer industry at the Carolinas Aviation Museum in Charlotte, 3.12.

NEW MEXICO
Jeffrey Post, Curator at the National Museum of Natural History, will present a talk on the American gemstone jewelry collection at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science in Albuquerque, 3.15.

IDAHO
The Idaho Museum of Natural History opens SITES Titanoboa: Monster Snake exhibition in Pocatello, 3.19.

Briana Pobiner of the National Museum of Natural History holds a hominid skull.

Briana Pobiner of the National Museum of Natural History holds a hominid skull.

MASSACHUSETTS
Dr. Briana Pobiner, educator at the National Museum of Natural History, will present a talk on “Ancient Appetites: What Our Ancestors Really Ate and How We Know” at Framingham State University in Framingham, 3.21.

visiting Affiliate artifacts… in Washington

In Affiliations, we like to say that our partnerships are two-way streets. We learn as much from our Affiliates as we share. Our Affiliate partners lend ideas, energy and expertise not only to the Smithsonian, but to each other. They also lend artifacts, and often, the very best, rare ones they have in their collections.

Recently, I took an afternoon out of the office to visit the handful of loans currently on view from our Affiliate partners to the Smithsonian. What better pleasure to run in to our Affiliate friends across the country than by discovering pieces from their collections here in Washington?!

A case featuring inductees to the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

A case featuring inductees to the National Inventors Hall of Fame

My first stop on this walkabout was the National Museum of American History and its newly-opened innovation wing. The Inventing in America exhibition features a case that honors inductees to the National Inventors Hall of Fame, our Affiliate in Canton, OH. Visitors can marvel at a selection of inventions made by some of the 500 men and women who have been inducted into the Hall of Fame, and learn about inventions such as the first intravascular stent from 1984, 3M sticky notes, the first digital camera from 1975, and the 1976 Apple computer.

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Descriptions of the inventions of Hall of Fame inductees

Notably, the case explains the invention of Kevlar, the high strength fabric (used for example, in bullet-proof vests) invented by Stephanie Kwolek in 1965 while she worked at DuPont. Luckily, our Delaware Affiliate, the Hagley Museum and Library in Wilmington, has an extensive collection of material about Kevlar (including Kwolek’s papers) and lent two artifacts from their collection to bring her story to life.

I wandered over to the National Portrait Gallery to see its Dark Fields of the Republic: Alexander Gardner Photographs, 1859-1872 exhibition. At one time, Gardner worked for the famous photographer Matthew Brady before casting out as an influential documentarian in his own right. The profound Civil War-era images on view in these galleries are haunting still. Among them are important works from three Smithsonian Affiliates.

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Field of Antietam photo book on loan from the National Civil War Museum

The National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, PA lent a photographic book titled the Field of Antietam from 1962. Before photomechanical reproduction, books like this one were made by printing each of the original photographs by hand, adhering them to mounts, and binding them as a book. Knowing this process makes the book feel all that more special.

Our Affiliate in Indianapolis, the Indiana Historical Society lent chilling images of the executions of the Lincoln assassination conspirators. Notably, Alexander Gardner was the only photographer allowed to document the hangings, and his position on the wall of the prison grants a panoramic view that is searing and unforgettable.

Sketchbook of the War, on loan from the Western Reserve Historical Society

Gardner’s Photographic Sketchbook of the War, on loan from the Western Reserve Historical Society

Finally, the Western Reserve Historical Society, our Affiliate in Cleveland, OH also lent several works to the exhibition, including what feels like an incongruous view of a picnic in the woods. Alas, one discovers its main subject is Walt Whitman, who lived in Washington, D.C. for part of the war, writing letters for injured soldiers. It’s an unsettling yet bucolic image among the battlefields represented on the walls around it. Another impressive loan is Gardner’s Photographic Sketchbook of the War in two volumes. This large-scale folio published in 1866 features 100 images from Gardner’s vast collection that successfully distill the chronological narrative of the war in a meaningful and emotional way.

Finally, I ended my excursion at the Kay WalkingStick: An American Artist exhibition at the National Museum of the American Indian. This retrospective – her first major one – traces the artistic journey of WalkingStick, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. Emerging from the art world of New York in the 1960-70s, the show traces her 40+ year career from early figurative work through her famous diptychs to recent paintings of monumental landscapes with symbolic references to their Native links.

Three Affiliates are represented in this exhibition as well. One of our newest, The Rockwell Museum in Corning, NY lent a diptych, Letting Go/From Chaos to Calm from 1990. These rich paintings of mixed dry media on sculptmetal juxtapose the figurative and abstract, the visual and visceral in stimulating and thought-provoking ways.

Visitors can leaf through a touchable version of WalkingStick's artist book, on loan from the Heard Museum.

Visitors can leaf through a touchable version of WalkingStick’s artist book, on loan from the Heard Museum

The Heard Museum in Phoenix, AZ (where the show will travel after Washington) lent two works. One canvas, Cardinal Points from 1983-85, uses acrylic paint and saporified wax to achieve a textured and active surface that rewards prolonged study. Her artist book on loan from the Heard contrasts depictions of herself with the kinds of stereotypical comments about her identity that continue to plague Native people. (Flip through the book here.)

Finally, the Denver Art Museum lent a commanding diptych of a different style, Farewell to the Smokies from 2007. This oil painting on wood blends two views of a majestic mountain landscape, with silhouettes of figures walking across their base. It’s a powerful reminder of Native history, and at the same time, of the indelible legacy of Native peoples on the American landscape.

Thank you Affiliates, for all the ways that you enrich the Smithsonian!

Farewell to the Farewell to the Smokies, 2007. Oil on wood panel, 36 x 72 x 1 in. Denver Art Museum: William Sr. and Dorothy Harmsen Collection, 2008.14. Photo courtesy of the Denver Art Museum

Farewell to the Smokies, 2007. Oil on wood panel, 36 x 72 x 1 in. Denver Art Museum: William Sr. and Dorothy Harmsen Collection, 2008.14. Photo courtesy of the Denver Art Museum

 

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what’s going on in Affiliateland, December 2015 – January 2016

Affiliates finished the year off with a bang, and are charging into 2016, full steam ahead.  Happy holidays to all!

SI curator Mary Savig signs her book and talks with visitors to RIHS about artists' handmade holiday cards.

SI curator Mary Savig signs her book and talks with visitors to RIHS about artists’ handmade holiday cards.

RHODE ISLAND
Archives of American Art curator Mary Savig gave a lecture on handmade holiday cards by 20th century artists at the Rhode Island Historical Society in Providence, 12.5.

NORTH CAROLINA
The Schiele Museum of Natural History & Lynn Planetarium opened SITES’ Titanoboa: Monster Snake exhibition in Gastonia, 12.5.

WYOMING
The Buffalo Bill Center of the West reopened its popular Journeying West: Distinctive Firearms from the Smithsonian exhibition with 50 artifacts on loan from the National Museum of American History, in Cody, 12.5.

SOUTH DAKOTA
The South Dakota State Historical Society hosted a public program around the presentation of the Smithsonian Channel’s Stories from the Vault: Let’s Eat show, in Pierre, 12.15.

CALIFORNIA
Cerritos Library opens SITES’ I Want the Wide American Earth: An Asian Pacific American Story exhibition in Cerritos, 1.3.16.

The Agua Caliente Cultural Museum opens IndiVisible: African-Native American Lives in the Americas exhibition in Palm Springs, 1.19.16.

NEW MEXICO

The Post Diamond Tiara with matching brooches made in the mid-19th century will soon be on view in New Mexico.

The Post Diamond Tiara with matching brooches made in the mid-19th century will soon be on view in New Mexico.

The New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science will announce their affiliation with the opening of the Post Diamond Tiara exhibition featuring the object which is on loan from the National Museum of Natural History, in Albuquerque, 1.9.16.

COLORADO
Smithsonian Undersecretary Dr. Richard Kurin will give a public lecture on his book The Smithsonian’s History of America in 101 Objects at History Colorado in Denver, 1.11.16.

IOWA
Affiliations director Harold Closter will announce the Smithsonian’s new affiliation with the Dubuque Museum of Art in Dubuque, 1.12.16.

CONNECTICUT
Carlene Stephens, curator at the National Museum of American History, will present a talk on Connecting the World in Time as part of the Stars of the Smithsonian lecture series at Mystic Seaport in Mystic, 1.14.16.

FLORIDA
The Art of Video Games exhibition, organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum, will open at the Frost Art Museum in Miami, 1.23.16.

PUERTO RICO
The Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico will host the traveling exhibition, Impressionism and the Caribbean featuring the self-portrait of painter Pío Casimiro Bacener on loan from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, in San Juan, 1.29.16.