Muppets in Affiliateland

The original Kermit the Frog arrived at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History (NMAH) yesterday. Kermit made his television debut in 1955 as part of a local Washington D.C. television show created by Jim Henson called “Sam and Friends.” Henson’s widow, Jane Henson, donated the original Kermit along with the other puppets from the show. The original Kermit isn’t as green as younger Muppet fans may remember and was fashioned by Henson using his mother’s discarded winter coat. The collection will go on exhibit sometime in November. 

Visitors to the Orange County Regional History Center meet Kermit face-to-face in the SITES exhibition "Jim Henson's Fantastic World."

Affiliates across the nation have collaborated with the Smithsonian to showcase Jim Henson’s characters, whether through a SITES exhibition or through individual artifact loans.  Here are some highlights of Muppet sightings in Affiliate-land:  

Orange County Regional History Center (Orlando, Florida) hosted the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) exhibition Jim Henson’s Fantastic World in 2009. The exhibition wraps-up its national tour at Lakeview Museum of Arts and Sciences (Peoria, Illinois) in 2011. 

Oscar the Grouch at the Flushing Council for Culture and the Arts.

The Kermit the Frog that is already in NMAH’s collection was first loaned in 1979, in celebration of Sesame Street’s 10th anniversary. In 1994, Jim Henson Productions designated Kermit as a gift, making him a permanent fixture in NMAH’s performance collections. In 2005, NMAH loaned him to The National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium (Dubuque, Iowa)  to be included in their exhibition Toadally Frogs! 

Oscar the Grouch and five additional puppets, also on loan from NMAH, made an appearance at Flushing Council on Culture and the Arts (Flushing, New York) in 2006 in their exhibition With or Without Strings. 

Through the Affiliations network, communities across the country have had the opportunity to experience Jim Henson’s lovable characters in their neighborhoods.  You can read more about Kermit’s new home at NMAH here:

Kermit gets some new friends at the Smithsonian
Kermit the Frog comes home to Washington

NMAH loaned Kermit the Frog to the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium in 2005. Photo courtesy NMAH.

B & O Railroad Museum celebrates 10th Anniversary as Smithsonian Affiliate

The B&O Railroad Museum (Baltimore, Maryland) celebrated the 10th anniversary of their association with the Smithsonian on October 15, 2009.  The B&O was both the first museum in Maryland and the first railroad history museum to formally affiliate with the Smithsonian when it joined the program on April 16, 1999.

Director Courtney Wilson and Affiliations staff Jennifer Brundage in front of the fireless locomotive.

Director Courtney Wilson and Affiliations staff member Jennifer Brundage in front of the fireless locomotive.

A look back at the collaboration between the Smithsonian and the B&O shows that they have been an exceptional Affiliate from the beginning, taking full advantage of sharing the Smithsonian’s resources. Shortly after they became an Affiliate, the B & O secured the loan of the Stourbridge Lion, the first locomotive to operate in the United States or anywhere in the Western Hemisphere.

Not long after, they became the new home of over 50 locomotive and railroad car models documenting significant advancements in railroad technology.  Originally housed in the Smithsonian’s Railroad Hall at the National Museum of American History [NMAH], these artifacts are considered by many to be the finest examples of railroad scale models ever produced.

Most recently, during the 10th anniversary celebration, the 1938 PEPCO fireless locomotive was unveiled. The locomotive was recently donated to the B&O from NMAH and will be on public display at B&O for the first time in 30 years.

While the B&O has been successful in securing many exceptional Smithsonian loans, their partnership has never been limited to loans alone.  Over the years, the B&O has been a consistent participant in Smithsonian Magazine’s annual Museum Day, opening their doors to visitors for free. They share information about their tours and teacher programs with over 2500 local teachers every year at Smithsonian Teacher’s Night.

They’ve even been a frontrunner in securing advertorial space in Smithsonian Magazine to highlight their restoration projects. They are also the first Affiliate to consult with the Smithsonian’s experts on early childhood education to carve out education spaces in the galleries for the B&O’s youngest visitors.

We are extremely proud and excited to have the B&O Railroad museum as one of our outstanding Affiliates.  Congratulations to the B&O and we look forward to many more years of successful collaborations!

In 2010, almost 30 Affiliates will be celebrating their 10th anniversaries as a partner of the Smithsonian.  Is your organization one of them?  If so, drop us a line at so we can start planning your celebration!