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Smithsonian Affiliations at 25: Chapter 3: 10 Years of Reaching for the Stars Together

Affiliations Anniversary Series: 25 Years in Your Neighborhood
Chapter 3: 10 Years of Reaching for the Stars Together

By: Tricia Edwards, Deputy Director, Smithsonian Affiliations and Natalie Wimberly, Management Support Specialist and Universe of Learning Project Manager, Smithsonian Affiliations

A young boy crouches in front of a telescope next to an adult in a bright green shirt seated next to him.

Student astrophotographer at Carolinas Aviation Museum (Charlotte, NC). Photo credit: Carolinas Aviation Museum.

“Working with Affiliations over the last 10 years has been one of the most productive collaborations for our Science Education Department,” says Mary Dussault, a STEM education program director at Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) in Cambridge, MA. Since 2012, with generous support from the Smithsonian’s Youth Access Grant program (YAG), Smithsonian Affiliations and Affiliates have collaborated with SAO to bring astronomy and astrophotography education to their communities through the Youth Capture the Colorful Cosmos program (YCCC). Dussault adds, “Right from the get-go, we realized that the educational goals of the YAG program, the strategic partnership capacity and national network of Smithsonian Affiliations, and the scalable and accessible technology resources of SAO’s MicroObservatory Robotic Telescope Network were a case of the stars aligning.”

YCCC introduces communities, especially students, to the wonders of the universe. Participants can access SAO’s robotic telescopes, take images of the cosmos, and manipulate the photographs to produce their own artistic and scientific interpretations of the stars and galaxies. Along the way, they gain important technology skills and engage in—and apply—science, technology, engineering, art, and math content. As one young participant said, “I loved editing the photos. It grew my imagination and made me want to do more with it.”

A black and white image of the moon is pictured to the left of a brightly colored red, green, yellow and blue interpretation of the moon on right.

Photo captured by the MicroObservatory robotic telescope (left) alongside a student’s interpretation of the image.

Many Affiliates have participated in the program for multiple years and used YCCC to reach new audiences or forge deeper partnerships with existing collaborators. One Affiliate commented, “As a direct result of implementing the program we have already begun discussions with [our local] high school to develop a more intense astronomy program for next year.”

Since 2012, YCCC has grown to include 29 Smithsonian Affiliates and has reached more than 7,000 participants across the nation.

“Each Affiliate brings particular expertise and knowledge of their local community to adapting our SAO resources and materials, thereby creating wonderful program models that we never would have anticipated on our own,” says Erika Wright, SAO Education Specialist. For example, arts educator Annette Eschelman from the Springfield Museum of Art (Springfield, OH) was able to combine visual arts and astronomical imaging techniques to engage incarcerated youth. Starr Kelly from the Abbe Museum (Bar Harbor, ME) developed a summer camp program in which indigenous knowledge of the Wabanaki Nations informed the experience of students in the local Indian Township School.

Pieces of the Astronomy Kit rest on a table

Astronomy Kit for virtual NASA UoL 2020 Programming at Cape Fear Museum (Wilmington, NC). Photo credit: Cape Fear Museum

The successful collaboration model itself has also expanded, as SAO and Affiliations have teamed up to pursue a number of other astronomy-based education programs funded by the National Science Foundation and NASA. NASA’s Universe of Learning (NASA’s UoL), for example, connects the science, technology, subject matter experts, and adventure of NASA Astrophysics with STEM concepts, education standards, and 21st century skills central to science understanding and literacy. Resulting products, programs, and professional development experiences span a spectrum of environments and applications, enabling a rich learning “ecosystem” across the traditional boundaries of education. The goal of the program is to create and disseminate education products, programs, and professional development experiences that use NASA Astrophysics science, technology, and subject matter experts to advance NASA’s Science Mission Directorate education objectives on a national scale.

In partnership with Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, 15 Smithsonian Affiliate partners, over the course of 3 years, were identified to join the national network of collaborators for this project. The majority of the Affiliates who participated were already building on the long-term partnerships and successful implementations of the Youth Capture the Colorful Cosmos program. Growing from these past project relationships, NASA’s UoL is able to extend its reach through Affiliates and the communities they serve.

“We have great content that we’ll share in our virtual portfolio and will gladly share with any other organization that can make use of it. I also hope to do other projects with Universe of Learning when possible.” Nathan Meyer, Cosmosphere, Hutchinson, KS

NASA’s UoL project asks 3 main questions: How does the Universe work? How did we get here? Are we alone? The project creates and delivers science and audience-driven resources along with experiences designed to engage and immerse learners of all ages and backgrounds in exploring the universe for themselves. Its main goal is to expose astrophysics content to a wider underserved audience as well as create a Community of Practice within the Affiliate partners to document, share, and discuss ideas about how this information could translate into their own institutions.

Astronomy resources are placed on a table at the Anchorage Museum

NASA’s UoL Science of Light Program at Anchorage Museum (Anchorage, AK). Photo credit: Anchorage Museum.

“Students wanted to spend more time doing these activities and engaging with astronomy related STEM resources. For some of the students, it was their first time in a planetarium, and being able to go there twice was their favorite part of the program. Others really enjoyed learning about the MicroObservatory resource and said they would continue using it on their own.” Aaron Slonecker, Anchorage Museum, Anchorage, AK

Within the 3-year program period, our Affiliate partners have created long-term NASA UoL community programs and are actively still engaged with Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory to help broaden the scope and reach of NASA’s UoL future programming.

Through both YCCC and NASA’s UoL, Affiliates have helped to broaden access to SAO resources and magnify the reach of their expertise, all while engaging young learners in their communities in astronomy. Affiliates have also built their capacity. They have bolstered their astronomy knowledge and expertise, while also learning how to implement public workshops and programs for audiences of all ages. They have created a community of learners through online discussions and webinars, brainstormed programming ideas, and learned with and from one another.

Later this year, Smithsonian Affiliations and SAO will debut the Youth Capture the Colorful Cosmos toolkit, developed in collaboration with the Abbe Museum, Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum (Honolulu, HI), and Springfield Museum of Art. The toolkit will provide how-to instructions for accessing the MicroObservatory, along with successful YCCC program models implemented by Affiliates with different audiences and in different settings, enabling even more Affiliates and their communities to explore the wonders of the cosmos. We also look forward to rolling out the Observing with NASA program soon. Affiliates will have the opportunity to apply to host Observing with NASA kiosks that allow public audiences to request their own telescope images and to practice image processing skills. Stay tuned for more details on these two exciting projects!

Stay tuned next month for another chapter in our 25th Anniversary Series! Until then, catch up on stories you’ve missed:

Coming Up in Affiliateland in April 2021

Happy Earth Month everyone!

A museum visitor looks at a display of various people of color.

“The Bias Inside Us” features Spanish photographer Angélica Dass’ Humanae project, which reflects on the color of skin that challenges the concept of race. Photo by Science Museum of Minnesota.

IOWA
The Bias Inside Us exhibition from the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service opens at the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library in Cedar Rapids, 4.17.

PUERTO RICO
Puerto Rican Affiliates, the Museo de Arte and Museo y Centro de Estudios Humanísticos, offer a workshop on The Conservation of Caribbean Culture: Training Future Conservators of Cultural Patrimony, 4.19-23.

MASSACHUSETTS
Teen filmmakers in the McAuliffe Center’s STEM mentorship program will present their ideas for addressing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals as part of Framingham State University’s Science on State Street Fair: Planet Earth Edition, 4.20.

The Springfield Museums will feature Dr. Joyce Bedi, historian at the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation at the National Museum of American History, for a talk on Who Invented the Environment?, in Springfield, 4.22.

A scientist examines a skull.

Dr. Kari Bruwelheide measuring a cranium. Image Credit: Chip Clark, Smithsonian Institution.

OHIO
Dr. Kari Bruwelheide, forensic anthropologist at the National Museum of Natural History, will lead a virtual workshop for teachers as part of the Rethinking Jamestown professional development activities organized by the Springfield Museum of Art, in Springfield, 4.21-22.

NEW YORK
The Rockwell Museum will host a virtual dialogue with guest curator Emily Zilber and curator-in-charge Nora Atkinson about the Forces of Nature: Renwick Invitational 2020 exhibition at the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery as part of the Museum’s Environments Examined Spring 2021 lecture series, in Corning, 4.29.

Kudos Affiliates!! January 2021

Congratulations to these Affiliates on their recent accomplishments! Do you have kudos to share? Please send potential entries to Aaron Glavas, GlavasC@si.edu.

FUNDING

The Abbe Museum (Bar Harbor, ME) and the California African American Museum (Los Angeles, CA) are recipients of an Art Museum Futures Fund grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The emergency COVID-19 grants will be used to support general operations.

The Ohio State Controlling Board approved $1.2 million to Ohio History Connection (Columbus, OH) for the support of educational initiatives. The funding is part of Ohio’s response to the health and economic hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Guinness Open Gate Brewery is donating to the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture (Baltimore, MD) as part of its Guinness Gives Back Baltimore Community Fund. As an extension of the brewery’s mission to contribute to America’s craft brewing scene in a positive way as makers and creatives, the brewery’s support will champion underrepresented artists to inspire the next generation.

Springfield Museum of Art (Springfield, OH) received $61,200, an Ohio Arts Council CARES Act Economic Relief for the Arts award, to support salaries and operating expenses. In addition, the museum received $61,227 from the Park National Bank to support general operating expenses.

The Andrew W. Mellon and William Penn Foundations selected the African American Museum in Philadelphia (Philadelphia, PA) as one of 37 institutions to split an $8 million fund. The museum was awarded $200,000 to support general operating costs.

The Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission announced nearly $2 million in grants to museums and historical societies across the commonwealth including the following Affiliates:

Lilly Endowment Inc. awarded grants to the following Affiliates as part of its Religion and Cultural Institutions Initiative. The funding will be used to develop exhibitions and education programs that accurately portray the role of religion in the U.S. and around the world.

  • Conner Prairie (Fishers, IN) ($500,000) – to create a new storyline on the role of religion in African American history in the early 19th century.  The project will “explore the vital role of religion in the lives of antebellum Black settlers, who often thought of the Northwest Territory as their Promised Land.”
  • Heard Museum (Phoenix, AZ) ($2,500,000) – to develop a permanent exhibition that will explore the origin stories of four North American indigenous tribes — the Seneca in the Northeast, the Yup’ik in the Arctic, the Akimel O’odham, and the Navajo in the Southwest — in an immersive and educational presentation that seeks to educate about the diversity and beauty of indigenous religion and spiritual practices.
  • Plimoth Patuxet Museums (Plymouth, MA) ($2,499,110) – to support The Light Here Kindled: Providence, Manitou and the Legacy of America’s Founding Faiths program that seeks to strengthen and expand the museum’s capacity to incorporate the crucial role of faith, particularly the beliefs and practices of Reformed Christianity, into its interpretations of Colonial Plymouth and the people of the indigenous Patuxet.

Putnam Museum (Davenport, IA) received a $35,000 grant from the Scott County Regional Authority to support the design and construction of a world culture gallery.

Wisconsin Maritime Museum (Manitowoc, WI) received a $138,000 State COVID-19 Cultural Organization grant to help sustain operations through challenges posed by the pandemic.

Peoria Riverfront Museum (Peoria, IL) received $700,000 through the Illinois Public Museum Capital Grants Program to support its STEM Inspires program for dome planetarium capital upgrades.

National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library (Cedar Rapids, IA) received a $10,000 Virtual Arts Experience grant through the Iowa Arts Council, to offer 15 virtual music performances by local artists for K-12 music classrooms and aging adults in care centers. Participating students and aging adults will engage in a virtual pen pal program. Students will submit music-related questions to adult learners who will record their responses with the help of care center staff.

Four Affiliates received a grant from the Iowa Arts and Cultural Recovery Program to provide relief for lost income or extra expenses incurred due to the pandemic. The grants may be used to offset operating expenses, as well as costs associated with reopening in person or adapting programs to virtual formats.

The Western Reserve Historical Society (Cleveland, OH) will renovate its library using a $3 million gift made by the Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel Foundation. The gift allows for the continuation of the physical and cultural transformation of its main campus and headquarters by renovating the library’s first floor public reading room and consolidating staff workspaces.

LEADERSHIP

Dr. Kimberly Robinson, a 31-year NASA veteran, has been named the executive director and CEO of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center (Huntsville, AL). She will assume her role Feb. 15. Robinson is NASA’s Utilization Manager for Advanced Exploration Systems and was previously the Payload Mission Manager for Artemis I, the first integrated flight test of the NASA’s Orion spacecraft, the Space Launch System rocket, and the Exploration Ground Systems at Kennedy Space Center.

The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture (Baltimore, MD) announced the appointment of Terri Lee Freeman, former President of the National Civil Rights Museum (Memphis, TN) as the new Executive Director. As a national leader, who brings an entire career in philanthropy, focused on fundraising and building strategic alliances, she will join the museum in February.

Ben Jones was named the new executive director of the South Dakota State Historical Society (Pierre, SD). Ben is the former Secretary of the South Dakota Department of Education.

Dan Joyce announced he will retire as executive director of the Kenosha Public Museums (Kenosha, WI) at the end January following more than three decades at the museum.

Kudos Affiliates!! February 2020

Congratulations to these Affiliates on their recent accomplishments! Do you have kudos to share? Please send potential entries to Aaron Glavas, GlavasC@si.edu.

FUNDING

The National Museum of Industrial History (Bethlehem, PA) announced that Capital BlueCross has awarded $2,500 in funding through the Educational Improvement Tax Credit program to the museum’s youth educational initiatives. The initiatives will provide access to meaningful science, technology, engineering, math, and social history learning opportunities for public school students in the Lehigh Valley community.

Science City’s Children’s Museum, part of Union Station, Kansas City, Inc. (Kansas City, MO) received combined donations of $402,750 to support the Early Learning Initiative. The gifts were from Mike and Millie Brown, the Sosland Foundation and the Harry Wilson Loose Trust Bank of America, N.A., Trustee. Scheduled to open in March 2020, Science City’s Children’s Museum will offer three brand-new experiential, hands-on exhibitions, each intentionally designed to translate into the beginning of a STEMful education for young explorers.

AWARDS & RECOGNITION

Nora Hernandez of the the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum (Clewiston, FL) has been named to the Museum Computer Network Advisory Board for diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion.

Jameson McDermott, Museum Educator, at Cape Fear Museum (Wilmington, NC) was presented with the 2019 North Carolina Science Teachers Association (NCSTA) Distinguished Service in Science Education Award Non-School Setting at the annual NCSTA Conference. The  award is given to a person exhibiting leadership in science education; contributing to improvements in science education; and excelling in the aspects of science education in a non-school setting.

LEADERSHIP

The Alabama Space Science Exhibit Commission announced that Dr. Deborah Barnhart, CEO and Executive Director of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center (Huntsville, AL), has stepped down from her position at the Center. Dr. Barnhart had led the Rocket Center for the past nine years. Louie Ramirez, a long-time Center leader who has served as its Chief Financial Officer, will serve as interim CEO until Dr. Barnhart’s replacement is named. Dr. Barnhart has been named CEO Emeritus, and she will advise and support the recruitment and hiring of a new CEO.

The Springfield Museum of Art announced Jessimi Jones as their new Executive Director.

Jessimi A. Jones has been named the new executive director for the Springfield Museum of Art (Springfield, OH). Jessimi brings over 20 years of arts institution experience having served at both the Columbus Museum of Art (Ohio) and the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa, OK. Most recently, Jessimi served as the Bernsen Director of Education and Public Programs for the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Kudos Affiliates!! July 2019

Congratulations to these Affiliates on their recent accomplishments! Do you have kudos to share? Please send potential entries to Aaron Glavas, GlavasC@si.edu.

FUNDING

The National Atomic Testing Museum (Las Vegas, NV) has received a $1 million matching grant from the state to assist in their search for a larger space in downtown Las Vegas.  The additional room will allow the museum to expand their exhibitions on nuclear testing in Nevada.

IBEW Local 252 and National Electrical Contractors Associated donated $25,200 to the Yankee Air Museum (Belleville, MI) for its Save the Bomber Plant effort. The museum is raising funds for renovation work required to transform the historic WWII Willow Run Bomber Plant into the future home of the Yankee Air Museum.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services recently announced awards totaling $2,231,000 in Museum Grants for African American History and Culture (AAHC) including the following Affiliate projects:

Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (Birmingham, AL)-$167,852.00 award to expand its Legacy Youth Leadership Program for high school students to 20 historic sites in the Alabama African American Civil Rights Heritage Sites Consortium.

Museum of the African Diaspora (San Francisco, CA)-$247,880.00 award to expand ìMoAD in the Classroom, a visual literacy and arts outreach program offered to Title I and under-served third grade students in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The National Jazz Museum in Harlem (New York, NY)-$49,876.00 award to develop a new website that provides public access to its digital collections.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services announced the first grant projects funded through the Inspire! Grants for Small Museums initiative featuring the following Affiliate organization:

Springfield Museum of Art (Springfield, OH)-$38,744.00 award to build its capacity to work with preschool children and teachers by expanding the professional development components of its Artful Play program.

Battelle has awarded $753,000 to fund 19 different out-of-classroom education programs that build skill in Central Ohio students including the Community STEM Center Initiative at The Works by The Works: Ohio Center for History, Art and Technology (Newark, OH). Partnering with middle schools in Licking County, The Works will build on activities from previous years, supporting teachers through professional learning and cross-district mentorship and collaboration while expanding student access to creative out-of-school learning opportunities to explore STEM concepts and careers.

Sullivan Museum and History Center (Northfield, VT) will receive part of a $269,000 gift from the TAWANI Foundation to cover the operating expenses of new student activities.

The Peoria Riverfront Museum (Peoria, IL) received a $1 million donation from T. Bondurant “Bon” French and Hollis “Holly” S. French to honor work Bon French’s parents performed for the museum’s predecessor, Lakeview Museum of Arts and Sciences. Some of the donation will endow a fund to support the Center for American Decoys at the museum.

The California Assembly voted to approve a funding bill to allocate $5.8 million for the Columbia Memorial Space Center (Downey, CA). $5 million will be used to construct a second building on the space center grounds. The remaining $800,000 is earmarked to purchase a 3D printer and audio/visual system.

LEADERSHIP

The Putnam Museum & Science Center (Davenport, IA) board of directors announced that community leader and education advocate Rachael Mullins Steiner will become president/CEO of the Putnam effective July 1. Steiner will replace Kim Findlay, who retired from the Putnam after more than a decade of service.

H. Alexander Rich, an assistant professor of art history at Florida Southern College has replaced Claire Orologas as leader of the Polk Museum of Art (Lakeland, FL). Orologas, who became the museum’s executive director in 2012, will become executive director emerita.

Ivy Barsky, who has served as director and CEO at the National Museum of American Jewish History (Philadelphia, PA) since 2012, will be stepping down at the end of June. The museum board has asked Dr. Misha Galperin, a consultant to philanthropic and nonprofit organizations, to serve as interim leader.

Abbe Museum (Bar Harbor, ME) President and CEO Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko will be resigning from the museum at the end of June to accept a post as executive director of the Illinois State Museum in Springfield. The Board of Trustees is in the process of choosing an interim leader for the organization.

Coming up in Affiliateland in February 2018

Happy new year! We may still feel cold, but events are heating up at Affiliates across the country.

NATIONWIDE
Five Affiliates will host (via videoconference) the Smithsonian Secretary’s Youth Advisory Council meeting. Thank you to the Arab American National Museum, Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, the Upcountry History Museum and the Rockwell Museum for sharing their students and spaces for this important dialogue happening in Washington, 2.7.

Eight Affiliates will host screenings of The Lost Tapes: Malcolm X , a new film from the Smithsonian Channel as part of their Black History Month programming. Thanks to the following Affiliates for sharing the film with your audiences!
2.1 – Reginald F. Lewis Museum in Baltimore, MD
2.6 – Museum of History & Industry in Seattle, WA
2.7 – Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, PA
2.8 – African American Museum in Philadelphia, PA
2.12 – History Colorado in Denver, CO
2.22 – California African American Museum in Los Angeles
2.23 – Mennello Museum of American Art/Orlando Museum of Art, FL
2.26 – Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas, TX

CALIFORNIA
The Riverside Metropolitan Museum presents the Uncovering Ancient Mexico: The Mystery of Tlatilco exhibition, exploring an ancient society in central Mexico that flourished 3000 years ago. The exhibition features 9 artifacts from the collections of the National Museum of the American Indian and opens in Riverside, 2.3

WASHINGTON
The Whatcom Museum opens Jeweled Objects of Desire featuring over 50 artifacts on loan from the National Museum of Natural History’s gem and mineral collection in Bellingham, 2.3.

FLORIDA
The Orange County Regional History Center opens the SITES’ exhibition Things Come Apart in Orlando, 2.10.

Take it Apart! A fun contest in Orlando for the Things Come Apart exhibition.

PENNSYLVANIA
A ‘rum runner’ ship model on loan from the National Museum of American History will be on view at the Heinz History Center as part of their American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition exhibition in Pittsburgh, 2.10.

OHIO
With a grant from the Ohio Arts Council, educators from the Smithsonian American Art Museum and Accessibility Program will lead three workshops for teachers in collaboration with the Springfield Museum of Art on strategies for using art to reach students with multiple disabilities, in Springfield, 2.15-16.

MARYLAND
Annmarie Garden opens Big Fun Art, an exhibition of local and national artists juried by Jennifer Brundage, Smithsonian Affiliations National Outreach Manager, that explores playfulness, dynamism and joy, in Solomons, 2.16.

ARIZONA
Dr. Richard Kurin will be speaking on and signing his book The Smithsonian’s History of America in 101 Objects at the Desert Caballeros Western Museum in Wickenburg, 2.20.

TEXAS
The Asian American Resource Center will host a teacher workshop in collaboration with the Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access entitled Teacher Creativity Studios: Asian Pacific America Cultural Presence in the Classroom in Austin, 2.21.

NEBRASKA
The Durham Museum will host a lecture by Dr. Krewasky Salter, Guest Associate Curator at the National Museum of African American History and Culture on Double Victory: The African American Military Experience in Omaha, 2.27.