The National Museum of African Art, led by Augustus (Gus) Casely-Hayford, Director, began exhibiting Heroes: Principles of African Greatness on November 16. The exhibition features artworks from the museum’s permanent collection that “tell the story of key heroic principles and personages in Africa’s arts and history. Throughout, core values are considered as each artwork is paired with a specific historic African individual who embodies the value expressed in the selected work.” The stunning exhibition was curated by Kevin D. Dumouchelle, who also curated Visionary: Viewpoints on Africa's Arts (2017).
Image below: Figure of King Bay Akiy - Possibly Bvu Kwam (Active early 19th century, Isu kingdom, Grassfields region, Cameroon) - Wood, ivory, pigment, human hair, bone, cloth - Gift of Walt Disney World Co., a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company, 2005-6-31
Followed by Augustus (Gus) Casely-Hayford and Kevin D. Dumouchelle.
The National Postal Museum is exhibiting None Swifter Than These: 100 Years of Diplomatic Couriers, thru January 5, 2020. In wartime and peacetime, the U.S. Diplomatic Courier Service carries the sensitive materials, equipment and information that make diplomacy possible. The Department of State's 100 badged diplomatic couriers travel the globe safeguarding our nation's most sensitive information and materials. They constantly trouble-shoot and innovate to ensure secure logistic supply chains while supervising the delivery of classified equipment and documents, as well as secure construction materials to nearly every nation where U.S. diplomats work. The exhibition was developed by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, Diplomatic Security Service.
The David H. Koch Hall of Fossils in the National Museum of Natural History opened a major new permanent exhibition named Deep Time in early June, 2019. The exhibition showcases "the museum’s unrivaled collection of 46 million fossils, presents the most up-to-date scientific research on how life on Earth has evolved, and presents the fossil record in new ways to show how dinosaurs and other extinct creatures lived in changing environments."
Image below: In its new pose devouring a Triceratops, the Nation’s T. rex is the centerpiece of the David H. Koch Hall of Fossils—Deep Time.
The Natural History Museum is exhibiting Objects of Wonder, thru 2019. The exhibition examines “how scientists use Smithsonian collections to enlighten and illuminate our understanding of nature and human culture.”
The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden announced plans in March, 2019 to move forward with a renovation and redesign of its Sculpture Garden for the first time since the 1980s. The Museum will be working to develop a new concept for the garden with architect/artist Hiroshi Sugimoto, who successfully renovated the Museum's lobby. The museum's sunken garden, which is adjacent to the National Mall, is barely visible to Mall and museum visitors. Sugimoto’s early concept calls for "an enhanced entrance facing the National Mall, directly engaging the more than 35 million people who pass through each year. " The new garden design envisions spaces for large-scale contemporary works and performances, as well as intimate spaces for the museum’s modern masterpieces." The initial concept would include reopening the underground passage which was designed by architect Gordon Bunshaft (1909-1990), who designed the Hirshhorn, to connect the garden to the museum plaza. The passage has been closed for 30 years. Dan Sallick, Hirshhorn board chair, commented that “The project would create a ‘front door’ for the Hirshhorn on the National Mall.” Melissa Chiu, director of the Hirshhorn, commented that “As both an artist and an architect, Hiroshi Sugimoto brings a unique perspective to his designs and a deep understanding and respect for Gordon Bunshaft’s original vision for the garden.”
Please note: African Art Museum Exhibitions are listed in the Art: Smithsonian Galleries Column
African American History & Culture
The National Museum of African American History & Culture
National Air & Space Museum
The National Air & Space Museum began a major renovation in December, 2018. The revitalization of the building’s exterior and infrastructure, and the transformation of all 23 exhibitions and presentation spaces, will take about seven years. The museums's upcoming Future of Spaceflight exhibition is scheduled to open in 2024. For the first few years, some of the most popular artifacts will remain on display, including the “Spirit of St. Louis,” the 1903 Wright Flyer, Bell X-1, the Apollo Lunar Module and Skylab. The first set of galleries are scheduled to reopen in 2022. The building will undergo complete refacing of the exterior cladding, replacement of outdated mechanical systems and other repairs and improvements.
A view of the National Air & Space Museum as seen from the National Mall
The National Air and Space Museum began displaying Neil Armstrong's spacesuiton July 16, 2019, which was the 50th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11. Until now, the suit had not been displayed in 13 years. The suit recently completed a multi-year conservation. A state-of-the-art display case and mannequin were created to help protect the fragile suit.
The National Museum of American History opened an exhibition titled My Computing Devices on August 28, 2019.The exhibition showcases the complex story of “how Americans came to use and own computers and challenges them to examine their own personal relationships with devices. A range of mechanical and electronic objects from the museum’s collections is on view. Some were inventions of little practical use; others were the tools of scientists, business people, engineers, and consumers; and still others were toys, often designed by and for educators. A selfie station includes a mirror to capture both the visitors and their devices as they reflect on their personal computing experience.”
The Smithsonian announced in December that the Latino Center’s first gallery space, the Molina Family Latino Gallery, will open in the National Museum of American History in 2021.The Center has been called the corazón (heart) of Latinidad at the Smithsonian. The gallery will celebrate the U.S. Latino experience and will feature 4,500 square feet of bilingual stories for all audiences. Rotating exhibitions will feature multimedia activities, objects and first-person narratives - complemented by participatory experiences and viewer-generated content. The gallery space will be made possible by a gift of $10 million by five siblings in the Molina family. They made the gift in memory of their father Dr. C. David Molina, a health-care leader in California who founded the publicly-traded Fortune 500 company Molina Healthcare Inc. The planned inaugural exhibition, Making Home: Latino Stories of Community and Belonging, will examine the historical roots of Latino culture as it shaped the continent and the U.S.
Image below:A rendering of a planned interactive exhibit - Credit: Museum Environments/Branded Environments
The National Museum of American History is exhibiting Illegal to Be You: Gay History Beyond Stonewall thru 2020. In June 1969, LGBTQ+ community members resisted a police raid at the Stonewall Inn, a bar in lower Manhattan. This event and others from that time were pivotal to the modern LGBTQ+ civil rights movement. The museum marks this 50th anniversary with a display featuring objects from its collections that put the history of that memorable event within a larger and longer experience of being gay.
The National Museum of American History is exhibiting Everyday Luxury: Silk Quilts from the National Collection, thru January 2020.The exhibition features rarely seen late 19th-century silk quilts from the museum’s collection. These textiles “tell a little known story about American industry, art, fads, and marketing. The quilts were made to be seen rather than slept under and were sometimes called “parlor throws.””
Image below:1890–1900 Bates Family Silk Parlor Throw. Visitwww.si.edu/
The National Museum of American History is exhibiting Forgotten Workers: Chinese Migrants and the Building of the Transcontinental Railroad thru Spring, 2020.The exhibition marks the 150th anniversary of the completion of the railroad ..... a critical episode in the development of the American West. The exhibition focuses on the forgotten Chinese workers who built the western leg of the railroad across the Sierra Nevada Mountains. A large floor graphic “maps the U.S., so that visitors can “walk the Transcontinental Railroad route.” A display “describes how the railroad was a catalyst for positive change but displaced Native Americans and caused the near extinction of the American buffalo.”
The American History Museum is exhibiting Magnificent Obsessions: Why We Collect, thru July 1, 2020.People collect to gather information about the world, to preserve the past, and to follow their interests and desires. For some, it is a lifelong pursuit. Pioneering collectors shaped Smithsonian Libraries. Each had their own unique passions, and together, these diverse collections form a vast network of knowledge. Smithsonian Libraries continue to build upon the work of these curious collectors. They preserve historic treasures and everyday items to provide a window onto the past. They seek out new sources and collections to advance research and scholarship. And they share the collections with the world to inspire curiosity and spark new ideas. What will they collect next?
The American History Museum's new wingfocuses on American cultureandisexhibitingAmerica's Listening, which tells the story of recorded sound and five of the innovations that contributed to how we consume music and movies today. Artifacts on view include Thomas Edison’s phonograph, Alexander Graham Bell’s graphophone, Emile Berliner’s gramophone, Ray Dolby’s noise reduction system, and Apple’s iPod.
The American History Museum is exhibiting Ruby Slippers and American Culture."Dorothy's Ruby Slippers from The Wizard of Oz have returned as one of eight installations displaying American history through culture, entertainment, and the arts. Other artifacts on view include a New York Yankee Stadium ticket booth, jazz and classical instruments, and a video game wall. “A stained glass window from the Victor Company’sheadquarters in Camden, New Jersey, featuring Nipper, the iconic dog listening to his master’s recorded voice, is the culture floor’s landmark object."
The American History Museum opened a new permanent exhibition titled American Democracy: The Great Leap of Faithin 2017. The exhibition “examines the founding political principles of the nation: citizenship in a pluralistic society; inclusion and exclusion; and political participation and engagement.”
Treasures which are exhibited include:
. the desk on which Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence . the lamp George Washington used while writing his farewell address . the inkstand Abraham Lincoln used to draft the Emancipation Proclamationand . the table on which Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote the Declaration of Sentiments
Image below: In 1776 Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence on this portable lap desk of his own design. Featuring a hinged writing board and a locking drawer for papers, pens, and inkwell, the desk was Jefferson's companion as a revolutionary patriot, American diplomat, and president of the United States.
The National Museum of The American Indian is displaying an exhibition titled The Other Palm Springs, thru January 31, 2020. “The exhibition is about a land battle at the core of the conflict between Western expansion and indigenous peoples. A one-square-mile tract in downtown Palm Springs, California, Section 14 forms the heart of the reservation belonging to the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. As the city evolved from a desert outpost to a playground of the rich and famous, Section 14 became more desirable to developers. Between the 1940s and 1960s, competing interests vied for this valuable land. It became a battleground over issues of tribal sovereignty, land zoning, leasing, economics, and race.”
The National Museum of the American Indian is exhibiting Americans thru 2027.The theme of the exhibition is the presence of names and images of Indians everywhere in the U.S. - despite the fact that American Indians comprise less than 1 percent of our population. Military weapons, towns, products, advertising, and more are named for Indians.The exhibition features "nearly 350 objects and images, from a Tomahawk missile to baking powder cans, all demonstrating that Indian words and images are everywhere in American life. The exhibition shows how Americans have always been fascinated, conflicted, and profoundly shaped by their relationship to American Indians."
Image below: Note that the motorcycle is named Indian- Photo courtesy Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum, Birmingham, Ala