Oct
31

ICYMI: Highlights from the week that was Oct. 23 – Oct. 30, 2016

No one can keep up with everything, so let us do it for you. We’ll gather the top Smithsonian stories from across the country and around the world each week so you’ll never be at a loss for conversation around the water cooler.

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If I only had $85K: Fundraiser for ‘Oz’ Scarecrow costume

The Washington Post via Associated Press, Oct. 24

Now that the Smithsonian has reached its crowd-funding goal to preserve the ruby slippers from “The Wizard of Oz,” the museum is asking for more money to conserve another relic from the beloved movie.

Shoes in display case

In this April 11, 2012, file photo, Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers, from the “Wizard of Oz” are on display as part of a new exhibit, “American Stories,” at the Smithsonian National Museum of American history in Washington. The Smithsonian launched a Kickstarter campaig to raise $300,000 to help preserve the slippers that whisked Dorothy back to Kansas at the end of the movie. Officials said they reached their goal late Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016, thanks to more than 5,300 supporters. (Jacquelyn Martin, File/Associated Press)

The National Museum of American History announced Monday that it has extended the Kickstarter campaign that brought in $300,000 in one week to maintain the ruby slippers. The museum will seek another $85,000 to care for and display a Scarecrow costume worn by actor Ray Bolger and donated to the museum by his widow, Gwendolyn Bolger, in 1987. Read more from Ben Nuckols for the Associated Press.


The Art of the Qur’an – landmark exhibit shows holy book as text and work of art

The Guardian, Oct. 24, 2016

Calligraphy in gold leaf and black ink

The Qur’an commissioned by Mongol ruler Uljaytu in Baghdad in the early 1300s and brought back to Istanbul by Suleiman the Magnificent. Photograph: Neil Greentree

The last significant survey of Islam’s holy book in the west was held at the British Museum in London in 1976. Into that void comes the first major exhibit on the Qur’an in the United States, The Art of the Qur’an: Treasures from the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, at the Sackler Gallery in Washington DC. On display are more than 60 richly decorated manuscripts that span nearly a millennium, cover a vast area of the Islamic world and encompass an array of styles and formats, from simple sheets of parchment to large bound tomes.

The exhibit offers “an unparalleled view of some of the greatest [Islamic] calligraphy, illumination and binding”, said museum director Julian Raby. “Above all, we convey the sense of how artists from north Africa to Afghanistan found different ways to honor the same sacred text of Islam.” Read more from Vanessa H. Larson for The Guardian.


Andean bear dies at National Zoo

The Washington Post, Oct.25

Bear leaning over wall in enclosure

Cisco, an Andean bear, at the National Zoo died Monday. He was 23. (Photo courtesy The National Zoo)

Cisco, a 23-year-old Andean bear at the National Zoo, has died, officials said.

The bear, native to South America, died Monday after an emergency veterinary exam, the zoo said in a statement. Cisco had become “less active and began breathing more heavily with an occasional cough” over the past week, according to zoo officials. Read more from Dana Hedgepath for The Washington Post.


New Smithsonian Podcast, ‘Sidedoor,’ to Meld Science, Art and More

NBCNews 4, Oct. 24

Young man with earbuds

Shutterstock photo

The Smithsonian is launching a new podcast Wednesday to dive into stories about science, art, history, humanity and the areas where they overlap.

“From dinosaurs to dining rooms, this podcast connects big ideas to the people who have them,” according to a description of of the new podcast, “Sidedoor,” on iTunes. Read more from Sara Moniuszko for NBCNews4.


Private Equity Billionaire And Philanthropist David Rubenstein Elected As Smithsonian Board Chairman

Forbes, Oct. 25

Rubenstein on stage at the Economics Club

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Philanthropist and private equity billionaire David Rubenstein was elected as chairman of the Smithsonian Institution’s Board of Regents on Monday. He has served on the board since 2009 and has given $44.7 million to the Smithsonian over his lifetime.

Rubenstein’s appointment to the chairman role was announced at the Smithsonian’s annual public meeting of its governing board. Fellow billionaire and AOL founder Steve Case was elected as vice-chairman of the board and Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey was elected to the executive committee. The three will begin their tenure on January 31, 2017. Read more from Kate Vinton for Forbes.


The Next Great Smithsonian Museum Won’t Fit on the Mall

Washingtonian, Oct. 26

aerial view of National Mall

Future museums may need to find land beyond the Mall. Photo courtesy of Smithsonian.

For the Smithsonian Institution, September’s opening of the National Museum of African American History & Culture represented a culmination of decades of work. It also represented a smashing success—one of the strongest collections the institution has ever assembled. Some 20,000 people turned out for the dedication. A photo of Michelle Obama hugging George W. Bush went viral, creating the kind of feel-good image that’s been scarce in 2016.

But even as non-VIPs wait for their own visitors’ passes, a question lingers: What now? After the successive launches of the Native American and African-American museums, there’s no obvious next action item for the folks who display our national heritage. Figuring out what the next big museum should be is a complicated question tangled up with money, politics, and—now that the last space on the Mall has been filled—geography. Read more from Benjamin Freed for Washingtonian.


At 80, Johnnetta Cole reflects on her career and the controversial Cosby exhibition

The Washington Post, Oct. 27

Cole in red jacket stands near sculpture

Johnnetta Cole, 80, director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, is photographed near “Woman With Palm Leaf Skirt,” by Nigerian artists Sokari Douglas Camp, at the museum. (Nikki Khan / The Washington Post)

Johnnetta Cole served as president of two historically black colleges, wrote books on racism and sexism in African American communities and is a sought-after speaker on museum diversity. But, as she enters the last years of her career, she is perhaps best known as director of the Smithsonian museum that was caught up in the unfolding disgrace of comedian Bill Cosby.

As she celebrated her 80th birthday last week, Cole reflected on her work in education and, since 2009, as director of the National Museum of African Art. One of the smallest museums in the Smithsonian complex, it has struggled of late to attract visitors and donations, efforts not helped by last year’s controversial exhibition, “Conversations: African and African-American Artworks in Dialogue.” Featuring dozens of pieces from Bill and Camille Cosby’s private art collection, the show was meant to bring attention and traffic to the gallery during its 50th anniversary year. But it opened as the first of dozens of women were coming forward with accusations of sexual assault against the comedian. Read more from Peggy McGlone for The Washington Post.


Boo? Halloween Used to Be About Finding True Love

The New York Times, Oct. 27
Woman and serviceman bite at apple dangling from a string

United States servicemen played Snap Apple with U.S.O. hostesses at a Halloween party in New York in 1943. Credit Associated Press

Halloween wasn’t always so scary. It was once less about fright and more about flirtation.

A century ago, the rituals surrounding the celebration at the end of October emphasized love. Newspapers recommended parlor games that promised to reveal romantic fortune. Even the cast of characters was more oriented toward matters of the heart.

“Halloween in the early 20th century had far less emphasis on blood, gore and scary monsters, and much more emphasis on courtship, romance and the opportunity for love,” Daniel Gifford, the former manager of museum advisory committees for the Smithsonian National Museum of American History explained in a museum blog post last year. Read more from Niraj Choksh for The New York Times.


Ravens get a bad rap

CBS News Sunday Morning, Oct. 30
Raven in aviary

Screenshot from CBS Sunday Morning

Once upon a midnight dreary,
while I pondered, weak and weary …

So begins Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven,” the perfect poem for Halloween. A dark tale of death … about a grieving lover haunted, taunted, by the hovering presence of a raven.

Such a nasty reputation for an animal that’s actually wicked smart. Read more and watch the video from Jane Crawford for CBS Sunday Morning.


Posted: 31 October 2016
About the Author:

Alex di Giovanni has been editing The Torch since August 2006. Prior to joining the Smithsonian, she worked as a writer and editor for the National Geographic Society, Plexus Scientific, The Nature Conservancy, The National Foreign Language Center and St. Martin’s Press, among others. She has the best job in the world.