Aug
10

A few of my favorite things: Liza Fritzsche

Smithsonian staff work countless hours in the halls of our museums and research centers, in the field, at the Zoo, in our gardens and facilities. We are privileged to spend time with some of the nation’s most cherished treasures as we go about our duties. Sometimes, these unique experiences find a special place in our own personal stories. Amy Kehs introduces Liza Fritzsche and a few of her favorite things.

Liza Fritzsche is a 10-year veteran of the Smithsonian. She was an intern in the Office of Sponsored Projects during college and after graduation, worked in the Office of the Under Secretary for Science before her current position as executive assistant in the Office of the Under Secretary for Museums and Research / Provost. “I love that I get to work in a Castle every day and support the amazing people here at the Smithsonian,” she says. “As an executive assistant, I have to be organized and ready for whatever the day might bring.”

lansdowne portrait of George Washington

George Washington (Lansdowne Portrait), Gilbert Stuart, oil on canvas, 1796, National Portrait Gallery. Smithsonian Institution; acquired as a gift to the nation through the generosity of the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation.

One of Liza’s favorite things at the Smithsonian is the “America’s Presidents” exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. She loves that the Portrait Gallery is open late (until 7 p.m. each day except Dec. 25) so she can stop by on her way home from work. She often meets friends at the Kogod Courtyard Café and visits her favorite exhibit before heading home for the evening. The permanent “America’s President” exhibition will reopen Sept 22 after extensive renovations, but Liza highly recommends the temporary installation that will be on display until Sept. 4. She especially loves “Hindsight is Always 20/20,” by contemporary artist Luke DuBois. “DuBois has created ‘word clouds’ with words and phrases from the state of the union addresses of 41 U.S. presidents,” Liza explains. “He then turns that into an eye chart with the words in order of most frequent to least frequent.”

The Sant Ocean hall at the National Museum of Natural History combines 674 marine specimens and models, high-definition video experiences, one-of-a kind exhibits and the newest technology to allow visitors to explore the ocean’s past, present and future as never before. A full-scale model of a real North Atlantic right whale has become the iconic image of the Sant Ocean Hall. Measuring in at 45 feet and 2,300 pounds, the model is not only impressive in size, but in scientific accuracy as an exact replica of Phoenix, an actual whale that exists in the wild today. (Photo by John Steiner)

The Sant Ocean hall at the National Museum of Natural History combines 674 marine specimens and models, high-definition video experiences, one-of-a kind exhibits and the newest technology to allow visitors to explore the ocean’s past, present and future as never before.
A full-scale model of a real North Atlantic right whale has become the iconic image of the Sant Ocean Hall. Measuring in at 45 feet and 2,300 pounds, the model is not only impressive in size, but in scientific accuracy as an exact replica of Phoenix, an actual whale that exists in the wild today. (Photo by John Steiner)

Another favorite has a large—very large—place in Liza’s heart. She joined the Smithsonian in just has the new Sant Ocean Hall at the National Museum of Natural History was unveiled in September 2008. She attended the formal celebration event and the Ocean Hall has held a special place for her ever since, especially the life-size model of Phoenix, a North Atlantic right whale that is suspended in the center of the hall. The model is an exact replica of a living animal whom scientists have been tracking since the whale’s birth off the coast of Georgia in 1987. (Learn more about Phoenix and her remarkable journey here.)

Frito Kid figurine

Fritos corn chips launched a snack empire by transforming a typical Mexican street food, fritas (little fried things), into a mass-produced, mass-marketed snack staple. C. E. Doolin of San Antonio, Texas, purchased a recipe and equipment for making the chips by hand from Gustavo Olguin in 1932. By 1950, having applied Henry Ford’s assembly line methods to their production, Doolin was selling bags of Fritos nationwide. Like many other 1950s snack manufacturers, Doolin adopted a mascot. The Frito Kid’s cowboy attire evoked the snack’s ties to Texas. This figure stood on Doolin’s desk. (Courtesy National Museum of American History, lent by Kaleta Doolin)

The FOOD exhibition at the American History Museum is Liza’s third favorite thing at the Smithsonian. Who doesn’t love food? Liza also loves the nostalgia provoked by many of the artifacts in the exhibition. “It is so fun to see the Krispy Kreme donut machine, Frito the Kid and Julia Child’s kitchen,” she says. Liza adds that whenever she visits NMAH she makes sure to visit the second floor for another favorite. Unity Square is the heart of the museum’s new exhibition and program gallery “The Nation We Build Together.” Unity Square features immersive activities for visitors, including the food bracket activity in the “Head to Head” section of the exhibit that features a championship showdown between America’s favorite foods. “If it were up to me,” says Liza, “hot dog would win every time!”

Like most of the people who work here, Liza has a hard time narrowing down her favorites at the Smithsonian. “I love that my job brings me close to such a wide variety of subjects and that my work can be different every day,” she says. “My day could involve anything from helping out with an entomology experiment on the Mall to a spur-of-the-moment tour guide for VIPs.”

Liza in her office holding small model of a whale

Liza Fritzsche holds a tiny model of Phoenix, a right whale whose much larger model is the centerpiece of the Sant Ocean Hall at the National Museum of Natural History. (Photo by Becky Haberacker)

Liza works hard to stay on top of everything that’s going on across the Smithsonian so she can be at the top of her game no matter what the day brings!

 


Posted: 10 August 2017
About the Author:

Amy Kehs began volunteering at the Smithsonian in 1993. She has been a Smithsonian volunteer, intern and employee and is currently a public affairs contractor, assisting units around the Smithsonian with special projects.

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