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.
This week saw news of both the oldest presidential portrait as well as the newest, but we were distracted by zombies and rock and roll.
Artsy, Oct. 10
Walter Gropius, “Bauhaus,” 1925 – 1926. The Bauhaus Design Foundation, Dessau
“If you’ve looked at computers, they look like garbage,” Steve Jobs said to the crowd assembled in Aspen, Colorado, for the 1983 International Design Conference. Apple was going to sell three million computers that year, he continued, and by 1986 they were going to sell 10 million—“whether they look like a piece of shit or they look great.”
But Jobs was gunning for the latter. “This new object,” he said, “it’s going to be in everyone’s working environment and it’s going to be in everyone’s educational environment. It’s going to be in everyone’s home environment, and we have a shot at putting a great object there.” Read more from Abigail Cain for Artsy.
National Trust for Historic Preservation, Oct. 10
Freer / Sackler Museums of Asian Art
With freshly painted galleries, exposed terrazzo floors, spotless limestone, and a brand new HVAC system, the Freer Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., is ready to open its doors after a year and a half of renovations.
“The building [built between 1916 and 1921] is very Western and Classical in design, but it has references that connect to Asian design too,” explains Richard Skinner, the Freer | Sackler Museums of Asian Art’s lighting designer who oversaw the renovation that kicked into high gear in January 2016. The Smithsonian Institution’s first art museum, the Freer’s collection was donated by Charles Freer, a railroad-car manufacturer from Detroit who amassed impressive pieces of art from Asia and the United States. Both the Freer and its sister gallery, the Sackler, display Asian art, but the Freer also has a collection by American artist James McNeill Whistler. Read more from Meghan White for NTHP.
The Washington Post, Oct. 10
Walking Dead Object donation ceremony at the National Museum of American History Oct. 10. (Photo by Richard Strauss)
“The Walking Dead,” a gruesome post-apocalyptic drama about what happens to humanity when it’s stripped of civilized society, isn’t a commentary on the tense political climate in this country — except when it is.
On Tuesday, cast members of the AMC zombie series, set to premiere its eighth season later this month, were on hand during a donation ceremony at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History to chat about how their story of survival could resonate off-screen. Read more from Helena Andrews-Dyer for the Wahsington Post’s Reliable Source.
NPR, Oct. 8
NPR’s Michel Martin speaks with Kevin Gover, director of the National Museum of the American Indian, about the growing movement to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day in cities and counties across the country. Read the transcript from NPR’s “All Things Considered.”
The Washington Post, Oct. 11
The Chesapeake Bay Bridge is seen from the beach at Sandy Point State Park in Skidmore, Md. (Mark Wilson / Getty Images)
For 10 days across recent summers, researchers aboard the University of Delaware research vessel Hugh R. Sharp collected water samples from the mouth of the Susquehanna River to Solomons Island in a first-of-its-kind investigation. They wanted to know when and where the waters of the Chesapeake Bay were turning most acidic.
One finding: As oceans around the world absorb carbon dioxide and acidify, the changes are likely to come faster to the nation’s largest estuary. Read more from Scott Dance for The Washington Post.
The Los Angeles Times, Oct. 12
Cyndi Lauper at Irvine Meadows Ampitheatre in 1984. (Abel Armas II / Smithsonian Books)
The snapshots are like the musicians themselves: gritty, raw and uncensored. That’s because the 362 photos in “Smithsonian Rock and Roll: Live and Unseen” were mostly taken by fans, not professional photographers.
The book, to be released Oct. 24, is a candid compendium of musical history marked by the trapped-in-time moments that moved a concert-goer to raise camera to eye, or cellphone to air. The text accompanying each picture was written by Bill Bentley, a music industry veteran who served as senior publicist for Warner Bros. Records and worked with some of rock’s biggest names, including Elvis Costello, Lou Reed, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Green Day and R.E.M. Read more from Jessica Gelt for The Los Angeles Times.
ArtFix Daily, Oct. 11
John Quincy Adams photograph, 1843, by Philip Haas. The National Portrait Gallery purchased the portrait for $360,500 at the Sotheby’s photographs auction held Oct. 5 in New York City.
The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery announced today that it has acquired the earliest known photograph of a U.S. President for its permanent collection. Dating from 1843, the photograph of President John Quincy Adams is a unique daguerreotype and was produced by artist Philip Haas just four years after Louis Daguerre’s radical invention was revealed to the world. The portrait will go on public view in 2018 when it will be featured in the museum’s recently updated “America’s Presidents” exhibition.
Described by Sotheby’s as “an invaluable document,” the auction house noted that this daguerreotype “crystallizes a remarkable moment in the history of photography and American politics.” The National Portrait Gallery purchased the portrait for $360,500 at the Sotheby’s photographs auction held Oct. 5 in New York City. Support for the acquisition of Adams’ portrait comes from the Secretary of the Smithsonian and the Smithsonian National Board; additional funding is being raised privately by the Portrait Gallery. Read more from ArtFix Daily.
The Washington Post, Oct. 13
Dana Tai Soon Burgess, right, works with some of his dancers — clockwise from left, Ian Ceccarelli, Christina Arthur and Sarah Halzack — in the National Portrait Gallery space housing the “One Life: Sylvia Plath” exhibition. Burgess is creating a dance based on the show, which his troupe will perform Dec. 7 and 10 in the Kogod Courtyard. (Evelyn Hockstein for The Washington Post)
“Okay, let’s take it from the creepy rub,” Dana Tai Soon Burgess says to the two dancers in front of him.
Right. So the man, Ian Ceccarelli, walks slowly around his partner, Sarah Halzack, as if he’s sizing her up for dinner, then grabs her and paws at her. Halzack withdraws a little, but by the look on her face there’s a hint of interest. They’re rehearsing a dance about the tormented poet and novelist Sylvia Plath, who killed herself in 1963 at age 30. Complicated reactions run through it.
Burgess, one of Washington’s most distinguished choreographers, is in the midst of creating this work in response to the exhibition “One Life: Sylvia Plath” at the National Portrait Gallery. Last year, the gallery named Burgess, director of Dana Tai Soon Burgess Dance Company, as its first choreographer in residence. It’s a rare distinction in the museum world and a first for any of the Smithsonian museums. Read more from Sarah L. Kaufman for The Washington Post.
The New York Times, Oct. 13
It is one of the iconic moments in modern economics: A young professor named Arthur laffer sketched a curve on a bar napkin in 1974 to show an aide to President Gerald R. Ford why the federal government should cut taxes.
The Laffer Curve became famous; the Republican Part became the partyof tax cuts; and, in 2015, the Smithsonian announced it was putting the napkin on display. Read more from Binyamin Applebaum for The New York Times.
The Wall Street Journal, Oct. 13
‘LL Cool J Artist’ by Kehinde Wiley, who will paint President Obama’s of f icial portrait. PHOTO: KEHINDE WILEY
The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery has commissioned a pair of rising-star artists—New York’s Kehinde Wiley and Baltimore’s Amy Sherald—to paint its official portraits of the former president and first lady.
Both artists have exhibited widely, but this presidential assignment amounts to a coup as they follow in the footsteps of artists like Gilbert Stuart, whose portraits of George Washington are considered masterpieces. The Obamas also made a point to champion the arts during their time in the White House, which has heightened art-world curiosity over which artists they would choose. Read more from Kelly Crow for The Wall Street Journal.
The Washington Post, Oct. 13
Scientists from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute have been checking to whether an important moratorium on possible carriers of a deadly disease will have time to protect American salamanders. The spotted salamander, seen here, is native to the eastern United States. (Brian Gratwicke, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute)
An import moratorium, a kind of virtual wall, put in place last last year to protect America’s salamanders from the scourge of possible disease seems to be working, according to a Smithsonian Institution report.
In essence, the report ,based on swabs taken from of the skin of pet salamanders, appears to show that the import curbs may have been imposed in time to keep America free of a deadly fungal ailment that has afflicted salamanders elsewhere.
A study published Friday by scientists with the Smithsonian’s Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) , cited a 98.4 percent cut in imports of 201 salamander species that could be carrying the disease. Read more from Martin Weil for the New York Times.
Half of our home galaxy is terra incognita. That will soon change
Scientific American, Oct. 13
Astronomers directly measured the distance to a star-forming region on the far side of our Milky Way galaxy, past the galactic center. Further measurements could, at last, bring long-hidden regions of the Milky Way to light. Credit: Bill Saxton NRAO, AUI, NSF; Robert Hurt NASA
Think of the Milky Way—or search for pictures of it online—and you’ll see images of a standard spiral galaxy viewed face-on, a sprawling pinwheel of starlight and dust containing hundreds of billions of stars. These images, however, are mostly make-believe.
We know the Milky Way is a star-filled spiral galaxy in excess of 100,000 light-years wide, and we know our solar system drifts between two spiral arms at its outskirts, some 27,000 light-years from its center. But much beyond that, our knowledge fades. No space probe or telescope built by humans has ever escaped the Milky Way to turn back and take a portrait; because we are embedded in our galaxy’s disk, we can only see it as a bright band of stars across the sky. For astronomers trying to map it, the effort is a bit like learning the anatomy of a human body from the perspective of a single skin cell somewhere on a forearm. How many spiral arms does the Milky Way have, and how do those spiral arms branch and curl around the galaxy? How many stars does the Milky Way really contain? How much does it weigh? What does our cosmic home actually look like, viewed from another nearby galaxy? Ask an astronomer—and if he or she is being perfectly honest, you will learn that we do not fully know. Read more from Lee Billings for Scientific American.
Posted: 24 October 2017