Ralph Frammolino spent nearly 25 years at the Los Angeles Times, most of them as an investigative reporter. His series for the paper about how the J. Paul Getty Museum built its antiquities collection, written with Jason Felch, was a finalist for the 2006 Pulitzer Prize. And it led to the publication earlier this year of Chasing Aphrodite: The Hunt for Looted Antiquities at the World’s Richest Museum, which “A Goddess Goes Home” updates and complements.
“The reason I wanted to write this piece for Smithsonian,” Frammolino says, “was to bring this story to a final conclusion. The Aphrodite had basically been haunting me, but it wasn’t until the book was ready to go to press that the statue went back home. I had to see the end of the story. I had to witness it. I had to feel it. So for me personally the most compelling moment came when I saw the statue back in Italy in the museum at Aidone—when I turned the corner and I saw the Aphrodite in her new exhibit space. She just seemed to pop out. There was something so special about her being there.”
As we go to press, Charles C. Mann’s 1493, from which “The Eyes Have It” is adapted, is a New York Times nonfiction best seller; it builds on the success of his earlier 1491, which we were also pleased to excerpt. Mann’s interests are in the intersection of science, commerce and the environment, and the new book is based on his conviction that “Columbus’ landing in 1492 set off this ecological convulsion that underlies a lot of the history that we learn in school. The potato is an example. The introduction of the potato ends up having a great deal to do with the rise of Europe and with the creation of modern agriculture—this extraordinary mechanism that has allowed us to have an ever-increasing number of people well fed.”
My first issue as editor of Smithsonian came off the presses within days of 9/11; my last issue is the one you hold in your hands. In many ways a terrible decade, it passed in a flash for me. Now it’s time to give somebody else the chance to lead this great magazine. (The search for my successor is underway.) Aided by a dedicated, caring staff, I have found editing Smithsonian the past ten years to be a privilege and a joy. Most days felt more like play than work. Thanks for your many letters, even those that chided us, and thanks for reading Smithsonian.