The Smithsonian American Art Museum has been hosting a variety of themed scavenger hunts in its Luce Foundation Center, a visible art storage facility on the museum's third floor, since 2006. But just last year, Tierney Sneeringer, an assistant for the center with a passion for the Spanish language, decided she would start translating the clues. So far, she has translated three of the hunts, including one with a focus on Smithsonian history that has been offered throughout Hispanic Heritage Month, from September 15 to October 15.
"I thought it would be a really good way to engage visitors who speak the language," says Sneeringer, who studied in Spain prior to working at the Luce Foundation Center.
The offering has been enjoyed by native speakers like eight-year-0ld Mateo Flores, who begged his mother to take him, as well as learners of the language. When I navigated the clues one evening last week, it put my rusty Spanish, studied in high school and off and on in college, to the test. Once I remembered that siglo meant "century" and not "aisle," I started to get in the flow.
Tightly-cropped images, as well as guiding hints in the questions, direct the scavenger to seven of the more than 3,3oo works of art on display and reveal the pieces' interesting ties to Smithsonian history. Do you know what sculpture's face was used as a model for the faces of all the first lady mannequins at the National Museum of American History? What about the famous painter who worked in a studio in the Smithsonian Castle? How about the 20th-century abstract expressionist painter—friends with Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock and Arshile Gorky—who worked, by day, as a Smithsonian curator?
I won't spoil the surprise. The scavenger hunt is available at the Luce Center's information desk or can be downloaded, along with other hunts, here. Happy hunting! Or, shall I say, feliz caza!