Found: Punxsutawney Phil in the Nation's Attic

A 1976 black and white photo captures the bronze scupture of everyone's favorite groundhog by artist Jimilu Mason

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Our museum colleagues here at the Smithsonian Institution often bristle at the metaphor, the Nation's Attic. But we on the ATM team never cease to marvel at the stuff we can find in the Institution's database, and among its collections, that tend to coalesce with the news of the day.


Today, as you surely know, our groundhog friend, Phil, up in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, has come out of his tree-stump den and missed seeing his shadow. Thus, its top-hatted keepers have declared this nasty winter is soon to end. Spring is on the way, folks. So let's all do a happy dance.

As to the why and wherefore, the Smithsonian Attic can deliver a tiny, 1976 black and white photo of a bronze sculpture of Punxsutawney Phil by artist Jimilu Mason (b. 1930) that resides in the Pennsylvania town where all the excitement took place this morning? (The Attic recently became very searchable with this nifty database, which offers up 6.4 million records with 536,000 images, video and sound files, electronic journals and other resources from the Smithsonian's museums, archives and libraries.) Well, that's because a unique program, Save Outdoor Sculpture, run by the Smithsonian American Art Museum and Heritage Preservation, begun in 1985, works with community volunteers and other groups to preserve, celebrate and document America's outdoor sculptures. (And this photo was obviously taken back in the day before digital cameras.)

So, today, on Groundhog Day, we salute, not only our furry friend (who thankfully made the right call), but the host of volunteers who work to preserve our nation's outdoor sculptures. And for those of you who would prefer to see this lovely homage to a unique American tradition in a better image, please point your browser here.

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About Beth Py-Lieberman
Beth Py-Lieberman

Beth Py-Lieberman is the museums editor, covering exhibitions, events and happenings at the Smithsonian Institution. She has been a member of the Smithsonian team for more than two decades.

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