In August of 2007, we started this blog as an off-shoot of our popular department in the magazine, also called "Around the Mall." Since then, a host of interns and staff writers (more than 20!) have covered all things Smithsonian on our way to our 1000th post, which we published last week. Our goal has always been to let you all know what's going on at the Smithsonian museums in D.C. and New York, whether it be new exhibitions or newborns at the zoo. So without patting ourselves on the back too much, here are the 10 most popular posts since we started blogging here at Around the Mall:
1. A Secret Message in Abraham Lincoln's Watch — ATM Editor Beth Py-Lieberman attended a special unveiling of a new object in the American History Museum's collections...a pocket watch belonging to Abraham Lincoln that may not have been opened in over a century.
"And so a small crowd gathered in an elegant back room chamber at the museum. Cameras crowded around jeweler George Thomas of the Towson Watch Company, who was seated at a makeshift craftsman’s bench. As the hour approached, curator Rubenstein solemnly stepped forward. The gold pocket watch was delivered to the bench...."
2. Night at the Museum: The Video Game — Former intern Joseph Caputo interviewed video game developer Jeremy Mahler about his work on the Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian video game.
"We started by taking a trip out to the Smithsonian and taking 8,000 photos. We drew up schematics of the real museums, so we could give the team back home the closest thing possible to having seen it for themselves."
3. Julia Child's Pots and Pans are Back in the Kitchen — Everyone loves Julia Child, including you, apparently. Just in time for the release of Julie and Julia, the curators at the American History Museum hung up the famous chef's cookware as a new addition to the exhibit.
"From their new perch in the museum, after being tenderly cleaned and arranged by white gloved curators, the pots and pans are gloriously polished. And there for the ages they’ll remain."
4. Bidding Farewell to National Inventor's Month — Posted just a couple of weeks ago, this quick rundown of some of the most famous (and oddest) inventions in the collections of the Smithsonian was written by frequent contributor (and magazine editorial assistant) Megan Gambino.
“The Wizard of Menlo Park” has many inventions to his credit—an electric vote recorder, the phonograph, a telephone transmitter—but his most famous was the light bulb. He scribbled more than 40,000 pages full of notes and tested more than 1,600 materials, everything from hairs from man’s beard to coconut fiber, in his attempts to find the perfect filament."
5. The Technique Behind Martin Schoeller's Photography — Abby Callard, another former intern, snagged the enviable opportunity to interview Martin Schoeller, the portraiture photographer known for his head-on shots of politicians and celebrities.
"I think sometimes photographers don’t want this intimacy. You’re much closer to your subjects than other times. It’s a reflection maybe of my personality that I feel comfortable being close to somebody. I always felt that it really was the most essential part about a person, stripping away the clothes, stripping away any backgrounds, really focusing in on that person."
6. A Holiday Proposal — Everyone is a sap for a good marriage proposal story, so when we heard about this charming tale of love in the forensic lab at the Natural History museum, we could not resist.
"He had started planning the behind-the-scenes proposal in October, having to special order the laser-engraved microscope slide from a scientific device company in Illinois. But the tough part, says Plagmann, was tearing Walski away from the exhibit."
7. Rodents of Unusual Size Do Exist — Anytime you get the chance to reference The Princess Bride, you take it. This post about very large rodents found by Smithsonian scientists in Papua New Guinea was no exception.
"Evidently, it was a rodent of unusual size, weighing a whopping three and a half pounds and measuring an incredible 32 inches from nose to tail. It wasn’t found in the Fire Swamp, but in a crater of an extinct volcano in Papua New Guinea."
8. Dan Brown's Smithsonian: Fact or Fiction — Dan Brown's bestseller The Lost Symbol reached book stores in October 2009 featuring, for better or worse, the Smithsonian. We pitted Brown's fiction against reality to help Brown fans discern the truth behind the story.
"Dan Brown asserts that the Museum Support Center, a storage center for objects in the Smithsonian collection not on display, houses more pieces than the Hermitage, the Vatican Museum and the New York Metropolitan, combined.
Fact: The MSC houses 55 million objects and specimens"
9. Juneteenth: A New Birth of Freedom — Pegged to an exhibition at the Anacostia Community Museum, former summer intern Ashley Luthern wrote a post on the lesser known American holiday Juneteenth (celebrated each June 19) and spoke with Dr. William Wiggins Jr., p rofessor Emeritus of Folklore at Indiana University and author of Jubilation: African-American Celebrations in the Southeast.
"One of the popular legends associated with that is that Lincoln dispatched Union soldiers to move throughout the South to spread the word, and it took until the 19th of June. But I think on the other end, you could perhaps say it took so long because of the resistance to emancipation itself. Texas was one of the last outposts of slavery and Galveston is sort of the epicenter."
10. Warning: Extremely Cute Pictures of the New Clouded Leopards at the Zoo — Big shocker, but a post about cute animal babies made it into our top ten. We haven't checked in on the leopards in a while, but former intern Erica Hendry led us in a staff-wide, "Awwww" with these photos.
Born on Sunday evening at the Smithsonian National Zoo’s Front Royal, Virginia campus, the two cubs (which are not yet named) weighed about a half pound each. As they become adults, they will grow to between 30 and 50 pounds each and measure up to five feet in length.
These sort of milestones also present a good time for us to undergo a reevaluation of what we do as well. What would you like to see more of? Less of? What do you enjoy reading? Let us know in the comments!