From the Castle: Success at Smithsonian Channel

In just under two years, the award-winning Smithsonian Channel has created a strong library of fascinating documentaries

The Batwomen of Panama
"The Batwomen of Panama," one of nearly a hundred films now showing on the Smithsonian Channel, unlocks the mysteries of bat behavior. Smithsonian Channel

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial here in Washington, with 58,260 names carved in black granite and personal mementos left by families and friends, is deeply moving. As is the documentary "Remembering Vietnam: The Wall at 25." You can watch this film and almost a hundred others on the Smithsonian Channel, now reaching millions of households through participating cable and satellite companies. I have especially enjoyed "America's Hangar," which features our large aircraft at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center; "Sound Revolution: The Electric Guitar," a story of invention and musical history showing a rich collection of instruments; a "Stories From the Vaults" episode at the Smithsonian Archives of American Art revealing Frida Kahlo's love letters; "The Batwomen of Panama," with ecologist Elisabeth Kalko unlocking mysteries of nighttime bat behavior at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute; and "Picturing the Presidents," a walk through history at our National Portrait Gallery.

The Smithsonian Channel was launched in October 2007 with a 24-hour schedule—a large presence we expect will grow with the addition of new distributors and outlets, including PDAs and cellphones. The Channel has already received 31 awards and nominations for artistic quality, including an Emmy Award for Best Cinematography (for "The Magic of Motion," an episode in the "Nature Tech" series), five Parents' Choice Awards and five CINE Golden Eagle Awards.

While off to a good start, the Smithsonian Channel is a newcomer in a field of well-established and high-quality competitors. Our special niche relates to the strength of the Smithsonian Institution (SI), the world's largest museum and research complex, with expertise across science, art, history and culture, and a collection of 137 million objects.

The Smithsonian Channel is not our first television venture. Since the late 1950s, we have produced hundreds of hours of exhibition, TV and home video programs. Now, technology has enabled us to create 100 hours of programming in just under two years, including new SI-focused documentaries and other films relevant to the Institution's work. Future programs will help viewers experience aspects of the Smithsonian they would normally never see, such as our work with endangered species at the National Zoo's Conservation and Research Center in Virginia. With almost 100 million American households and many more around the globe watching cable television, the Smithsonian Channel is a key part of our outreach. If you haven't already enjoyed its offerings, I hope you will soon. For previews, go to and click on Smithsonian Channel.

G. Wayne Clough is the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution

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