The President with the First Lady in a freight elevator heading to an inaugural ball in 2009.

How Pete Souza Fits Into the Storied History of Presidential Photography

In his new book, the former White House photographer frames a clear picture of the Obama years

In Africa, ivory has been a status symbol because it comes from elephants, a highly respected animal, and because it is fairly easy to carve into works of art.

Why Is Ivory So Precious? And More Questions From Our Readers

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When I felt strong enough to go out for a walk, out of desperation from being locked up in the flat, I would walk along the Thames on the large promenade that borders the river. It was a cool night in April, and the sun had left a searing purple and pink horizon line on the city. It is rare to see such colors linger at dusk and I had with me my Polaroid camera. I took a few shots and remember how silent and eerie the city felt. A ghost town is truly what it was. This image  was taken home and washed with water, sprayed with a foamy bleach and then doused with liquid hand sanitizer in the patches of foam.

Start With a Polaroid, Then Add Disinfectant. Here's the Result

A quarantined photographer makes the most of the harsh materials at hand to create a fragile portrait of life in a pandemic

The third president evidently had a love of vanilla ice cream.

Make Thomas Jefferson's Recipe for Ice Cream

The co-author of the Declaration of Independence also drafted a radical recipe

Fumigation was used on library book collections in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when book-borrowing was seen as a possible disease vector.

How Do Libraries Clean Books? And More Questions From Our Readers

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President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 on Liberty Island in New York Harbor.

The 1924 Law That Slammed the Door on Immigrants and the Politicians Who Pushed it Back Open

Decades of xenophobic policy were overturned, setting the United States on the path to the diversity seen today

Eugene V. Debs was in a West Virginia penitentiary when he lost the 1920 presidential election.

Has Anyone Ever Run for President While in Prison? And More Questions From Our Readers

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Protesters gathered outside the U.S. Supreme Court on April 23, 2019. The Commerce v. New York case highlighted a proposed question about U.S. citizenship included by the Trump administration in the 2020 U.S. census.

The Enumerated Story of the Census

A new book charts the history of counting the public, from the ancient censuses in Rome to the American version of decennial data collection

Presenting the winners of Smithsonian magazine's 17th annual photo contest

These Are the Winning Photos of Smithsonian Magazine's 17th Annual Photo Contest

From Vietnam to Antarctica, this year's winners bring you amazing glimpses of a changing world—and the indefatigable human spirit

As climate change brings moister, warmer air, lightning is increasing and causing fires in the boreal forests where that used to be rare.

Why Does Lightning Rarely Strike in the Arctic? And More Questions From Our Readers

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“New Paths to Change: Undocumented Immigrant Activism, 2000 to the Present” is an curatorial effort to collect the stories community organizers across the nation (above: a 2017 immigration rally in San Francisco).

How the Smithsonian Is Documenting the Work of Immigrant Rights Activists

A new collecting initiative will tell the stories of the undocumented and their political organizing movements

Oscillations originating deep inside the sun become detectable only on the surface.

How Do Scientists Record Sounds From the Sun? And More Questions From Our Readers

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Margaret Chase Smith sworn in on June 10, 1940 to fill the vacancy left by her husband, Rep. Clyde Smith. Left to right in the picture: Margaret Chase Smith, Speaker William Bankhead and Rep. James C. Oliver, Republican of Maine, who sponsored Mrs. Smith

The History of Wives Replacing Their Dead Husbands in Congress

This tradition was one of the main ways American women gained access to political power in the 20th century

Sailors reading, writing and relaxing at the Red Cross
Rest Room in New Orleans. Around 400,000 African Americans served in World War I.

How World War I Planted the Seeds of the Civil Rights Movement

The Great War was a “transformative moment” for African Americans, who fought for the U.S. even as they were denied access to Democracy

John Kinard, the first African American to head a Smithsonian museum, took the helm of the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum in 1967. The museum was housed in a former theater on Nichols Street in a Southeast neighborhood of Washington, D.C.

Fifty Years Ago, the Idea of a Museum for the People Came of Age

A Smithsonian symposium asked experts to weigh in on the strength of the community museum and chart its way forward

The North Island brown kiwi is a flightless, nocturnal bird that lays the biggest egg relative to its body size.

What Bird Lays the Biggest Eggs Compared to Its Body Size? Where Does 'Lame Duck' Come From? And More Questions From Our Readers

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While mosquitoes can be pesky, they're an important part of the food chain.

Why Do Mosquitoes Exist? Why Do Elephants and Donkeys Represent the G.O.P. and the Democrats? And More Questions From Our Readers

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The Wright brothers' 1903 flight made history, regardless of other claims about earlier flights.

Was Jakob Brodbeck First in Flight? And More Questions From Our Readers

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Detail of the Korean Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara (Gwaneum bosal) crafted in the Goryeo period, ca. 1220 to 1285.

Rare, Centuries-Old Korean Buddhist Masterpiece Goes on View

Sealed and hidden within the sculpture were sacred texts and symbolic objects

Untitled from the series "Witness 1979" by Hengameh Golestan, March 11 1979

Viewing Iran and Its Complexities Through the Eyes of Visual Artists

Compelling works from six female photographers tell stories of revolution, displacement and longing for home

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