Articles by Donovan Webster

On July 8, 1947, a headline in the local paper in Roswell, New Mexico ignited 70 years of "flying saucer" sightings.

In 1947, A High-Altitude Balloon Crash Landed in Roswell. The Aliens Never Left

Despite its persistence in popular culture, extraterrestrial life owes more to the imagination than reality

At the top of the Great Historical Clock, amid decorative flourishes,George Washington reviews his troops.

The Innovative Spirit fy17

This Towering 19th-Century Mechanical Clock Was the Smartwatch of Its Era

With hundreds of moving parts, the Great Historical Clock of America has been revived

Schwarzkopf's helmet, a PASGT, represents "how technology and innovation work together in the field of ground-forces protection,” says Frank Blazich, Jr., the Smithsonian's curator of modern military forces.

The Innovative Spirit fy17

How the Military Helmet Evolved From a Hazard to a Bullet Shield

With the development of Kevlar and advanced industrial design, soldiers are now better protected from traumatic brain injury

On May 6, 1937, the German airship Zeppelin LZ 129 Hindenburg burst into flames in Lakehurst, New Jersey, while the airship was landing.

Ask Smithsonian 2017

What Really Felled the Hindenburg?

On the anniversary of the conflagration, mysteries still remain

Stragglers—French Wounded in the Retreat of Chateau-Thierry by Claggett Wilson, ca. 1919

World War I: 100 Years Later

After Nearly a Century in Storage, These World War I Artworks Still Deliver the Vivid Shock of War

Pulled from the collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Claggett Wilson's watercolors are in a traveling show

The critically acclaimed director James Gray took on the story of explorer Percival Fawcett's search for a lost city in Amazonia.

How Director James Gray Discovered the Insanity Behind the Search for “The Lost City of Z”

A story of Victorian-age madness and exploration in the South American jungle is coming to a theater near you

To find flecks of gold, workers devour the rainforest floor with water cannons. "There are a lot of accidents," says one. "The sides of the hole can fall away, can crush you."

The Devastating Costs of the Amazon Gold Rush

Spurred by rising global demand for the metal, miners are destroying invaluable rainforest in Peru's Amazon basin

Pensacola, its anchorage first admired by the Spanish 450 years ago.  In 1686, Spanish navigator Juan Jordán described Pensacola's bay as "the best I have ever seen."

Harboring History in Pensacola

In Florida's panhandle, vibrant Pensacola stakes its claim as the oldest European settlement in the United States

Fossil prospector Ron Frithiof (with a mosasaur from his collections) was sued over a T. rex that he uncovered.  "This whole experience," he says, "has been a disaster."

The Dinosaur Fossil Wars

Across the American West, legal battles over dinosaur fossils are on the rise as amateur prospectors make major finds

Young guests and living history staffers unload hay.

Back to the Frontier

At Conner Prairie, Indiana, living history is the main event

Paciofic Crest Trail vistas (Pasayten Wilderness) have inspired generations of hikers. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas recalled a Cascade trek he made in 1914 at age 16: "We commanded the whole scene as if we were on the spire of a cathedral."

Footpath Atop the West

Since the 1930s, the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail, extending from Mexico to Canada, has beckoned young and old

Japanese tank column advancing in Bataan

In Their Footsteps

Retracing the route of captured American and Filipino soldiers on the Bataan Peninsula in World War II, the author grapples with their sacrifice

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Lasting Impressions

Scientists cast tall shadows but find themselves hard pressed to explain the blues to Mongolians

Hidden within Baja's backcountry, many rock-art sites are accessible only on foot or by mule. For most travelers, the starting point is the town of San Ignacio. Visitors willing to brave hardships will find themselves confronting prehistory directly. In the landscape surrounding the Cueva Pintada site, for instance, palms flourishing in the canyons may well be the same species paleolithic painters used in constructing scaffolding to create their monumental art.

Drawn from Prehistory

Deep within Mexico's Baja peninsula, nomadic painters left behind the largest trove of ancient art in the Americas

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Malaria Kills One Child Every 30 Seconds

A new pandemic imperils half the world. Scientists think they know what has to be done, but the disease continues to outsmart them

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Two for Tea

America's only commercial tea crop is grown on an island with plants more than a century old

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Inexplicable Moments

Strange things happen at this wacky crossroads of the hopelessly alien-addled in the Nevada desert

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Walking the Grizzlies' Road, Yellowstone to the Yukon

Trekking 2,000 miles across rugged wilderness, biologist Karsten Heuer has braved bears and avalanches on behalf of a bold conservation initiative

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Pipe Dreams

The royal instrument is the most complex and powerful yet devised by the human mind

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Traveling the Long Road to Freedom, One Step at a Time

When historian Anthony Cohen set out to retrace a route along the legendary Underground Railroad, he recovered a piece of the American past

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