Articles by Haleema Shah

The technology (above: c. 1947 advertisement for Carrier) that was initially envisioned as a tool to enhance industrial productivity is now a near necessity for American homes and transportation.

The Unexpected History of the Air Conditioner

The invention was once received with chilly skepticism but has become a fixture of American life

In 1904, Joseph Kekuku, inventor of the Hawaiian steel guitar, left Hawaii to perform on the American West Coast. Newspaper critics called him the “world’s greatest guitar soloist.”

Hitting the High Notes: A Smithsonian Year of Music

How the Hawaiian Steel Guitar Changed American Music

The season finale of Sidedoor tells the story of an indigenous Hawaiian instrument with a familiar sound and unexpected influences

Gold tells the "story that colonialism sought to deny, of indigenous, structured, wonderful, cultured civilizations," says the Smithsonian's Gus Casely-Hayford.

Why There Is More to Gold Than Meets the Eye

The Smithsonian’s Gus Casely-Hayford says the precious metal was both a foundation for massive West African empires and a cultural touchstone

The years when the teenage Lincoln was an accomplished prankster are retold in an old Smithsonian radio broadcast.

When Abraham Lincoln Played Prankster-in-Chief

Old is new again, as Smithsonian’s Sidedoor podcast revisits a radio drama from 1938

Roxie Laybourne's work changed the role of museums in public life by turning the Smithsonian’s collection of thousands of birds into an applied science tool.

Meet Roxie Laybourne, the Feather Detective Who Changed Aviation

A new Sidedoor episode tells the story of Roxy Laybourne, a Smithsonian scientist who pioneered the field of forensic ornithology

Gladys Bentley’s powerful voice, fiery energy on the piano and bold lyrics made her a star of New York City nightclubs.

Women Who Shaped History

The Great Blues Singer Gladys Bentley Broke All the Rules

For the Smithsonian’s Sidedoor podcast, host Haleema Shah tells the story of an unapologetically gay African-American performer in 1920s and 30s

In a new Smithsonian Sidedoor episode, Cheech Marin talks about his dedication to elevating Chicano art, especially the kind that reflects an inventive and survivalist attitude.

Why the Chicano Underdog Aesthetic ‘Rasquachismo’ Is Finally Having Its Day

Next up for the podcast Sidedoor, actor and director Cheech Marin opines on the Chicano art sensibility that is defiant, tacky and wildly creative

In June of 1878, just a few years after he was acquitted for murder, Eadweard Muybridge made history at a racetrack in Palo Alto, California.

How a 19th-Century Photographer Made the First 'GIF' of a Galloping Horse

Eadweard Muybridge photographed a horse in different stages of its gallop, a new Smithsonian podcast documents the groundbreaking feat

Thanksgiving tells the story of a landmark moment of coexistence, multiculturalism and even neighborliness (above: The First Thanksgiving, 1621, Jean Leon G. Ferris) when Native Americans taught Pilgrims to farm, and shared a meal with them after a successful harvest in 1621.

How an Unremarkable 'Brunch in the Forest' Turned Into the Thanksgiving We Know

A new Sidedoor podcast dives into the holiday's origins

“What I also want people to understand is that as difficult as this history is, it's ripe with optimism," says the museum's director Lonnie Bunch. "Because if you can survive that cabin, there's a lot more you can survive.”

This South Carolina Cabin Is Now a Crown Jewel in the Smithsonian Collections

The 16- by 20-foot dwelling once housed the enslaved; a new podcast tells its story

As the first serious scientist to study the legendary creature, Krantz risked his career and reputation on a subject that many consider a joke. And while the museum remembers him as a man who loved science so much that he donated his body to it, another community remembers Krantz as a pioneer in the study of Sasquatch.

The Scientist Grover Krantz Risked It All. . .Chasing Bigfoot

The dedicated anthropologist donated his body to science and it’s on display, but his legacy is complicated