Curators' Corner

Hassinger's video (above: Birthright by Maren Hassinger, 2005) is a powerful history of seven orphaned children, a story of stolen labor and stolen lives, a family chronicle “that came out of being enslaved, the aftermath of slavery,” says the artist.

Join in a Meditation on the Twists of Memories Handed Down From One Generation to Another

A new commission, based on the acclaimed video 'Birthright' by artist Maren Hassenger, explores the legacy of slavery in family history

This commemorative sculpture by an Edo artist is one of 29 objects the Smithsonian is proposing to repatriate to Nigeria. 

Why the Smithsonian Adopted a New Policy on Ethical Collecting

For more than a century, museum artifacts were acquired in ways we no longer find acceptable. How can we repair the damage?

Before the critical 1965 Supreme Court ruling Griswold v. Connecticut, state and federal morality laws prohibited access to contraceptives, even to married couples (above: a picketer protests the opening of a new Planned Parenthood Center in New Haven, Connecticut).

The Revolutionary 1965 Supreme Court Decision That Declared Sex a Private Affair

A Smithsonian curator of medicine and science looks back to the days when police could arrest couples for using contraception

Since 2017 when the Smithsonian Institution launched its first Earth Optimism Summit, marine biologist Nancy Knowlton notes that positive change is happening. “The price of renewable energy is cheaper than ever, electric vehicles are finally on the verge of taking off, and the world seems ready to protect 30 percent of its lands and water,” she says.

A New Surge of Earth Optimism Takes Center Stage at This Year's Folklife Festival

The challenges are many, but evidence shows that positivity emboldens global conservation efforts

For many behind the so-called anti-vax movement, faith is the ultimate protection. At an anti-shutdown rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, a protester painted the hood of his truck with the motto “Jesus is my vaccine.”

What the History of Science and Religion Reveals About Today's Divisive Covid Debates

A new Smithsonian book and exhibition explores the ongoing conflicts and reconciliations between faith and technology in American life

A member of the Young Tuxedo Brass Band from New Orleans poses with Ukrainian youth in Kyiv, May 1990.
 

The Music and Freedom We Experienced on the Streets of Kyiv

The story of a joint Smithsonian-Soviet-Ukrainian program in 1990 lends poignant resonance to Russia’s brutal invasion today

Scholars say that Afrocentric notions of invention have often emphasized serving the needs of the community, social justice and artistic self-expression, such as the unpatented innovations of DJ Grandmaster Flash, who reimagined turntables and mixers as musical instruments and developed techniques like “scratching” that defined rap and hip- hop music.
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Tearing Down the Barriers for Black Inventors Begins With Honoring Their Historic Breakthroughs

Smithsonian’s Eric S. Hintz, a historian of invention, details how scholars are envisioning a more inclusive ecosystem for the innovators of tomorrow

This Bushnell telescope allowed Sally Ride to gaze at her favorite constellation, Orion, and envision her future as an astronaut. 

Women Who Shaped History

How the Smithsonian Is Honoring Remarkable American Women

From a series of coins to a museum in the making, their groundbreaking achievements gain new visibility

"American Girl (above: the new doll Evette Peters) was seeking to emphasize to its young audience the importance of being able to envision themselves as part of the larger American story," writes the Smithsonian's Katrina Lashley. "And that vision requires more accessible histories, as well as role models in civic engagement."

Why This American Girl Doll Inspires Environmental Activism

The story of Evette Peters is bolstered by the Anacostia Community Museum's research into Washington D.C.'s local neighborhoods and urban waterways

Damage assessment mission to the Mosul Cultural Museum, 2019.

How the Smithsonian Protects Cultural Heritage Around the World

In the wake of crisis and disaster, rescue workers led by the Smithsonian step in to safeguard irreplaceable treasures

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Evotourism ®

Seven New Things We Learned About Human Evolution in 2021

Paleoanthropologists Briana Pobiner and Ryan McRae reveal some of the year's best findings in human origins studies

The 1946 film It's a Wonderful Life stars James Stewart as down-on-his-luck George Bailey and Donna Reed as his wife, Mary.

What 'It's a Wonderful Life' Teaches Us About American History

The Christmas classic, released 75 years ago, conveys many messages beyond having faith in one another

Elon Musk, after securing a $2.9 billion NASA contract for SpaceX, recently hosted an episode of “Saturday Night Live.”

The Return of America's Celebrity Inventor

In a new book, Smithsonian historian Eric S. Hintz traces the rise and fall, and rise again, of the maverick inventor

In October 1971, Disney World "cast members" pose with celebrity Mickey Mouse at one of the theme park's grand opening ceremonies. 

In the Magic Kingdom, History Was a Lesson Filled With Reassurance

Fifty years ago, Disney World's celebrated opening promised joy and inspiration to all; today the theme park is reckoning with its white middle-class past

An interactive lunch counter at the African American History Museum lets visitors grapple with moral dilemmas of the civil rights movement.

Race in America

Secretary Lonnie Bunch on Why the Smithsonian Is Talking About Race

In a deeply divided moment, a new initiative aims to bring Americans together by reckoning with our racial past

Among the ways that the American History Museum has engaged visitors was the 2010 interactive play “Join the Student Sit-Ins,” starring actor Xavier Carnegie (above) at one of the iconic objects in the Smithsonian's collection, the Greensboro Lunch Counter, where on February 1,1960, four Black college students at North Carolina A & T University began a legendary sit-in for racial justice.

Innovation for Good

Why History Museums Are Convening a 'Civic Season'

History is complex, says the Smithsonian’s Chris Wilson; here's how to empower citizens with the lessons it offers

Complicated adventures await Loki, the "god of mischief," played by Tom Hiddleston in the new Disney+ series produced by Marvel Studios.

A Folklorist Explains Loki's Place in Mythology's Pantheon of Trickster Heroes

Smithsonian's James Deutsch says that behind the character in the new Marvel Studios series lies the oft-told story of "guile" outsmarting authority

Artist Kenny Altidor unveiled this Brooklyn mural of George Floyd in July 2020.

Remembering George Floyd and the Movement He Sparked

Kevin Young, director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture, reflects on the one-year anniversary of Floyd's killing

"Beckoning: A Playlist of AAPI Joy, Sorrow, Rage and Resistance" is an eclectic mix of heartwarming tunes, instrumentals and pointed social commentary from such veterans as Yoko Ono and Brothers Cazimero as well as emerging artists like Audrey Nuna and G Yamazawa.

The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center Calls Upon Its Community to Share the Power of Music

As an antidote for these times, 43 songs honoring joy, sorrow, rage and resistance

America’s public, partisan and passionate campaigns fired up uniformed young men who participated in torchlit marches, a style pioneered by the Republican Wide Awakes stumping for Abraham Lincoln in 1860 (above: a procession stomped through Lower Manhattan’s Printing House Square).

The Little-Known Story of 19th-Century America's Partisan Warfare

In a new book, Smithsonian curator Jon Grinspan examines the history of America's furious and fractious politics

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