Human Sunburst on the National Mall

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Yesterday morning, nearly 4,000 Smithsonian employees gathered together for the first-ever group staff photo. Now, a throng of people on the National Mall is pretty commonplace—but how about a throng of people arranged to create the Smithsonian Institution sunburst? Unless the mobs of tourists visiting the Mall this year conspire and coordinate themselves to pull off a similar work of human art, I think this is pretty darn cool.

The idea came about when director of Special Events and Protocol Nicole Krakora and media specialist Charlie Weber—who are both co-chairs of the annual staff picnic—began discussing ideas for this year's gathering. "Charlie and I were overall producers and event leads," Krakora says. "Rob Schneider, technical director for the Folklife Festival, helped with the mapping, technical aspects, and getting the heavy equipment, photographer Eric Long recruited his fellow photobugs. We had several dozen folks working on this and we had close to 30 folks whose job was to serve as photo wranglers to organize the masses into groups and then parade them into the sunburst. Each wrangler was assigned to a specific section of the map and once they got everyone in their spots, the Undersecretary, Richard Kurin, from a bucket crane, directed them on where we needed to fill holes and straighten up the edges. It was an amazing production."

Of course, all great undertakings such as this don't come without their minor hiccups. See the peeps up front with the Smithsonian signage? Well, after that shot was taken, we all turned around to face the Castle for another round of photos—but the placard people forgot to rearrange themselves so there are a few blooper photos circulating around Facebook with the somewhat cryptic message: "0102 !NAINOSHTIMS EHT ERA EW." But for a first go at organizing that many people, the whole affair was remarkably smooth.

You can see the whole series of staff photos online on the Smithsonian's news desk page. They're pretty spectacular shots. Now, maybe next year—if the Smithsonian is in the spirit of outdoing itself—we can all gather on a hilltop and belt out "I'd Like To Teach the World to Sing" in unison. Or maybe bust out some dance moves in the middle of a train station. You know, just a thought.

(Ed. note -- see that blob of red staffers in red? The ATM blog team is just to the right of them!)

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