In the days of the Civil War, people would climb up to the towers of Smithsonian Castle to watch as Confederate troops gathered in Northern Virginia. Early in the war, President Abraham Lincoln stood at this perch, wishing for a better view. His companion, the first Smithsonian Secretary Joseph Henry, suggested balloons. This conversation sparked the launch of Mr. Lincoln’s "air force," held on the grounds that currently house the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum.
This story will be one of many told February 4 and 5 at a free virtual conference to honor the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth. From online exhibits and programs, curator lectures and digital forums, participants will share the celebration with educators, history buffs and students from around the country. All of the conference sessions will be recorded and archived, so they can be replayed at any time. You can bookmark this special event right now.
The conference is part of a forceful push to bring the Smithsonian into the 21st century. The primary goal is to make the collection available to its rightful owners, the people. By webcasting National Portrait Gallery David C. Ward's upcoming discussion about how Lincoln used photography to present himself to America, and podcasting Smithsonian Under Secretary Richard Kurin's analysis of the connections between the Smithsonian, Lincoln, and President Barack Obama, (check it out here), the Institution is taking itself beyond the Mall and into classrooms and living rooms.