Ends September 8
The American-born painter James McNeill Whistler moved to London’s Chelsea section in 1863—just as the formerly squalid riverside precinct was beginning to gentrify, thanks to better flood and sewage control provided by the massive public-works project known as the Thames Embankment. On his daily rounds over the next 40 years, Whistler routinely made etchings and paintings (above: oil on wood, 1880s), incidentally recording a society in flux. See 17 of his works from this period in “Whistler’s Neighborhood: Impressions of a Changing London,” at the Freer Gallery.
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Up to the Minute
Sea captains once used chronometers to figure out where they were (above: an American model, 1815). Now you can tap the Global Positioning System’s satellite-borne clocks with your smartphone. “Time and Navigation,” at the Air and Space Museum in collaboration with the American History Museum, traces how revolutions in timekeeping over three centuries have helped us find our way.
March 29, 2013-September 1, 2014
Over the last millennium, entire civilizations rose and fell in Central America and left behind little more than ceramics. But those creations “tell us things, in some cases, very detailed things,” says Ann McMullen, curator of “Central America’s Past Revealed: Cerámica de los Ancestros,” at the American Indian Museum. See more than 160 pieces, including a vessel of a woman on a bench (below: A.D. 800-1200) from what is now Costa Rica.
From the Victor
March 9-April 28
Making its U.S. debut: The Cyrus Cylinder (above: c. 539 B.C.) was known as the first bill of human rights. It refers to restoring religious sanctuaries and returning deported peoples to their homelands after Persia’s King Cyrus conquered Babylon in 539 B.C. On loan from the British Museum, the clay cylinder inscribed with cuneiform appears at the Sackler Gallery with other objects from ancient Persia.
Showing sympathy for the planet may be getting a bit easier, courtesy of “Green Revolution,” from the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service. It features such eco-friendly phenomena as live-worm compost bins, bicycle-powered electronics and art made from recyclables (above: a mosaic of 60,000 bottle caps). And how does the show save on fossil fuels? Objects are built on-site rather than trucked around. Now at museums in the United States and Mexico.