I think my colleague Timothy Foote, a former editor and writer at Smithsonian magazine, knew he'd struck gold 20 years ago when he came up with the idea to tell one story every month about an artifact in the Smithsonian Institution's collections.
Drawing on the wealth of information held in the vaults and back room files, not to mention the collective minds of the Smithsonian’s curatorial staff, we began writing mini-memoirs. Over the years, we've done both the wildly famous—like Jerry Seinfeld’s "puffy" shirt, and the seemingly banal—like a stamp collection, which becomes an artifact to be reckoned with because it was previously owned by John Lennon. Object at Hand became extremely successful at giving our readers a sense of what it's like to be on the other side of the museum's protective Plexiglas.
The resultant column, "The Object at Hand," is still going strong, especially since only 200 artifacts have been covered since its inception. In honor of this milestone anniversary, we've pulled together a handful of our favorites here on Smithsonian.com and created a unique display that includes the artifact and the original article pulled from the vast archives of Smithsonian magazine.
With 136 million more objects left in the Smithsonian's collection, we've got plenty of stories left to tell, so let us know what your favorites are in the comments area below.