Skip to Content

Found 58,381 Resources

"Call & Response" by Ella Jenkins at 2009 Smithsonian Folklike Festival

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Ella Jenkins, Folkways Childrens artist performs for families at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. More about Ella Jenkins

"Capitalsaurus," A D.C. Dinosaur

Smithsonian Magazine

"Carmelina" by Los Pleneros de la 21 in Tribute to Marcial Reyes Arvelo at 2005 Smithsonian Folklife Festival

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Los Pleneros de la 21 perform "Carmelina," a traditional plena in tribute to the great plenero Marcial Reyes Arvelo, a founding member of the group and author of the piece. Jose Rivera, in his singing, places himself firmly in the classic school of the plena, referencing pleneros who influenced his musical upbringing. By including this version with panderetas (different sized circular frame drums), and a güiro(gourd rasp) Los Pleneros de la 21 give the listener the opportunity to taste the fresh, simple, and wonderful flavors or the traditional creole plena.

"Cast as white by default": Exploring the lack of diversity in movies

National Museum of American History

What if you watched only the lines in E.T. or the entire Harry Potter series that were spoken by people of color? You might realize two things: First, it doesn't take long. Second, it leaves you with questions. I interviewed Venezuelan American actor Dylan Marron, creator of the Every Single Word project, as part of my research for the upcoming History Film Forum.

Dylan, tell us a little about your Every Single Word project. What inspired you to do this project? How did you decide what films to use?

I created Every Single Word from two vantage points: film lover and actor. I've long been aware of the dearth of diversity in mainstream American films as a viewer, but it was only recently that I've come to feel the consequences of it from the inside. Casting calls that I would not be "right" for, roles that would call for me to "play up" my ethnicity, and agents who would compliment my work but then tell me that they weren't sure how much work there would be for my "type." I became well acquainted with the euphemisms employed to tell me I wasn't white enough to regularly get work.

I wanted to express this in a way that presented facts, not feelings. I figured if I presented the truth without comment that it would present a question rather than a statement. This is how many people of color speak in mainstream films. How does this sit with you?

I choose films that tell universal stories that are not about race whose protagonists could have been any color, but were cast as white by default.

Black-and-white portrait of woman with headwrap and stern or determined expression

I've noticed that you have an image of Scarlett O'Hara and Mammy, (characters from Gone with the Wind) as a background to your Every Single Word blog. What significance does that film hold for you? What are your views on the representation of people of color in that film?

In my mind Hattie McDaniel (the actor who played Mammy in Gone with the Wind) is the posterwoman for Every Single Word. Yes, she had a large supporting role in the most popular film in history. Yes, she won an Oscar for it. But what kind of role? Mammy was Scarlett O'Hara's dutiful servant, a house slave tending to her selfish white master in the context of a war that was fighting for her freedom. From a storytelling perspective that is a fascinating character who could easily be the protagonist of her own four-hour epic film. But she isn't, she's a one-note character (played beautifully by McDaniel with what she was given) that has little to no agency to change or affect the story of the film.

We still see the Mammy archetype today. Maids, servants, slaves—humans stripped of their agency whose characters don't have an arc. But why can people of color still only play characters written to be of color? Why are roles that are written to tell a colorless story automatically cast as white?

Recently you've been looking into historically based films. Do you see a contrast in these types of films? How do you think the lack of diversity in historical films shapes America's collective memory and American culture?

As we're seeing right now in the Texas textbook debate, history is just as much about the person teaching that history as it is about the history they're teaching. If only straight white dudes are controlling how history is told in film, then that's the only perspective we're going to get.

Dylan Marron's playlist includes scenes from Cimarron (1931) and other movies of the past, most of which feature very little dialogue by people of color

In many historical movies, specifically in war films, women are often absent from those narratives. Would you ever consider focusing your project on another group, such as women?

The lack of women in film is also a huge problem, specifically the absence of women with agency. For now, Every Single Word will be about race but I encourage all moviegoers to question not only the quantity but the content of the words any minority is allowed to speak in pop storytelling.

Why do you believe there is still this profound lack of diversity in Hollywood films?

The problems here are largely structural. It's all about who has the power and who has access to the means of production. If one group is still controlling the money in Hollywood, then they're also going to influence what stories Hollywood tells. We craft stories in our own image.

What historical films would you want to do Every Single Word to in the future?

I think Lawrence of Arabia will be interesting.

Black-and-white photo of a theater and surrounding buildings

Lastly, Dylan, what are you looking to accomplish with this project? Do you believe that your project will circulate enough awareness through mainstream America about the lack of diversity in films?

All I want to do is to present facts and ask questions. That's what I hope Every Single Word will do. Who is crafting universal stories? And which people get to be avatars for those universal stories? I am only one voice asking these questions but I'm also part of a loud and strong chorus.

The Smithsonian and partners at the National Endowment for the Humanities present the History Film Forum, a four-day exploration of history on the screen, November 19-22, 2015. Three events in particular that might interest you: Discussion: Diversity in History Film, Screening: Uniquely Nasty: The U.S. Government's War on Gays, and Discussion: The Free State of Jones

Posted Date: 
Tuesday, November 17, 2015 - 11:15

Categories:

OSayCanYouSee?d=qj6IDK7rITs OSayCanYouSee?d=7Q72WNTAKBA OSayCanYouSee?i=9jdQWG2Mt-s:8Pr4qJirf0U:V_sGLiPBpWU OSayCanYouSee?i=9jdQWG2Mt-s:8Pr4qJirf0U:gIN9vFwOqvQ OSayCanYouSee?d=yIl2AUoC8zA

"Chinasaurs" Invade Maryland

Smithsonian Magazine

"Chinasaurs" come to Maryland

Smithsonian Magazine

"Chocolate is a Fighting Food!" – Chocolate bars in the Second World War

National Museum of American History

"Do you like chocolate?" That's one of the first questions I ask museum visitors during a chocolate program I lead in the museum's Wallace H. Coulter Performance Plaza. Nearly every time, the response is unanimous: "Of course!" Most of us don't see chocolate as more than a delicious (and often addictive) candy we love to eat, especially around Halloween and Valentine’s Day. Many people are surprised, then, when I show them how chocolate has had many other uses besides being a confection.

Our interactive program on chocolate history, The Business of Chocolate: From Bean to Drink, helps visitors understand how people made chocolate in the 18th century as well as chocolate's historical roles in American business and society. In particular, I love talking with visitors about chocolate's use in military rations, both because it's a story I first heard from my grandfather and because it's a topic I was able to research during my internship.

My grandfather, Harlan Thomas Kennedy, a veteran of World War II, used to share memories of eating chocolate on the battlefront. Growing up in a poor mining family in western Kentucky during the Great Depression, my grandfather hardly had much chocolate until his time in the army. While in the 82nd Airborne Division fighting in Belgium and the Netherlands during Operation Market Garden, he received field rations, a most spartan variant being the K-ration. These rations each included a chocolate bar!

K-ration; original outer green color cardboard box contains: waxed cardboard box shell with “CHESTERFIELD” cigarette pack, toilet paper packet, one stick of gum, and eight biscuits, confectionery chocolate D bar, bouillon powder packet, can of pork loaf; manufactured by the Kellogg Company; World War II era.

Black-and-white pocket-sized portrait photo of Harlan Thomas Kennedy (1924-2013), of Ohio County, Kentucky, in army uniform, around 1943.

My grandfather's fondness for the rationed chocolate bars was so great that he would even trade cigarettes for more chocolate. These chocolate bars certainly served as a morale boost when on the front, where resources had to be limited.

Of all foods, why chocolate? Because of its caffeine and high calorie content, it was a reliable source of energy for soldiers on the front. Chocolate consumption among Americans dates back to colonial times—George Washington and the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War would have consumed chocolate as a hot beverage, for example. By World War II chocolate had become a staple of military rations.

In fact, the U.S. War Department collaborated with chocolate manufacturers to produce Ration D bars, especially suitable for extreme temperatures sometimes encountered on the front. A mixture of chocolate, sugar, powdered milk, oat flour, and vitamins provided 600 calories per serving and made a very effective survival food.

Box for U.S. Army Field Ration D ("with Thiamine Hydrochloride, Twelve 4 Ounce Cakes, Prepared by Hershey Chocolate Corporation, Hershey, PA, January 1942").

Brown, yellow, and blue wrapped “Hershey’s Tropical Chocolate” bar. Small print on the top reads, “REG. U.S. PAT. OFF”. Small print on the side of bar reads, “MANUFACTURED BY HERSHEY CHOCOLATE CORPORATION, HERSHEY, PA.” The top left corner of the wrapper is torn, revealing the inner foil wrapping.

It surprises me that my grandpa enjoyed the bars so much, as they were designed more for sustenance than for taste. They were to be eaten slowly to supply maximum energy. The Ration D bars were intended to "taste a little better than a boiled potato," according to U.S. Army Quartermaster Paul Logan in a 1937 correspondence with Hershey's, and many other soldiers apparently disliked the bar since it was mostly bitter and extremely dense. I suppose if the bars were too tasty, they would've been eaten too quickly!

Due to the amount of chocolate the War Department and the Red Cross sent to soldiers abroad, chocolate on the home front was very limited. Many magazine advertisements asked civilians for wartime cooperation and understanding, as chocolate became an integral part in the war effort. Could you imagine if chocolate were rationed today?

This October 9, 1944, advertisement for Whitman’s chocolate boxes shows a woman embracing a soldier in uniform kissing her cheek. On the bottom right is a box of Whitman’s Chocolate Sampler. The bold font reads, “A WOMAN NEVER FORGETS THE MAN WHO REMEMBERS,” and, “BUY MORE WAR BONDS.” In fine print below the box of chocolates reads, “If you can’t always get your favorite Sampler, remember it’s because millions of pounds of Whitman’s Chocolates are going to all our fighting fronts.”

As with many other products, chocolate's wartime production helped it develop into a mass consumer food in the decades after the war. If you are interested in learning more about chocolate's military legacy, you should check out the M&M's story, currently on display in the American Enterprise exhibition. M&M's were first introduced to World War II soldiers as a sugar-coated chocolate candy that didn't melt in your hands.

1940s cellophane wrapper for M&M’s candy. The wrapper is shaped in a cylinder and flattened. White font on a red circular background says “Greetings from the American Red Cross,” flanked by two candles. The wrapper also says “Candy Coated Chocolate, mmm Delicious mmm.”

Listening to my grandfather's wartime memories of chocolate helped me realize how small things in our lives connect to bigger movements, ideas, and events. Have you talked with your family members or friends about the role of special foods like chocolate in their lives?

Sean Jacobson completed an internship in the Department of Visitor Services. He is a recent graduate of Western Kentucky University, where he majored in History and Broadcasting. The Business of Chocolate: From Bean to Drink is a free daytime program. Check our calendar for upcoming dates.

Author(s): 
intern Sean Jacobson
Posted Date: 
Monday, October 24, 2016 - 08:00
OSayCanYouSee?d=qj6IDK7rITs OSayCanYouSee?d=7Q72WNTAKBA OSayCanYouSee?i=4eGjMvoEVmg:Uh-_lcXvr1s:V_sGLiPBpWU OSayCanYouSee?i=4eGjMvoEVmg:Uh-_lcXvr1s:gIN9vFwOqvQ OSayCanYouSee?d=yIl2AUoC8zA

"Chocolate is a Fighting Food!" – Chocolate bars in the Second World War

National Museum of American History

"Do you like chocolate?" That's one of the first questions I ask museum visitors during a chocolate program I lead in the museum's Wallace H. Coulter Performance Plaza. Nearly every time, the response is unanimous: "Of course!" Most of us don't see chocolate as more than a delicious (and often addictive) candy we love to eat, especially around Halloween and Valentine’s Day. Many people are surprised, then, when I show them how chocolate has had many other uses besides being a confection.

Our interactive program on chocolate history, The Business of Chocolate: From Bean to Drink, helps visitors understand how people made chocolate in the 18th century as well as chocolate's historical roles in American business and society. In particular, I love talking with visitors about chocolate's use in military rations, both because it's a story I first heard from my grandfather and because it's a topic I was able to research during my internship.

My grandfather, Harlan Thomas Kennedy, a veteran of World War II, used to share memories of eating chocolate on the battlefront. Growing up in a poor mining family in western Kentucky during the Great Depression, my grandfather hardly had much chocolate until his time in the army. While in the 82nd Airborne Division fighting in Belgium and the Netherlands during Operation Market Garden, he received field rations, a most spartan variant being the K-ration. These rations each included a chocolate bar!

K-ration; original outer green color cardboard box contains: waxed cardboard box shell with “CHESTERFIELD” cigarette pack, toilet paper packet, one stick of gum, and eight biscuits, confectionery chocolate D bar, bouillon powder packet, can of pork loaf; manufactured by the Kellogg Company; World War II era.

Black-and-white pocket-sized portrait photo of Harlan Thomas Kennedy (1924-2013), of Ohio County, Kentucky, in army uniform, around 1943.

My grandfather's fondness for the rationed chocolate bars was so great that he would even trade cigarettes for more chocolate. These chocolate bars certainly served as a morale boost when on the front, where resources had to be limited.

Of all foods, why chocolate? Because of its caffeine and high calorie content, it was a reliable source of energy for soldiers on the front. Chocolate consumption among Americans dates back to colonial times—George Washington and the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War would have consumed chocolate as a hot beverage, for example. By World War II chocolate had become a staple of military rations.

In fact, the U.S. War Department collaborated with chocolate manufacturers to produce Ration D bars, especially suitable for extreme temperatures sometimes encountered on the front. A mixture of chocolate, sugar, powdered milk, oat flour, and vitamins provided 600 calories per serving and made a very effective survival food.

Box for U.S. Army Field Ration D ("with Thiamine Hydrochloride, Twelve 4 Ounce Cakes, Prepared by Hershey Chocolate Corporation, Hershey, PA, January 1942").

Brown, yellow, and blue wrapped “Hershey’s Tropical Chocolate” bar. Small print on the top reads, “REG. U.S. PAT. OFF”. Small print on the side of bar reads, “MANUFACTURED BY HERSHEY CHOCOLATE CORPORATION, HERSHEY, PA.” The top left corner of the wrapper is torn, revealing the inner foil wrapping.

It surprises me that my grandpa enjoyed the bars so much, as they were designed more for sustenance than for taste. They were to be eaten slowly to supply maximum energy. The Ration D bars were intended to "taste a little better than a boiled potato," according to U.S. Army Quartermaster Paul Logan in a 1937 correspondence with Hershey's, and many other soldiers apparently disliked the bar since it was mostly bitter and extremely dense. I suppose if the bars were too tasty, they would've been eaten too quickly!

Due to the amount of chocolate the War Department and the Red Cross sent to soldiers abroad, chocolate on the home front was very limited. Many magazine advertisements asked civilians for wartime cooperation and understanding, as chocolate became an integral part in the war effort. Could you imagine if chocolate were rationed today?

This October 9, 1944, advertisement for Whitman’s chocolate boxes shows a woman embracing a soldier in uniform kissing her cheek. On the bottom right is a box of Whitman’s Chocolate Sampler. The bold font reads, “A WOMAN NEVER FORGETS THE MAN WHO REMEMBERS,” and, “BUY MORE WAR BONDS.” In fine print below the box of chocolates reads, “If you can’t always get your favorite Sampler, remember it’s because millions of pounds of Whitman’s Chocolates are going to all our fighting fronts.”

As with many other products, chocolate's wartime production helped it develop into a mass consumer food in the decades after the war. If you are interested in learning more about chocolate's military legacy, you should check out the M&M's story, currently on display in the American Enterprise exhibition. M&M's were first introduced to World War II soldiers as a sugar-coated chocolate candy that didn't melt in your hands.

1940s cellophane wrapper for M&M’s candy. The wrapper is shaped in a cylinder and flattened. White font on a red circular background says “Greetings from the American Red Cross,” flanked by two candles. The wrapper also says “Candy Coated Chocolate, mmm Delicious mmm.”

Listening to my grandfather's wartime memories of chocolate helped me realize how small things in our lives connect to bigger movements, ideas, and events. Have you talked with your family members or friends about the role of special foods like chocolate in their lives?

Sean Jacobson completed an internship in the Department of Visitor Services. He is a recent graduate of Western Kentucky University, where he majored in History and Broadcasting. The Business of Chocolate: From Bean to Drink is a free daytime program. Check our calendar for upcoming dates.

Author(s): 
intern Sean Jacobson
Posted Date: 
Monday, October 24, 2016 - 08:00
OSayCanYouSee?d=qj6IDK7rITs OSayCanYouSee?d=7Q72WNTAKBA OSayCanYouSee?i=ECFiZ4xcBxw:Uh-_lcXvr1s:V_sGLiPBpWU OSayCanYouSee?i=ECFiZ4xcBxw:Uh-_lcXvr1s:gIN9vFwOqvQ OSayCanYouSee?d=yIl2AUoC8zA

"Collecting" Art on the Cheap

Smithsonian Magazine

"Combing" Through Light May Give Us Faster, More Powerful Internet

Smithsonian Magazine

Fiber optic cables make up the backbone of modern communications, carrying data and phone calls across countries and under oceans. But an ever-expanding demand for data—from streaming movies to Internet searches—is putting pressure on that network, because there are limits to how much data can be pushed through the cables before the signal degrades, and new cables are expensive to build.

Now a team at the University of California, San Diego, might have a solution by borrowing a technique used in other fields as a measurement tool: the frequency comb. These laser-based devices allowed the team to remove distortions that would usually appear before the signal got to the end of a cable. The researchers sent data further than ever before—7,456 miles—without the need to boost the signal along the way.

If their experimental technique holds up in the real world, fiber optic cables would need fewer expensive repeaters to keep signals strong. In addition, greater signal stability within a data stream would mean more channels could be stuffed into a single transmission. Right now, a fundamental trade-off in fiber optics is the more data you want to transmit, the shorter the distance you can send it.

Fiber optic signals are simply encoded light, either generated by a laser or an LED. This light travels down thin glass cables, reflecting off their inside surfaces until it comes out the other end. Just like radio broadcasts, a laser beam will have a certain bandwidth, or range of frequencies, it covers, and a typical strand of fiber optic cable can carry more than one bandwidth channel.

But the signals can't travel forever and still be decoded due to so-called non-linear effects, specifically the Kerr effect. For fiber optics to work, the light inside the fiber has to refract, or bend, a certain amount as it travels. But electric fields will alter how much glass bends light, and light itself generates a small electric field. The change in refraction means that there are small changes in the wavelength of the transmitted signal. In addition, there are small irregularities in the glass of the fiber, which isn't an absolutely perfect reflector.

The small wavelength changes, called jitter, add up and cause cross-talk between the channels. The jitter appears random because a fiber optic transmission carries dozens of channels, and the effect on each channel is a bit different. Since the Kerr effect is non-linear, mathematically speaking, if there's more than one channel you can't just subtract it—the calculation is much more complex and nearly impossible for today's signal processing equipment. That makes the jitters hard to predict and correct.

"We realized that the fuzziness, ever so slight, causes the whole thing to appear as though it is not deterministic," says Nikola Alic, a research scientist from the Qualcomm Institute at UCSD and one of the leaders of the experimental work.

In the current fiber optics setup, channel frequencies have to be far enough apart that jitter and other noise effects don’t make them overlap. Also, because the jitter increases with distance, adding more power to the signal only amplifies the noise. The only way to deal with it is to put costly devices called repeaters on the cable to regenerate the signal and clean up the noise—a typical transatlantic cable has repeaters installed every 600 miles or so, Alic said, and you need one for each channel.

The UCSD researchers wondered whether they could find a way to make jitter look less random. If they knew exactly how much the wavelength of light in every channel would change, then they could compensate for it when the signal got to a receiver. That's where the frequency comb came in. Alic says the idea came to him after years of working in related fields with light. “It was sort of a moment of clarity,” he says. A frequency comb is a device that generates laser light at lots of very specific wavelengths. The output looks like a comb, with each "tooth" at a given frequency and each frequency an exact multiple of the adjacent ones. The combs are used in building atomic clocks, in astronomy and even in medical research.

Alic and his colleagues decided to find out what would happen if they used a frequency comb to calibrate the outgoing fiber optic signals. He likens it to a conductor tuning an orchestra. “Think of the conductor using a tuning fork to tell everyone what the middle A is,” he says. The team built simplified fiber optic systems with three and five channels. When they used the comb to calibrate the outgoing signal wavelengths, they still found jitter, but this time, all the channels were jittering in the same way. That regularity allowed the signal to be decoded and sent at a record distance with no repeaters. “It makes the process deterministic,” says Alic, whose team reports the results this week in Science.  

Sethumadhavan Chandrasekhar, distinguished member of the technical staff at the global telecom company Alcatel-Lucent, is one of many scientists who have been working on the fiber optic jitter problem for a number of years. His published work involves transmitting phase-conjugated signals—two signals that are exactly 180 degrees out of phase with each other. This setup means that any of the nonlinear effects that cause noise would be canceled out.

The UCSD work is important, but it isn't a complete solution yet, Chandrasekhar says. "What is missing is that most systems now have dual polarization," he says, meaning that the systems boost capacity by sending light signals that are polarized differently. "Most systems today transmit information in the two polarization states of light, and the UCSD team needs to demonstrate that their technique works as well under such a transmission scenario," he says.

Alic says that the team's next set of experiments will address that very issue. So far, they think this technique can be adapted for real-world use, though it will require building and deploying new hardware, which will take time. Either way, increasing the reach of signals will allow for a much more aggressive build-out, yielding more data and more distance without worries over signal loss. "There's no reason to be afraid anymore," he says.

"Comfort Woman" Statue Stokes Old Tensions Between Japan and South Korea

Smithsonian Magazine

It’s been decades since the world learned that Japan forced hundreds of thousands of women to become sexual slaves in state-run brothels before and during World War II. But the issue of “comfort women” still remains a divisive one between Japan and South Korea—and now, reports Choe Sang-Hun for The New York Times, those tensions have once again flared at the site of a statue commemorating the women near the Japanese Consulate in Busan, South Korea.

At issue is a simple statue of a young woman wearing traditional Korean dress and sitting in a chair. It appeared without official permission near the consulate last week, writes Sang-Hun—and was quickly removed by police. But it’s now been reinstated after a South Korean official gave permission.

The statue shows that despite the historic agreement reached by Japan and South Korea to create a fund for the surviving women last year, the issue remains deeply fraught. It took decades for Japan to even admit that it had forced women into sexual slavery—and still controversies rage about how many women were victimized and how to publicly acknowledge their subjugation.

The majority of the so-called “comfort women” came from China and Korea, though other women in Japanese-occupied territories were also forced into slavery. The practice began in China as early as 1931, when Japan formed its first “comfort stations” for Japanese soldiers. The early comfort women were prostitutes who volunteered to service Japanese soldiers. However, the women who followed were anything but. As Japan occupied the Korean peninsula, it began to recruit women who were not told they would serve Japanese soldiers. The women were coerced and sometimes even sold into slavery, repeatedly raped and often subjected to sexually transmitted infections and genital wounds from their brutal treatment.

The recruitment and work of comfort women was considered top secret by the Japanese military, and that stigma continued after the war. It took until 1987 for the full extent of the issue to come to light, but Japan denied its involvement. Though hundreds of thousands of women are thought to have been forced to serve in military brothels, only a few hundred came forward, due in part to social stigma.

That stigma is still in place, as the controversy over the statue proves. It’s not the first time the statue has ignited public tensions over comfort women: In 2011, it was erected near the Japanese Embassy in Seoul by a group of survivors and their supporters. The Peace Monument, as it was called, resulted in protest from the Japanese government and ultimately helped reopen talks about comfort women and prompt the first state apology for the country’s crimes. The statue remained and others popped up all over the world.

Only time will tell if this new statue will survive in its current spot, but regardless, its message to Japan is clear. The bronze girl—fist clenched and the seat next to her empty in tribute to those who did not survive their slavery—suggests that despite Japan’s official apology, more should be done to acknowledge the victims. She looks on the consulate with a face that appears resolute. For the Japanese government, she’s a provocation. But for the hundreds of thousands of women who never received compensation for or even acknowledgment of their suffering, she’s an immovable symbol of rebellion.

Editor's 

"Corpse Hotels" Are in Demand in Japan

Smithsonian Magazine

What do you do when a loved one dies? The answer depends on the circumstances of the death, religious customs of your community and the desires of the deceased, but it usually boils down to a mortuary, a funeral home and a cremation or funeral. In Japan, however, there’s another option for the dearly departed, reports Motoko Rich for The New York Times: Take them to a corpse hotel.

Japan’s corpse hotels still involve cremation, but they put a twist on the age-old tradition. And, reports Rich, they serve another purpose: They provide storage for bodies that must wait days for a place in one of Japan’s busy crematoria. Corpse hotels are also places that families can gather to hold vigils and affordable funerals. And when they're not spending time with their loved one’s body, families have a nearby place to rest.

With an aging population and a rising death rate, cremation overload is a real problem in the country. As Al Jazeera’s Drew Ambrose wrote in 2015, Japan has the world’s highest cremation rates at 99 percent. That means waits of up to four days for the remains to be cremated. And with too few crematoria in high-population centers like Tokyo, things are only expected to get worse.

As Japan Times’ Mizuho Aoki notes, these corpse hotels, known as itai hoteru in Japan, were invented as an alternative to sparse morgues where bodies were kept in impersonal cold storage. Despite their friendlier faces, the hotels are often met with protest from residents who don't want to live so close to the establishments.

Creepy or not, it’s an ingenious solution to a growing problem. Other countries have tackled their death dilemmas differently. For example, as Smithsonian.com reported in 2013, China subsidizes cremations in a bid to tackle dwindling cemetery space. And Hong Kong, which faces a similar cemetery crunch, will soon have a floating columbarium capable of hosting the cremated remains of up to 370,000 people at sea.

Meanwhile, cremation is becoming more popular in the United States. However, crematoria and the cemeteries where remains are eventually buried contribute to environmental problems with emissions and high water usage. As long as people keep dying, the ones left behind will have to keep brainstorming better ways to deal with their remains—even if there’s a long waiting list.

"Cupido" by Tereso Vega and Quetzal Flores at 2009 Smithsonian Folklife Festival

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Jarocho musician Tereso Vega from Xalapa, Mexico improvises lyrics to "Cupido" accompanied by Chicano musician Quetzal Flores on jarana at the 2009 Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

"D'Rennerbub'n" : Marsch / Text und Musik von Wilh. Aug. Jurek

Smithsonian Libraries
For voice and piano.

Illustrated t.p. shows an airship labeled "Renners Estaric Lenkballon" flying over Graz, near the clocktower. There is an inset illustration of St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna.

Publisher's advertisement on verso of p. 6 has incipits for ten different pieces of music by Anton Ernst, Rudolf Kronegger, Ludwig Prechtl, Theodor Wottitz, Wilh. Aug. Jurek, and Josef Schneider, captioned "Beliebte neue Wiener Musik."

"Den kühnen Luftschiffern "Familie Renner" gewidmet."

"Erster Aufstieg in Graz am 26. September 1909. Aufstieg in Wien vor Sr. Majestät Kaiser Franz Josef I. am 16 Oktober 1909."

Page between pages 4 and 5 is meant to be cut out for use by singer. Printed with melody with text for verse 1 and chorus, and text for verses 2 and 3.

"Do You Swear That You Will Well and Truly Try...?"

Smithsonian Magazine

It started simply enough when life was simpler. If a crime were committed in Saxon times, a group of 11 freeholders might be called to consider, witnesses called and law applied. Rome refined the system, introducing a magistrate and a citizen judex. Laws were codified.

Perhaps the only constant in the development of a jury system has been the number 12. The Scandinavians carried on with tribunals called Things who met in groups of 12 (or multiples of 12) to administer or invent the laws. The Magna Carta of 1215 guaranteed the right to jury trial (though juries of 12 were well established by then).

Today, finding a consensus is much more complex and difficult where the object is to find a group of strangers who know as little as possible about the case and parties involved. Enlightened spokesmen now argue for a "collection of wisdom" among people of diverse ages, classes and experience, thus fairly representing we, the people.

"Dog Days of August" by John Cephas and Phil Wiggins at 2003 Smithsonian Folklife Festival

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
The Piedmont blues is a type of blues music distinguished by a unique finger-picking method on the guitar. The Piedmont blues was born in the Piedmont area on the East Coast of the USA, which stretches from about Richmond, Virginia, to Atlanta, Georgia. Yet Piedmont blues musicians come from surrounding areas as well, such as Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Florida. Renowned Piedmont blues musicians John Cephas and Phil Wiggins met at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in the late 1970s and have been playing Piedmont blues together ever since. Here they discuss the origins of the East Coast Piedmont blues and showcase their style.

"Don't You Leave Me Here (I'm Alabama Bound)" by Dave Van Ronk

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Dave Van Ronk performs "Don't You Leave Me Here (I'm Alabama Bound)" at a 1997 concert honoring Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music.

"Down South Blues" by Dave Van Ronk from Down in Washington Square

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Dave Van Ronk performs "Down South Blues" at the Barns at Wolf Trap as part of a 1997 concert honoring Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music
25-48 of 58,381 Resources