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20c Physical Fitness single

National Postal Museum
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5c Sokols - Physical Fitness single

National Postal Museum
This Physical Fitness-Sokol Issue stamp commemorates the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Sokol athletic organization in the United States and promotes the importance of physical fitness. The Sokol movement originated in Austria-Hungary and, much like the Turner movement of Germany, made its way to the United States in the 19th century from Czechoslovakian immigrants. The stamp features an image of a sculpture of a male discus thrower.

United States; Austria-Hungary; Czechoslovakia; Sokol movement; physical fitness; youth; sport; gymnastics; political; athletic; organization; centennial; immigrant; man; art; sculpture; discus thrower

Power of Giving 2016 | Sustainability & the Environment: Smithsonian Welcome

National Museum of American History
On November 29, 2016, the National Museum of American History hosted its second Philanthropy Initiative symposium, The Power of Giving: Philanthropy’s Impact on American Life. Programming focused on the annual theme—philanthropy’s historic and contemporary role in addressing issues of sustainability and the environment. Featured speakers included Erin Barnes, Austin Blackmon, Jean Case, Brian Clark Howard, Katherine Lorenz, Gifford Pinchot III, Nancy Pinchot, Philip Rigdon, David M. Rubenstein, Michael Scott, Sonal Shah, Lisa Pike Sheehy, Ted Steinberg, Mark Tercek, and Darryl Young.

Power of Giving 2016 | Sustainability & the Environment: Museum Welcome

National Museum of American History
On November 29, 2016, the National Museum of American History hosted its second Philanthropy Initiative symposium, The Power of Giving: Philanthropy’s Impact on American Life. Programming focused on the annual theme—philanthropy’s historic and contemporary role in addressing issues of sustainability and the environment. Featured speakers included Erin Barnes, Austin Blackmon, Jean Case, Brian Clark Howard, Katherine Lorenz, Gifford Pinchot III, Nancy Pinchot, Philip Rigdon, David M. Rubenstein, Michael Scott, Sonal Shah, Lisa Pike Sheehy, Ted Steinberg, Mark Tercek, and Darryl Young.

Power of Giving 2016 | Sustainability & the Environment: Closing Remarks

National Museum of American History
On November 29, 2016, the National Museum of American History hosted its second Philanthropy Initiative symposium, The Power of Giving: Philanthropy’s Impact on American Life. Programming focused on the annual theme—philanthropy’s historic and contemporary role in addressing issues of sustainability and the environment. Featured speakers included Erin Barnes, Austin Blackmon, Jean Case, Brian Clark Howard, Katherine Lorenz, Gifford Pinchot III, Nancy Pinchot, Philip Rigdon, David M. Rubenstein, Michael Scott, Sonal Shah, Lisa Pike Sheehy, Ted Steinberg, Mark Tercek, and Darryl Young.

Earth Flight Environment

National Air and Space Museum
Earth flight environment, 1976; L-shaped mural; depicts panoramic view of western landscape with a lone airplane on the right, lightning, rain, rainbow and cloud formations rise toward a rocket airplane; at top of the vertical section is the aurora borealis and the stars of space; the border at the bottom is decorated with a variety of weather map symbols.

Eric Sloane, "Earth Flight Environment", 1976, acrylic on canvas, 75’x 58’ 6”

Sloane’s mural is on the west wall of the Independence Ave. Lobby. The L shaped mural stretches 75 feet across the horizontal segment and 58 feel, 6 inches upwards. It was commissioned for the 1976 opening of the Museum.

The mural shows a panoramic view of a wester landscape as a lone commercial airplane streaks across the sky. The left side of the painting changes from realism to symbolic. The lightening, rain, a rainbow, and an assortment of cloud formations rise towards a rocket airplane. Finally, at the top of the vertical segment, there is a depiction of the aurora borealis, and the stars of space. The border at the bottom of the mural is decorated with a variety of weather map symbols.

While painting murals in the Half Moon Hotel near Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, NY in the late 1920’s, Eric Sloane met many of the early transatlantic pilots and lettered their planes. Influenced by his flight with Wiley Post, Mr. Sloane began painting cloud formations. His first “cloudscape” customer was Amelia Earhart. His interest in clouds and weather led him to write his book “Cloud, Air Wind,” which was accepted by the Air Force as a weather manual. He also built the first “Hall of Atmosphere” for the Museum of Natural History in New York. Mr. Sloane was the first T.V. weather man, and has written a number of books on weather, including the first sky book for art students, Skies of the Artist.”

The mural is painted in acrylic paints on Belgian Linen.

Environment No. 2

National Museum of the American Indian

Fitting of the forepart of a dog

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

Digital Pioneers and the Urban Environment

Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum
Across the United States, designers are using cognitive computing and data analysis to help American cities meet the needs of their diverse populations. Tiffany Chu, Code for America fellow and cofounder of the public transport data initiative Remix; Adam Cutler, distinguished designer at IBM Design; and Sarah Williams, director of MIT’s Civic Data Design Lab...

Environment On the Make

National Museum of African American History and Culture
A black-and-white photograph of a theatre offering a variety of shows and revues.

Photograph of "Environment IV: Corridors" scale model

Archives of American Art
1 photographic print : b&w

Photograph shows scale model of installation "Environment IV: Corridors" at the Architectural League of New York by Michael Steiner and John Lobell.

Fitness Afar: Great Places to Hang Out at the Bar

Smithsonian Magazine

Does it get any better than this? Trees, shade, green grass and a pair of horizontal bars beside the Dordogne River, in Souillac, add up to one of the finest outdoor workout stations in France. Photo by Andrew Bland.

Tourists in Paris visit English-language bookstores hunting original Hemingway copies or go underground to wander the long, grim halls of the Catacombs. In Naples, they have espresso standing at the counter, then eat pizza while rooting for Italy on the televised soccer match. In Turkey, travelers pay 2 lira to take a photo of a camel wearing a leather top hat and a skirt, then drink scalding hot tea. Visitors to New Zealand buy packaged bungee jumping and helicopter-biking adventures.

And some tourists, between so many worldly sites and activities, do pull-ups. Recognized around the world, the pull-up is one of the simplest and most effective upper body weight-bearing exercises, and perfect for maintaining fitness while traveling. It requires only some rigid wood or steel and some simple geometry for one to get cranking—and in most places doing a few sets in public won’t draw the perplexed stares that doing, say, a yoga headstand in a village plaza in Morocco surely would. You might even make a few friends across the language barrier if the local village fitness buffs decide to work out with you. But in the far-flung hinterlands of the earth, finding a suitable pull-up structure isn’t always easy. In many cultures, exercise is simply not fashionable, and travelers on long journeys may abandon their workout routines until they return home. Nonetheless, going abroad needn’t mean going flabby—determined globe-trotters can find pull-up bars and other outdoor gymnastics equipment in some of the most unexpected places if they only remain a little vigilant. Following are some pointers toward a few of the world’s better places to hang out.

Republic of Georgia. In a culture strongly laced with cigarettes, distilled liquor and idleness whenever it’s affordable, performing unnecessary exercise on horizontal bars is not a common priority—but in Tbilisi, capital of Georgia, somebody in the city planning office apparently once had the strange impetus to suggest, “Hey, let’s put an outdoor gymnastics center on Mount Mtatsminda”—and, lo and behold, they did. Today, hidden on a terrace off to the side of the stairway leading to the top, resides one of the finest exercise courts I’ve known. It offers bars going left, right, up and down, plus benches and poles and gymnastics rings, and is applicable to about every muscle group above the waist. The site offers a smashing view of the city below, as well, and doubles as a fine, shaded picnic site. When I found this place one morning in September 2010, a kid was already there, working the bars while his boombox blasted some cheesy electronic dance tunes. For an hour, I alternated my pull-ups with push-ups. A Georgian born and bred, the boy took cigarette breaks.

Spain. The Spanish may be slim and sporty, but their country’s pull-up infrastructure is weak in rural regions. While even the smallest villages provide road signs to the “instalaciones deportivas,” these athletic centers usually offer just a tennis court and a dusty soccer field swarming with rabbits. A workout can be improvised on the bars of the goal box—but keep your eyes open elsewhere around towns, because proper pull-up bars can be found. Good bets are public parks, especially along walking or cycling trails. In Panes, Asturias, there is a full exercise court by the Cares River, just a quarter-mile from the cider houses of the town’s main street. But the higher of the two bars is so low that an adult’s knees will touch the ground even at a dead hang—a particular problem in Spain’s outdoor fitness culture. Many bars, too, are sloppily tilted, and pull-up-prone tourists may often wonder just what pencil-pushing bureaucrats designed these structures. Well, the Spaniards seem to be making efforts in the right direction, anyway, but for now your best bet in Spain is to head to the soccer field or improvise on barn rafters or bridges.

A pedestrian bridge over a stream near Pamplona, in northern Spain, provides a fine workout opportunity in a country where public exercise installments are often poorly designed, undersized, old and wobbly, and simply useless. Photo by Alastair Bland.

France. They’ve given us escargot, the illustrious baguette, cheeses that smell like boot-rot and stove-top techniques like deglazing, flambéing and sautéing—but with their heads stuck in the kitchen, the French have often neglected to fit their public places with sufficient horizontal workout bars. Wonderful public parks, lush and vibrant with trees, lawns, lovers and lily ponds, usually lack exercise courts. What a shame. Thus, France—like Spain—is a nation where old buildings and doorways must often serve as pull-up structures. Just brush away the cobwebs and engage those biceps. But I’ll grant that the French, when they do install exercise bars, do it right: A number of jogging trails in small towns lead past well-built, smartly designed workout courts, with sit-up benches and parallel dip bars and rings. Great locations include the public park in the town of Condom (which features not one but two sets of pull-up bars) andjust maybe the best and most comfortable bar set in Western Europe—in Souillac, beside the equestrian park, in the shade of the trees on the bank of the Dordogne River.

Bulgaria. Many Eastern Europeans and members of the former Soviet states take their bar exercises seriously. Russians and Ukrainians often learn the ropes in high school, and their prowess as Olympic gymnasts speaks to their business-like approach to tossing their bodies about the high bars as nimbly as gibbons. Bulgaria is much the same, and in many schoolyards and parks you’ll find triple-tiered bar sets, solidly built, high enough for adults and plainly meant for real business. In Zlatograd, near the Greek border, you’ll find a great set of bars by the tennis courts, beside the Varbitza River. And in the Rhodope Mountains, in the town of Sarnitsa, a workout can be had on the bars in the schoolyard. Fear not: Your knees won’t hit the ground here, and unlike nearly anywhere else in rural Europe, you just may be sharing the bar with others—poker-faced, militant men with arms like telephone poles. But they’re friendly, and if you watch closely, you might even learn a few tricks. The pullover is a popular bar exercise in former Communist states (and much easier than it looks, in fact).

Turkey. Though agrarian, traditional and conservative in many parts, Turkey has fitted its promenades and town plazas surprisingly well with exercise equipment. This consists mostly of strange stationary pedaling and rowing machines that I never have been able to make sense of, but a few levelheaded community planners have installed no-nonsense pull-up bars in their public parks. In the beautiful town of Egirdir, for example, on the shores of the lake, a set of bars stands behind some hedges. School had just let out for the day when I found these bars, and the local boys swarmed me before I was done with my first pull-up set. But time your workout on the Egirdir bars for mid-morning, and they’re all yours.

New Zealand. Finally, welcome to pull-up paradise. New Zealand’s pristine wild scenery is its prime attraction for most visitors, but it’s an added bonus that in virtually every town in the country a traveler can locate at least one horizontal bar, seven or so feet off the ground in a field of soft green grass. These may be actual pull-up bars, or they may be monkey bars of a schoolyard playground—but it makes little difference, as long as you can grip, dangle and pull up. Schoolyards are open to the public and usually left unlocked, even on weekends. “Welcome to our playground,” many gates read. Why, thank you. Open, enter and enjoy. Some pull-up friendly structures are also available in city parks and make picture-perfect sites for a workout, some cool-down stretches and a picnic lunch afterward. In Christchurch’s Hagley Park, a jogging trail leads past 17 exercise stations, including a bar set in the woods—but the bars are way too fat to grip. “Jeez—what pencil-pushing bureaucrats—” Oh, never mind. Just move on 30 yards and use the hanging rings. If you get as far south as Te Anau, gateway to Fiordland, visit Milford Sound, cast a fly for a brown trout and cap your epic day on the pull-up bars at the town high-school rugby field. 

If you have any idea how to make use of these exercise machines, let us know. Courts of such pedaling and cranking gadgets can be found throughout Europe. Photo by Alastair Bland.

Digital Pioneers and the Urban Environment

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Across the United States, designers are using cognitive computing and data analysis to help American cities meet the needs of their diverse populations. Tiffany Chu, Code for America fellow and cofounder of the public transport data initiative Remix; Adam Cutler, distinguished designer at IBM Design; and Sarah Williams, director of MIT’s Civic Data Design Lab and cocreator of the City Digits: Local Lotto project, will discuss the promise and challenges of this important partnership with moderator Cynthia E. Smith, Curator of Socially Responsible Design. Remix and City Digits: Local Lotto are currently on view in the special exhibition By the People: Designing a Better America.

First Lady for the Environment Homepage

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Activities and reading guide designed for parents to help their children learn more about First Lady Claudia 'Lady Bird' Johnson, wife of President Lyndon Baines Johnson and her work to protect the environment and bring beauty to every community. Includes reading suggestions and discussion questions for the illustrated biography Miss Lady Bird's Wildflowers by Kathi Appelt as well as other activities related to the first lady.

Could Plastic-Gobbling Bacteria Save the Environment?

Smithsonian Magazine

With plastics abounding throughout the environment, many scientists argue that we are living in the Plastic Age. There is so much plastic that bits of the petroleum-based material now form composite rocks called plastiglomerates. And the oceans are a veritable stew choked with 5 trillion plastic bits.

It’s a dire situation, but a few intrepid Japanese researchers potentially just made a first step toward reducing some of the 311 million tons of plastic produced annually, reports Eric Niler for Discovery News. The team spent five years combing through sludge, sediment and wastewater to collect samples contaminated with the common plastic known as PET, aka Polyethylene terephthalate, labeled with recycling code one.

It was in a sludge sample collected outside a plastic bottle recycling center in Sakai, Japan, where researchers found it—a strain of bacteria that actually gobbles up PET.

The new bacteria, named Ideonella sakaiensis 201-F6, uses two enzymes to break down the PET into much smaller compounds, explains Angus Chen at NPR. And the products, terephthalic acid and ethylene glycol are not harmful to the environment in small doses.

It seems like the perfect solution to our plastic woes.

There are problems, however. First, the process is slow. The bacteria take 6 weeks at 86 degrees Fahrenheit to gnaw away at plastic film about the size of a thumbnail, Andy Coghlan writes for New Scientist. The researchers also speculate that it may not be hardy enough to survive in landfills or other environments long enough to finish the job. The bacteria probably won’t make it in salt water either, limiting its use in reducing PET in marine environments, oceanographer Giora Proskurowski from the University of Washington tells The Christian Science Monitor.

Still, the discovery of Ideonella sakaiensis 201-F6 may be the first step in synthesizing compounds or tweaking other organisms to do the same job quicker and better. “If you can understand the genomic basis for these enzymes, is that something one could modify or harness to create more efficient PET digesting organisms?” asks Odile Madden a materials scientist and plastics expert at the Smithsonian’s Museum Conservation Institute. “Could you create organisms that digest other plastics? What would other consequences be?”

If scientists don’t come up with more plastic-gorging organisms soon, nature might just do the job for them. In fact, there might already be other plastic-loving microbes out there that we haven't identified.

"The idea that there is no organism that could break down plastic chemically and no organism that can metabolize it doesn't make sense," says Madden "If they did not already exist, and there is this carbon-rich food source available, they could certainly evolve [to fill this niche]."

Also, microorganisms reproduce much more quickly than we do, so that means they also evolve faster. "Those that can eat synthetic polymers around them efficiently are likely to be successful and proliferate." says Madden.

Proskurowski too thinks that over time more species will adapt to a life of eating old Barbie dolls and coffee makers. "The environment is evolving and you get the microbes evolving along with that as well," he says. "I’m surprised it’s taken this long. I’ve been waiting for results like this."

In the meantime, while researchers figure out the secrets of Ideonella and the rest of nature evolves to ingest the plastosphere, it’s probably best just to keep pulling those recycling bins to the curb every week.

Is Drone Delivery Good for the Environment?

Smithsonian Magazine

There are more than 1 million drones registered in the U.S. Most of them belong to people flying them for fun, but a growing number are used commercially. Companies including AmazonUPSGoogle and DHL are already exploring ways to deliver packages with drones instead of trucks. Our new research has measured how that shift would change how the U.S. uses energy, and the resulting environmental effects.

We found that in some cases using electric-powered drones rather than diesel-powered trucks or vans could reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. But in other cases, using trucks – especially electric-powered ones – would be more efficient and cleaner.

The U.S. electricity sector has been rapidly transitioning to generating power with fewer greenhouse gas emissions. But transportation is still largely powered by fuels made from oil and is now the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. About one-quarter of transportation emissions, the equivalent of 415 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, comes from medium- and heavy-duty trucks, the kinds of vehicles that deliver freight to warehouses, businesses and consumers’ homes.

Reducing the need for trucking by delivering some packages with electric drones could save fuel, and potentially carbon emissions. We modeled how much energy drone delivery would use, and how it would be different from the ways packages are delivered now.

Finding a drone’s energy use

First, our team – led from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and including researchers from Carnegie Mellon University, SRI International and the University of Colorado–Boulder – measured the energy use of quadcopter and octocopter-style drones carrying different payloads. The amount of energy a drone uses depends on how heavy the drone itself is, its batteries and whatever packages it’s carrying – as well as other factors, including how fast it’s moving and wind conditions.

For the purposes of making an overall estimate, we settled on a quadcopter drone capable of delivering a 1.1 pound (0.5 kg) package and an octocopter drone capable of delivering a 17.6 pound (8 kg) package, each with a range of about 2.5 miles (4 km). We considered a range of battery technologies and fuels, but focused on lithium-based batteries for our base case, because that’s what powers most current electric drones.

Comparing emissions

Even though it’s fighting gravity to stay aloft, an electric drone uses much less energy per mile than a heavy steel delivery truck burning diesel fuel. But a delivery truck or van can carry many packages at once, so the energy needs and environmental effects need to be allocated per package.

Different delivery vehicles can run on diesel, natural gas, electricity or gasoline, each with various energy and emissions characteristics. We also included the environmental effects of making these fuels and of making electric vehicle batteries. The energy needed to turn crude oil into diesel fuel can add another 20 percent or more of greenhouse gases to the amount generated when the fuel is burned. And while battery manufacturing is improving, making batteries still generates carbon dioxide.

Then we calculated the amount of greenhouse gases emitted. Burning a gallon of diesel fuel emits about 10 kg of carbon dioxide, but emissions from electricity vary by region, depending on how it’s generated. Some areas burn more coal and natural gas to generate power, while others have fewer fossil fuels and rely more on nuclear, hydropower, wind and solar power.

In general, electric power generation in the U.S. is getting cleaner over time. To show the range of energy needs and environmental effects, we paid particular attention to California, which has a low-carbon grid, and Missouri, which is in a carbon-intensive region.

Extra warehouses?

In addition, to serve drones with limited range, companies would have to change how their delivery systems use energy. Drones could transport items in multiple legs, almost like the Pony Express or stagecoaches did with horses in the early days of the American West. Or, as Amazon is testing, smaller local warehouses could serve key delivery destinations within the drones’ range.

We calculated that serving the city of San Francisco would require about four urban warehouses with drone bases. To cover the greater Bay Area would require dozens of new warehouses, each needing electricity and potentially natural gas to operate, just like other warehouses. We included this extra energy use in our estimates.

Small drone delivery can save emissions

Combining all the factors, we found that package delivery with small drones can be better for the environment than delivery with trucks. On average in the U.S., truck delivery of a package results in about 1 kg of greenhouse gas emissions. In California, drone delivery of a small package would result in about 0.42 kg of greenhouse gas emissions. That’s a savings of 54 percent from the 0.92 kg of greenhouse gases associated with a package delivered by truck in that state. In carbon-intensive Missouri the improvement would be smaller – just a 23 percent reduction – but still better.

Small drones were better than any truck or van, whether powered by diesel fuel, gasoline, natural gas or even electricity.

Our findings about larger drones were less clear-cut. They were 9 percent better than than diesel trucks when in California, but a lot worse when charged in Missouri. Because large drones need more kilowatt-hours to fly a mile, the carbon intensity of electricity really matters for large drones. Even in places where energy is typically generated from clean sources, it’s probably better to deliver larger packages with electric vans or electric trucks rather than large drones, because of the extra warehouse energy needed for drones.

But if you forgot that essential ingredient for tonight’s dinner, our findings suggest it’s much better to have the grocery store send it to you by drone rather than to take your car to the store and back.

Next steps for sustainability

Like any energy model, our estimates can change depending on the assumptions used. The amount of space needed to store packages for drones, and how much energy drones use, are important factors, as is the carbon footprint of the electricity used. In our paper, we explore how the results change under different assumptions.

For ground delivery vehicles, the best ways to improve efficiency involve increasing the number of packages delivered per mile or switching to electric delivery trucks or vans.

As more companies start using drones, package delivery will be one of their tasks. To maximize the potential environmental benefits, companies should focus on using smaller drones charged with low-carbon electricity to deliver light packages, and on limiting how much warehouse space is dedicated to serving delivery drones. Heavier packages are likely best suited for efficient, often electric, ground delivery vehicles. The biggest gains will come from improving warehouses’ energy efficiency and, crucially, reducing the amount of electricity generated from carbon-intensive fuels. Now we just have to do something about the noise of all those propellers overhead.

Fitting in the form of the Qatabanian letter "D"

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

Earth Flight Environment Mural

National Air and Space Museum
Earth Flight Environment is artist Eric Sloane’s tribute to America’s spacious skies. Known for his remarkable renditions of clouds, Sloane captured the essence and variety of weather above the panoramic landscape of the American Southwest. It is Sloane’s largest and most well-known cloud painting.

Fitting in the form of an animal hoof

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

Fitting in the form of an animal hoof

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

Fitting in the form of an animal hoof

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

Fitting in the form of a lion's foot

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
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