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New Report Finds at Least One in Five Terrestrial Vertebrate Species Are Traded Globally

Smithsonian Magazine

Roughly one in four mammals and birds, one in eight reptiles and one in ten amphibians aren’t free to walk, fly or slither, according to findings in a study published last week in Science. Per the report, 5,579 of the 31,500 known terrestrial vertebrate species are caught in the global wildlife trade. This figure is 40 to 60 percent higher than previous estimates.

“We are revealing the sheer magnitude of what this multibillion-dollar industry represents,” study co-lead author Brian Scheffers of University of Florida tells Dina Fine Maron at National Geographic.

The illegal wildlife trade is valued at anywhere from $8 to $21 billion, making it one of the largest illegitimate industries. The effect of trade on any particular species ebbs and flows along with cultural trends and changes in taste. For instance, when the Harry Potter franchise was at peak popularity, so was the owl trade in Asia. With the depletion of tigers, there are greater numbers of lion and jaguar parts in the Chinese black market.

“In wildlife trade, there’s this market force that’s intensively focused on individual species,” Scheffers tells Rachel Nuwer of Scientific American. “A species that was safe 10 years ago can quickly transition to nearing extinction.”

In lieu of a comprehensive database, the research team pulled their data from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (ICNU) Red List and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Once they determined which species are being impacted, they used species range maps to pinpoint hotspots of exploitation. At the epicenter of the trade are biodiverse tropical regions including South America, South East Asia and Central and Southeast Africa.

While the ICNU and CITES provided the most complete data, the researchers also relied on countries’ self-reporting for the study. Because of that, experts estimate that the real numbers of traded species and those at risk are actually higher than this study reports.

“The takeaway is that there are a lot of species in trade or that will be in trade that need to be paid attention to,” Susan Lieberman, vice president of international policy for the Wildlife Conservation Society, tells National Geographic. “It also highlights there needs to be more attention on amphibians and birds not currently listed in CITES.”

The team didn’t just chart the diversity of animals involved in this industry, but also analyzed their data to predict what animals may soon fall into the hands of traders. Specifically, by using their findings on which animals are the most coveted, the researchers were able to create a model to predict the species at greatest risk of exploitation in the future, such as animals that are large, have distinct physical characteristics and are genetically similar to popularly traded animals.

The team’s analysis warns that more than 3,000 wild species are poised to join the market. With the development of capture and transport technology, some experts believe the wildlife trade may escalate beyond that.

In the study, the team warns that their findings are “especially important because species can quickly transition from being safe to being endangered as humans continue to harvest and trade across the tree of life.”

“Our assessment," they add, "underscores the need for a strategic plan to combat trade with policies that are proactive rather than reactive."

Atlas of the Munsell color system

Smithsonian Libraries
Also available online.

MSC copy 39088008859209 has bookplate: Gift of Binney & Smith, Inc.; makers of Crayola Crayons since 1903.


Archiv der Insectengeschichte / herausgegeben von Johan Caspar Füssly

Smithsonian Libraries
Caption title.

Originally planned to be complete in 10 Hefte, but only 8 Hefte were issued.

Artists featured include A.W. Bertram; J.F.W. Herbst; J. Köchlin; J. Schaffer; J.R. Schellenberg (who also did the engravings); D.T. Schrank; and D.F. Sotzmann.

The adjusted plate count includes plates 19a, 19b, 28a; plates 31-42 were never issued.

Nissen, C. Zoologische Buchillustration, I, 1455

BM (Nat. His.), v. 1, p. 56

Also available online.


SCNHRB copy 39088014412266 has handwritten[?] title and half-title leaves inserted in the volume.

SCNHRB copy has bookplate: Collection of William Schaus, presented to the National Museum, MCMV. With stamps (Smithsonian Institution, U.S. National Museum; Smithsonian Library, Oct. 2, 1958) and a few scattered manuscript ink annotations.

SCNHRB copy has the autograph of a former owner, H. Jekel.

SCNHRB copy has a photocopy of the following article inserted in a pocket on the front free endpaper: Griffin, Francis J. "The 'Archiv der Insectengeschichte' of J.C. Fuessly, Heft 1-8, 1781-1786," J. Soc. Bibl. Nat. Hist., v. 1, pt. 3 (July, 1937), pages 83-85.

SCNHRB copy has a black buckram library binding with gilt-lettered spine and red edges.

Bird-dom, by Leander S. Keyser

Smithsonian Libraries
"Nearly all the papers in this collection have appeared from time to time in various periodicals of the country."--Author's note.

Also available online.


In bird land, by Leander S. Keyser ..

Smithsonian Libraries
Articles previously published in various periodicals. See Author's note.

"My bird list" : pages [263]-265.

Also available online.


News from the birds, by Leander S. Keyser

Smithsonian Libraries
Series title also at head of title page

Includes index.

Also available online.


Voyage dans l'Amérique Méridionale : (le Brésil, la république orientale de l'Uruguay, la République argentine, la Patagonie, la république du Chili, la république de Bolivia, la républiquedu Pérou), exécuté pendant les années 1826, 1827, 1828, 1829, 1830, 1831, 1832, et 1833 / par Alcide d'Orbigny ... ; ouvrage dédié au roi et publié sous les auspices de m. le ministre de l'instruction publique (commencé sous M. Guizot)

Smithsonian Libraries
Volumes 2, 3, 4, pt. 2-3, 5-9 have imprint: Paris : Chez P. Bertrand ... ; Strasbourg : Chez ve Levrault ...

Most of the parties have separate title pages and half titles.

Music: volume 3, 7 pages following page 60.

t. 1-3. 1. ptie. Partie historique. 1835, 1839-1843, 1844 -- t. 3. 2. ptie. Géographie. 1846 -- t. 3. 3. ptie. Géologie. 1842 --t. 3. 4 ptie. Paléontologie. 1842.

-- t. 4 [1. ptie.] L'homme américain (de l'Amérique Méridionale), considéré sous ses rapportsphysiologiques et moraux. 1839 -- t. 4. 2. ptie. Mammifères, par Alcide d'Orbigny et Paul Gervais . 1847 -- t. 4. 3 ptie. Oiseaux. 1835-1844 -- t. 5. 1. ptie. Reptiles. 1847 -- t. 5. 2. ptie. Poissons, par m. Valenciennes. 1847.

-- t. 5. 3. ptie. Mollusques. 1835-1843 -- t. 5. 4. ptie. Zoophytes. 1839 et 1846 -- t. 5. 5. ptie. Foraminifères. 1839 -- t. 6. 1. ptie. Crustacés, par Milne Edwards et H. Lucas. 1843 -- t. 6. 2.ptie. Insects, par Émile Blanchard et Auguste Brullé. 1837-1843 -- t. 7. 1.-2. ptie. Cryptogamie, par Camille Montagne. 1839 -- t. 7. 3. ptie. Palmiers, par C.F.P. de Martius. 1847 -- t. 8. Atlas historique, géographique, géologique, paléontologique et botanique -- t. 9. Atlas zoologique. 1847.

Also available online.

SCNHRB copy is imperfect: two of the 19 maps are missing; 15 folded plates are in a case numbered as t. 10 with spine: Cartes.

SCNHRB copy of tome 3 is bound in 2 volumes; tome 6 and tome 7 are bound in 1 volume.

SCNHRB copy of tome 4, partie 3 (Oiseaux) has duplicate text pages bound in for pages 177-184, in this sequence: 177, 178, 177, 178, 179, 180, 179, 180, 181, 182, 181, 182, 183, 184, 183, and 184.


Rebajes: A Life Made of Copper

Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum
Image features a small copper brooch in the form of a lobster, the patinated surface in tones of bright copper to warm brown. Please scroll down to read the blog post about this object. Please scroll down to read the blog post about this object.In recognition of National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15-October 15, 2019), this week’s Object Of The Day posts celebrate Latinx designers’ works in the collection. This post was originally published on July 6, 2017. In 1922, Francisco Torres arrived in New York on a steam ship from his hometown of Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, at...

It’s a bird! It’s a plane!… I think it’s a “b�!

Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum
This post was written by guest authors Martha Singer, Mette Carlsen, Jakki Godfrey, and Kerith Koss Schrager, a  team of contract conservators who carried out Cooper Hewitt’s recent glass rehousing project. Today we’re taking a behind-the-scenes look at the nitty-gritty of object numbering in the museum. Object numbers aid in tracking storage locations and other...

Prehistoric Deer Bones May Offer the Earliest Evidence of Ancient Food Storage

Smithsonian Magazine

Some 400,000 years ago, ancient hominids living in what is now Israel hunted down their meals and brought the remains back to a site known as Qesem Cave. A team of researchers who analyzed more than 80,000 bones found within the cave noticed that some of them bore odd, heavy cut marks—which, according to a new study published in Science Advances, offers what may be the earliest known evidence of ancient peoples storing food to snack on at a later time.

Most of the bones that the researchers studied came from fallow deer, and most of the strange cut marks were found on leg bones known as metapodials. The heavy-handed markings suggested that it took a fair bit of effort to strip the bones, which “make[s] no sense ... because at this part of the bone there is no meat and very little fat,” Barkai tells Nicholas St. Fleur of the New York Times.

Perhaps, the team theorized, the animal skin was dry, and therefore more attached to the bone than fresh skin would have been. It seemed likely that the cave’s occupants were going to all this trouble in order to access bone marrow, which boasts a high caloric value and was often consumed by prehistoric groups. But the fact that the Qesem Cave dwellers were letting the animal remains dry out before feasting on this snack suggests that they were deliberately keeping their food for a later date—a degree of forethought and planning that was previously unknown among Lower Paleolithic peoples.

“It was believed that early hominins were consuming everything they could put their hands on immediately, without storing or preserving or keeping things for later,” Barkai explains.

To prove their hypothesis, the researchers sought to find out whether bone marrow stays nutritious if animal remains are left out to dry. Just as crucially, they wanted to know what it would look like if someone tried to skin bones that had been drying for several weeks.

The scientists thus took 79 red deer metapodials and stored them in three different environmental scenarios for up to nine weeks: outdoors in autumn, outdoors in spring, and in an indoor setting meant to simulate Israel’s climate. After each week that the bones spent outdoors, the researchers tried to remove the animal skins using tools similar to the ones that would have been available to the Qesem Cave inhabitants. (They did not process the indoor bones because, as the study authors note, this experiment only “aimed to analyze the sequence of marrow degradation in a similar environment to that of Israel.”)

Chop marks on the bones that had been left to dry for a relatively long period of time looked remarkably similar to the ones on the ancient remains. When the researchers conducted chemical analyses of the marrow, they found that its nutritional value had decreased substantially by week three in the spring and indoor scenarios. But during autumn, the marrow inside bones left to dry outdoors continued to preserve its nutrients until the ninth week. “This fact is interesting because in Qesem Cave, seasonal hunting peaks have been detected that specifically include late summer through autumn,” the study authors note.

Also interesting is the fact that eating old marrow was probably safer than consuming dried meat, because the bone casing would have kept the marrow relatively safe from harmful microbes. As Barkai puts it, “The bones were used as ‘cans’ that preserved the bone marrow for a long period.”

This in turn suggests that the inhabitants of Qesem Cave were capable of savvier culinary innovations than experts had previously thought. “[They] were sophisticated enough, intelligent enough and talented enough to know that it was possible to preserve particular bones of animals under specific conditions, and, when necessary, remove the skin, crack the bone and eat the bone marrow,” says study co-author Avi Gopher.

Nobel Prizes in Literature Awarded to Olga Tokarczuk and Peter Handke

Smithsonian Magazine

It doesn’t feel so long ago that last year’s Nobel Prize in Literature was postponed due to a sexual assault scandal involving a member of the Swedish Academy’s husband.

Now that delayed 2018 Nobel has been awarded to Olga Tokarczuk, a Polish writer and activist lauded for her “narrative imagination that with encyclopedic passion represents the crossing of boundaries as a form of life.”

Tokarczuk—winner of the 2018 Man Booker International Prize and a recipient of Poland’s highest literary accolade, the Nike Award—is only the 15th woman to claim the prestigious Nobel literature prize. Comparatively, 114 men have won the award since its inception in 1901.

Tokarczuk is known for her best-selling books and her ardent criticism of the country’s right-wing government. Per the committee, the author’s breakthrough moment arrived in 1996, when she published her third novel, Primeval and Other Times. More recently, Tokarczuk has earned accolades for The Books of Jacob, a historical novel centered on 18th-century religious leader Jacob Frank, and Flights, a 2017 work that won her last year’s Man Booker International Prize.

“[She is] a writer preoccupied with local life but at the same time inspired by maps and speculative thought, looking at life on Earth from above,” the judges said in a statement. “Her work is full of wit and cunning.”

The 2019 Nobel, meanwhile, was awarded to Austrian author Peter Handke, a move that has sparked new controversy.

Per a press release, the committee chose to recognize Handke “for an influential work that with linguistic ingenuity has explored the periphery and the specificity of human experience.”

The judges also highlighted Handke’s versatility across genres: His most widely read work is A Sorrow Beyond Dreams, a novella written seven weeks after his mother’s suicide, but he has also penned essays, short prose, plays and screenplays addressing such universal topics as discovery, nostalgia and catastrophe, as the Washington Post’s Ron Charles reports.

But the elephant in the room is Handke’s notorious support of the late Serbian dictator Slobodan Milošević. The author delivered a eulogy at Miloševic’s funeral and later called the Serbian leader, who died in 2006 while on trial for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, a “rather tragic man. Not a hero, but a tragic human being.”

The Guardian’s book team called the selection of Handke “incredibly strange,” pointing out that just this month, Anders Olsson, chair of the Swedish Academy’s Literature Committee, re-emphasized the judges’ dedication to diversity, citing a desire to move away from the award’s “Eurocentric,” “male-oriented” history.

For his part, Handke told reporters he was “astonished” to receive the award following this morning’s announcement. The playwright and author has been vocally critical of the Nobel award in the past for promoting “false canonization” of literature, and in 2014, he called for the abolishment of the prize.

Development of the Lithium-Ion Battery Earns Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Smithsonian Magazine

Many times, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry is awarded for accomplishments that take quite a lot of explaining, like “palladium-catalyzed cross couplings in organic synthesis” or “the discovery of ubiquitin-mediated protein degradation.” But this year's award is for something that almost everyone on Earth knows a little something about: “the development of lithium-ion batteries.”

The award, announced yesterday, is a three-way split between John B. Goodenough of the University of Texas at Austin, M. Stanley Whittingham of Binghamton University, part of the State University of New York, and Akira Yoshino of Meijo University in Japan.

Lithium-ion batteries are the cornerstone of the technological revolution of the last few decades. The long-lasting, rechargeable batteries are what allow cell phones, laptop computers and other devices to exist. They can be scaled up to power a car or a home. They're even being used in renewable energy. They are also capable of being miniaturized and used in devices like implanted pacemakers.

“Lithium-ion batteries are a great example of how chemistry can transform people’s lives,” Bonnie Charpentier, president of the American Chemical Society tells reporters Knvul Sheikh, Brian X. Chen and Ivan Penn at The New York Times. “It’s wonderful to see this work recognized by the Nobel Prize.”

Lithium-ion batteries are powered by flows of lithium ions crossing from one material to another. When the battery is in use, positively-charged lithium ions pass from an anode to a cathode, releasing a stream of electrons along the way that form an electric current. When the battery is being recharged, lithium ions flow in the opposite direction, resetting the battery to do it all over again.

According to a Nobel press release, the origin of the battery begins during the oil crisis of the 1970s. The resulting price increases and gasoline shortages across the United States spurred research into alternative energy and energy conservation. It also spurred Whittingham to research superconductors. Along the way, he discovered an energy-rich material called titanium disulphide that had space at the molecular level to house lithium ions. He created a battery in which part of the anode was made of metallic lithium. The idea worked, but Whittingham’s version of the battery was pretty unstable, and had a tendency to explode after extended use.

Still, it was a big advance over the acid-based batteries of the day. “The big advantage of this technology was that lithium-ion stored about 10 times as much energy as lead-acid or 5 times as much as nickel-cadmium,” Whittingham tells the Times. They were also much lighter. “So there was a huge incentive to move to lithium-ion.”

In 1980, Goodenough refined the concept, systematically searching for alternatives to the titanium disulphide. He found that cobalt oxide could do the same job and produce as much as four volts, more than double the previous version of the battery. The, in 1985, Yoshino replaced the metallic lithium in the battery with petroleum coke layered with lithium ions, making a safer battery. In 1991, the concept was stable enough for commercialization, and Sony released the first rechargeable lithium-ion batteries.

Since then, they have become even more efficient. That’s not something the battery's developers ever really anticipated. “At the time we developed the battery, it was just something to do,” Goodenough—who at 97, is the oldest laureate to ever receive a Nobel Prize—tells Nicola Davis and Hannah Devlin at The Guardian. “I didn’t know what electrical engineers would do with the battery. I really didn’t anticipate cellphones, camcorders and everything else.”

The technology is continuing to power the future and will be critical to even out the flow of power in the renewable energy grid, which only produces power when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing. “What’s exciting about lithium-ion technology is it has the power to unlock the sun 24-7 to really help renewable energy power our future in a way that we haven’t been able to capture until now,” Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director of the industry group California Solar and Storage Association, tells the Times.

While the batteries will continue to improve and drive society in the near future, there are some problems with the technology. The need for lithium is spiking, and will continue to do so as more battery-poerwed cars and storage units hit the market. Lithium mining in places like Tibet and dry regions of South America is a dirty business, requiring millions of gallons of water, reports Amit Katwala at Wired. Poorly run mines can also contaminate local water supplies. Cobalt is also in short supply, and mining of that metal in places like the Congo Basin is driving environmental destruction, child labor, and pollution.

Recycling the batteries and removing these increasingly precious metals is also costly and sometimes dangerous.

Goodenough, for one, is looking beyond lithium-ion, and in 2017 unveiled a new type of battery three times as powerful as lithium-ion that charges faster and lasts longer. Most importantly, it’s noncombustible and is works in a solid state, meaning it has no liquid elements like lithium-ion batteries. It can also use multiple alkali-metals including lithium but also sodium or potassium, which are much cheaper and easier to produce.

Even if new batteries do supersede lithium-ion, there’s no doubt that its impact on the modern world is incalculable and affects the lives of billions of people every day. The prize will be awarded on December 10, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death.

The Feminist History of ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game’

Smithsonian Magazine

Described by Hall of Fame broadcaster Harry Caray as "a song that reflects the charisma of baseball,” ”Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” written in 1908 by lyricist Jack Norworth and composer Albert von Tilzer, is inextricably linked to America’s national pastime. But while most Americans can sing along as baseball fans “root, root, root for the home team,” few know the song’s feminist history.

A little more than a decade ago, George Boziwick, historian and former chief of the music division of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center, uncovered the hidden history behind the tune: the song was written as Jack Norworth’s ode to his girlfriend, the progressive and outspoken Trixie Friganza, a famous vaudeville actress and suffragist.

Born in Grenola, Kansas, in 1870, Friganza was a vaudeville star by the age of 19, and her life was defined by her impact both on and off the stage. As a well-known comedic actress, Friganza was best known for playing larger-than-life characters, including Caroline Vokes in The Orchid and Mrs. Radcliffe in The Sweetest Girl in Paris. Off the stage, she was an influential and prominent suffragist who advocated for women’s social and political equality. The early 1900s were a critical time in the fight for the vote: members of the Women’s Progressive Suffrage Union held the first suffrage march in the United States in New York City in 1908, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was established in 1909 to fight for voting rights of people of color, and in 1910, 10,000 people gathered in New York City’s Union Square for what was then the largest demonstration in support of women’s suffrage in American history.

Friganza, an unflinching supporter in the fight for the ballot, was a vital presence in a movement that needed to draw young, dynamic women into the cause. She attended rallies in support of women’s right to vote, gave speeches to gathering crowds, and donated generously to suffrage organizations. “I do not believe any man – at least no man I know – is better fitted to form a political opinion than I am,” Friganza declared at a suffrage rally in New York City in 1908.

The cover of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," featuring Trixie Friganza (New York Public Library)

“Trixie was one of the major suffragists,” says Susan Clermont, senior music specialist at the Library of Congress. “She was one of those women with her banner and her hat and her white dress, and she was a real force to be reckoned with for women’s rights.” In 1907, Friganza’s two worlds—celebrity and activism—would collide when she began a romantic relationship with Jack Norworth.

Norworth, a well-known vaudeville performer and songwriter in his own right, was married to actress Louise Dresser when he met Friganza. (When news of the wedded couple’s separation hit the press, Dresser announced that her husband was leaving her for the rival vaudeville star.) The affair was at its peak in 1908 when Norworth, riding the subway alone on an early spring day through New York City, noticed a sign that read “Baseball Today—Polo Grounds” and hastily wrote the lyrics of what would become “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” on the back of an envelope. Today, those original lyrics, complete with Norworth’s annotations, are on display at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

Norworth, realizing that what he had written was “pretty good,” took the lyrics to friend, collaborator and composer Albert von Tilzer. The pair knew that more songs had been written about baseball than any other sport in the U.S.—by 1908, hundreds of songs about the game had been published, including “The Baseball Polka” and “I’ve Been Making a Grandstand Play for You.” But they also knew that no single song about the sport had ever managed to capture the national imagination. So although neither Norworth nor von Tilzer had ever attended a baseball game, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” was registered with the U.S. Copyright Office on May 2, 1908.

While most Americans today recognize the chorus of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” it is the two additional, essentially unknown verses that reveal the song as a feminist anthem.

Katie Casey was baseball mad,
Had the fever and had it bad.
Just to root for the home town crew,
Ev’ry sou Katie blew.
On a Saturday her young beau
Called to see if she’d like to go
To see a show, but Miss Kate said “No,
I’ll tell you what you can do:

Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd;
Just buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack,
I don’t care if I never get back.
Let me root, root, root for the home team,
If they don’t win, it’s a shame.
For it’s one, two, three strikes, you’re out,
At the old ball game.

Katie Casey saw all the games,
Knew the players by their first names.
Told the umpire he was wrong,
All along,
Good and strong.
When the score was just two to two,
Katie Casey knew what to do,
Just to cheer up the boys she knew,
She made the gang sing this song:

Take me out to the ball game….

Featuring a woman named Katie Casey who was “baseball mad,” who “saw all the games” and who “knew the players by their first names,” “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” tells the story of a woman operating and existing in what is traditionally a man’s space—the baseball stadium. Katie Casey was knowledgeable about the sport, she was argumentative with the umpires, and she was standing, not sitting, in the front row. She was the “New Woman” of the early 20th Century: empowered, engaged, and living in the world, uninhibited and full of passion. She was, historians now believe, Trixie Friganza.

(National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum)

“[Norworth] was with [Friganza] at the time he wrote this song,” says Clermont. “This is a very progressive woman he’s dating, and this is a very progressive Katie Casey. And [Friganza] very likely was the influence for ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”

As further evidence that the fictional Katie Casey was based on Friganza, historians from Major League Baseball and the Library of Congress point to the covers of two original editions of the sheet music, which feature Friganza. “I contend the Norworth song was all about Trixie,” Boziwick told the New York Times in 2012. “None of the other baseball songs that came out around that time have the message of inclusion… and of a woman’s acceptability as part of the rooting crowd.” Boziwick’s discovery of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game’s” feminist history, coming nearly 100 years after the song’s publication, shows how women’s stories are so often forgotten, overlooked and untold, and reveals the power of one historian’s curiosity to investigate.

And while “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” has endured as one of the most popular songs in America over the century (due in no small part to announcer Harry Caray’s tradition, started in 1977, of leading White Sox fans in the chorus of the song during the 7th inning stretch), Friganza and Norworth’s romance ended long before the song became a regular feature in baseball stadiums across the U.S. Although Norworth’s divorce from Dresser, was finalized on June 15, 1908, just one month after the publication of the song, Norworth married his Ziegfeld Follies costar Nora Bayes, not Trixie Friganza, the following week.

The news came as a surprise to both tabloid readers and Friganza, but, not one to be relegated to the sidelines, she went on to star in over 20 films, marry twice and advocate for the rights of women and children. So, this postseason, enjoy some peanuts and Cracker Jacks and sing a round of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” for Trixie Friganza, Katie Casey and the bold women who committed their lives to fight for the ballot.

This piece was published in collaboration with the Women's Suffrage Centennial Commission, established by Congress to commemorate the 2020 centennial of the 19th Amendment and women’s right to vote.

Digital Art Detectives Identify Original van Dyck Portrait

Smithsonian Magazine

Back in 2018, Old Master art dealer Fergus Hall first floated the idea that a 17th-century portrait owned by Liverpool’s Walker Art Gallery attributed to Anthony van Dyck’s workshop was actually the work of the Dutch artist himself. Researchers at Art Detective, a digital forum dedicated to helping public art collections across the United Kingdom “make new discoveries,” were intrigued and posted a thread addressing the topic, encouraging historians, curators and art lovers to join the discussion.

Ultimately, the group’s debate led Susan J. Barnes, author of van Dyck’s catalogue raisonné, to visit the Walker and assess the portrait in person. She left convinced of its status as a genuine van Dyck.

Now, according to the Guardian’s Mark Brown, Art U.K., the public art charity behind Art Detective, has verified that Portrait of the Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia is, indeed, an original van Dyck, painted with minimal assistance from studio staff.

The portrait dates to between 1628 and 1633 (Steve Judson/Walker Art Gallery)

During the debate on Art Detective forum, several commenters pointed out that the quality of the portrait, which dates to between roughly 1628 and 1633, was markedly higher than other works attributed to van Dyck’s workshop. Art restorer Simon Gillespie deemed the head and hands “very well conceived,” while art historian Bendor Grosvenor wrote, “From the vivacity of the handling, the Walker seems to me mostly autograph”—or painted by a single artist rather than partly or wholly by studio assistants—“throughout.”

Upon closer inspection, Barnes agreed. “[The work] is notably fine in the rendering of the figure in the interior,” she explains in a statement. “Most important is the compelling likeness: van Dyck's depiction of the archduchess conveys at once the presence of a living human being and of an imposing person, a commanding, international leader.”

Per the National Inventory of Continental European Paintings, van Dyck—a masterful portraitist who catered to patrons across Europe and, in the words of Guardian art critic Jonathan Jones, was essentially Britain’s “first art star”—received a gold chain worth 750 guilders for creating a painting of the infanta in December 1628.

The Liverpool portrait, which was donated to the museum in 1954, features a three-quarter length view of Austrian archduchess and Spanish infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia, and is likely a variation of this work, which now adorns the walls of Turin’s Galleria Sabauda. Both canvases depict the royal, who ruled the Spanish Netherlands between 1598 and 1621, later in life: As a member of a Franciscan lay order, Isabella wears a modest black habit.

Collector Albert B. Roberts purchased this previously unidentified van Dyck painting for $600 (Courtesy of the Albany Institute of History & Art)

Andrew Ellis, director of Art U.K., tells the Guardian’s Brown that the van Dyck discovery is the Art Detective forum’s biggest success to date. He adds, “[It] is an especially important one and unequivocally proves the value of this innovative use of digital technology to share and grow knowledge.”

Portrait of the Infanta isn’t the only newly identified van Dyck work to make headlines in recent months. Last month, New York’s Albany Institute of History & Art unveiled Study for Saint Jerome With an Angel, an oil painting created by the artist when he was just 18. Albert B. Roberts, a local collector who has spent the past 30 years searching for what he calls “orphaned” art, purchased the work for $600 in 2002.

Unearthed: Digging in to Vertebrate Paleontology

Smithsonian Libraries
This blog post is part of a series from Smithsonian Libraries highlighting Unearthed, a new collection of paleobiology literature in Biodiversity Heritage Library curated by Smithsonian Libraries in celebration of the opening of the National Museum more »

Old Mud, New Science

National Museum of American History

There we were, two curators sifting centuries-old barrels of mud through a screen, when something surprising rolled out of the muck: a skull.

An animal skull on a blue tray.The skull in question.

It’s not the everyday task of curators at the National Museum of American History, but these three barrels of mud and pieces of broken wood were scraped from the bottom of the Gunboat Philadelphia when it came to the museum in the 1960s. Fifty years later, we’re discovering secrets in the muck that will help us preserve a centuries-old warship for future generations.

Two people scan behind a tray of mud.The author, Paul Johnston, and fellow curator Jennifer Jones sift through some of the mud found on the Gunboat Philadelphia.

After the ship sank on October 11, 1776, when the Americans met the British in the Battle of Valcour Island, Philadelphia’s wreck lay 60 feet underwater on Lake Champlain’s cold, muddy bottom for 159 years. World War I veteran Lorenzo Hagglund recovered the ship in 1935. He had been stationed on the lake during the Great War and learned then of the Battle of Valcour Island. He located the wreck with the mainmast still in place. When his team raised the boat, it was still loaded with hundreds of artifacts.

A boat emerges from water.The Gunboat Philadelphia emerging from its watery grave in 1935.

The barrels of mud collected from the bottom of the ship were sent offsite after the museum’s opening in 1964, crated, and set aside for decades. In 2018, fellow curator Jennifer Jones and I screened the barrels’ contents for any artifacts that might have been missed earlier.

A large skull, two smaller skullsThe rat and mice skulls found in the mud.

That’s where we found the skulls of three stowaways—not human skulls, but those of a rat and two mice, which may date to the colonial or modern period.

Forged nails and spikes, musket balls, and gunflints.Some of the colonial artifacts found in the clay.

We spent two days screening the hard mud and clay lumps from the boat bottom. Colonial artifacts embedded in the hard lakebed clay included forged nails and spikes, oakum used to stuff the cracks between hull planks and tar to waterproof it, musket balls, and gunflints. We also found lots of nuts (probably carried aboard by animals seeking shelter after the 1935 recovery) and modern items including screws and nails.

We examined a barrel of mostly leftover fragments of wood that had fallen off while the boat was in Lake Champlain or being transported to Washington, D.C. This wood will help us better understand and preserve the gunboat. For example, some of the wood had a cupped or checked surface, almost like dried tree bark. Analysis revealed that an application of liquid nylon in the early 1960s had caused the surface to shrink, and recent research indicates that the nylon may not be easily removable. 

Wood.You can see an example of cupping here. 

Small pieces on the wood’s surface are lifting, and it is not yet clear whether these are causing further surface problems, or if removal would expose newer wood surface to deterioration. So, we don’t know yet if we should remove them or leave them where they are. We can use these pieces from unknown locations on the gunboat’s hull to experiment with removal or neutralization of the nylon.

The timing of this work perfectly aligns with the lead up to the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution in 2026, and the Philadelphia’s important role.  

An old map.Battle of Valcour Island, courtesy of Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

In July 1776, the Continental Congress authorized building a fleet of vessels for the defense of the Champlain Valley—the northern frontier of the colonies. The valley was considered the key to the success or failure of the fledgling American Revolution. The ships were built under the command of Brigadier General Benedict Arnold. In just two short months in what is now Whitehall, New York, Arnold and his men built eight 54-foot gunboats and four 72-foot rowing galleys. Among those ships was the Philadelphia, which has been on display since the museum opened in 1964. Today it is one of the largest objects in the museum, and it has been designated a National Historic Landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

The boat being lifted into a building under construction.The gunboat entering the museum through a third story window while the museum was being constructed. 

We recently kicked off a multiyear project to ensure the long-term preservation of the Philadelphia. Initial planning calls for the completion of the conservation work and a new display for the ship to coincide with the nation’s commemoration of the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence in 2026. The new, small discoveries revealed in buckets of mud can help us tell a big story about the Gunboat Philadelphia and the Revolutionary War.

Paul F. Johnston is a curator in the Division of Work and Industry.

The Museum thanks its board, board alumni and other generous donors for their support of the conservation of the gunboat Philadelphia.

Posted Date: 
Friday, October 11, 2019 - 14:30
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A Blended Colonial Aesthetic

Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum
Image features a textile band with a lattice pattern having a cross in each diamond-shaped field. The lattice and crosses are white outlined with red, on a brown ground. Please scroll down to read the blog post about this object.In recognition of National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15-October 15, 2019), this week’s Object Of The Day posts celebrate Latinx design and designers’ works in the collection. This rather ordinary looking band is actually extraordinary. Made in Mexico during the Spanish colonial period (likely mid-15th- early 16th c.) it is composed with a Spanish aesthetic,...

The Aftermath of Hurricane María

Smithsonian American Art Museum
ThumbnailA closer look at the rich and trans-historical Puerto Rican artworks in the museum.

An Invasive Fish That Can Breathe and Move on Land Has Been Found in Georgia

Smithsonian Magazine

The northern snakehead is a long, blotchy-patterned fish that can breathe on land and travel on the ground by wriggling its slippery body. But those might not be the species’ most nightmarish qualities. Snakeheads have a voracious appetit; they've been known to chow down not only on other fish, but also crustaceans, reptiles, mammals and small birds. They are invasive to the United States, threatening to displace native species and upset the balance of aquatic ecosystems. The fish have been reported in more than a dozen states across the nation and, as Christine Hauser reports for the New York Times, they have now been found for the first time in Georgia.

The slithering species was first spotted by an angler fishing in a pond in Gwinnett County. And Georgia officials have issued blunt instructions to anyone else who stumbles upon a northern snakehead: “Kill it immediately.”

After the fisherman alerted Georgia’s Wildlife Resources Division to the odd creature he had found, officials set out to the pond to investigate. They found an adult snakehead—possibly the one the fisherman had reeled in and then tossed back into the water—and three juveniles. Those snakeheads are now “[d]ead and frozen,” a fisheries operations manager with the Wildlife Resources Division, tells Hauser.

Snakeheads are native to Asia, Malaysia, Indonesia and Africa, where they exist in freshwater ecosystems with the appropriate balances to keep the fish in check. In decades past, snakeheads were sold in pet shops and live food markets in the United States, and are believed to have been released into natural waters by “aquarium hobbyists or those hoping to establish a local food resource,” according to the United States Geological Survey.

The first established snakehead population took hold in Maryland in the early aughts, and the animals can now be found “in every major tidal river of the Chesapeake Bay,” reports Lateshia Beachum of the Washington Post. In 2002, the fish were added to the list of injurious wildlife under the Lacey Act, which in turn banned the import and interstate transport of snakeheads.

“These fish are like something from a bad horror movie,” former Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton said when proposing the ban some 17 years ago. “They can eat virtually any small animal in their path. They can travel across land and live out of water for at least three days. They reproduce quickly. They have the potential to cause enormous damage to our valuable recreational and commercial fisheries.”

But in spite of legislative efforts to control them, four species of snakeheads have cropped up in 15 states, from New York to California—and even Hawaii. It’s not clear how the fish were introduced to Georgia, but the state’s Department of Natural Resources notes that “[i]nvasive species are often introduced through unauthorized release” and offers a friendly reminder that “it is unlawful to import, transport, sell, transfer, or possess any species of snakehead fish without a valid wild animal license” in Georgia.

Robinson tells Hauser of the Times that experts now plan to conduct genetic testing on the four snakeheads captured in the Georgia pond to see if the juveniles are related to the adult. At least one other parent, officials believe, may be still swimming free.

North Atlantic Right Whale Mamas Whisper to Their Babies to Keep Them Safe

Smithsonian Magazine

At nearly 50 feet long, North Atlantic right whales are so large that most living things in the sea shouldn’t worry them—but that’s not the case for their babies. Newborn calves are vulnerable to attacks by sharks and orcas. To keep them safe, a new study has found, right whale mamas take things down a notch, “whispering” to their young so they don’t attract any hungry predators lurking nearby.

Right whales typically communicate with one another using a vocalization called an up-call, a rising “whoop” sound that can last two seconds and travels very far. With their babies, however, they use a quieter, shorter grunting sound that can only be heard in the immediate vicinity. The new study appears in the journal Biology Letters.

“They allow the mother and calf to stay in touch with each other without advertising their presence to potential predators in the area,” lead author Susan Parks, a marine biologist at Syracuse University, says in a press release.

Parks and her team found the grunting sound after attaching small, non-intrusive recording tags to juvenile, pregnant and mother-calf pairs of North Atlantic right whales while the animals were in their calving grounds in Florida and Georgia. Compared to the juvenile and pregnant whales, the mothers caring for calves significantly reduced the loud noises they made, instead producing more of the quieter grunting sounds.

Understanding the North Atlantic right whales is critical for the survival of the endangered species, which only has 420 individuals left.

“Right whales face a number of challenges, including a very low number of calves born in recent years, combined with a number of deaths of reproductive females by collisions with large ships or entanglement in fishing gear,” Parks says. “There are still many things we don’t know about their behaviors, and it is my hope that studies like this will help to improve efforts for their conservation.”

The North Atlantic right whale isn’t the only whispering whale. In July, researchers in Europe reported that they had identified similar whispering in Southern right whales, a different species that lives in the oceans of the Southern Hemisphere. The softer, more intimate calls, the researchers found, could only be heard about 1,000 feet away. In 2017, researchers also found that humpback whales have a special, quieter type of communication between mothers and calves.

The existence of these quieter languages raises the possibility that human-generated noise in the oceans, like the noise of shipping vessels, is doing more damage to marine mammals than previously believed. A study published last year found that ship noise disrupted the mating calls of humpback whales, causing some whales to go completely silent. Another study has found that the whales change their diving and foraging behavior in the presences of ship noise.

All of these whale whispers also highlight the possibility that biologists are overlooking a whole subset of animal communication reports Carolyn Wilke at Science News. Typically, field researchers focus on the loudest noises animals make, but that may only be part of the story, as Peter Tyack from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, not involved in the studies, tells Wilke.

“There may be a repertoire among the calls of lots of animals that are specifically designed only to be audible to a partner who’s close by,” says Tyack.

Heidi the Snoozing Octopus May Not Be Dreaming After All

Smithsonian Magazine

In a video that went viral this week, an octopus named Heidi sleeps with her tentacles suctioned to the glass walls of an aquarium in the living room of David Scheel, a marine biologist at Alaska Pacific University. The camera captures her skin as it morphs from smooth and stony to a crusty-looking yellow. Then it flashes maroon for a second before settling back to white.

Scheel narrates the scene, conjecturing that Heidi is hunting for crab in her mind’s eye. “If she’s dreaming, this is a dramatic moment,” he says in the video.

The clip, part of a PBS Nature special that aired October 2, quickly took off on social media. But while Scheel and the online community delighted at the idea of a dreaming Heidi, experts challenge the idea that octopuses like her can “dream” in the way humans understand it.

“Almost no animal is proven to have dreams because you can’t verbalize and talk to them and get the feedback,” says Roger Hanlon, a senior scientist at the Marine Biological Laboratory. “There’s no science behind it, especially for an animal with a different body form, like an octopus.”

As Elizabeth Preston at New York Times reports, octopuses and other cephalopods are highly intelligent. Cephalopods, however, are invertebrates, meaning their family tree diverged from ours before the development of the backbone. That split means octopus brains and human brains developed big differences. Unlike humans, whose behavior is controlled by a central nervous system, octopuses have a distributed nervous system. Of their 500 million neurons, 350 million exist in the arms, meaning octopus arms can make decisions without any input from the brain.

“Color change is just a neuromuscular behavior, just like moving our arms or fingers or anything else,” Stanford biologist William Gilly tells Jess Romeo at Popular Science. “It’s not necessarily a conscious thing.”

Octopuses’ can quickly and drastically change colors thanks to chromatophores, which are elastic cells of pigment that contract and expand to make certain colors more visible. Color and textural shifts in the octopus’ skin are mostly controlled by the brain, but may also be subconscious.

Though scientists have long observed how octopuses change between different skin textures and colors when the animals are awake, octopuses often seclude themselves under rocks or in dens to protect against predators while they sleep. This may be why the footage of Heidi openly displaying her transformations is so remarkable.

Experts don’t yet fully know what happens to octopuses while resting, but they have gotten closer to understanding how they sleep. In a study published this year, researchers found that cuttlefish—close relatives to the octopus—display REM-like sleeping patterns. While in this state, the cuttlefish flashed portions of typical daytime chromatophore patterning, and each expressed patterns with different intensity.

“They’re out and doing things all day long, then they go into this quiet period of REM-like sleep,” says Hanlon, who co-authored the paper. “My guess is that they’re consolidating long-term memory.”

To test whether octopuses similarly experience REM-like cycles akin to humans, scientists will likely need to implant electrodes into their brains—a task that can be challenging due to the octopuses’ cunning ability to remove unwanted object from themselves with their tentacles.

And to explain what happens to creatures like Heidi when they fall asleep, researchers must define their terminology thoughtfully, so as not to compare the very human experience of dreaming to one that may be totally different in an octopus.

“It’s a question of interpretation at this point,” says Michael Vecchione, a NOAA cephalopod biologist at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History. “We have to be careful about inserting our own perspective on things when we’re interpreting other animals’ behavior.”

It’s far too soon to know if octopuses can actually dream—or even sleep—like us. But even if we don’t yet know what happens to Heidi when she shuts her eyes, scientists hope videos like this will inspire others to more closely study cephalopods’ sleeping and cognitive functions.

North America's Rarest Warbler Comes Off the Endangered List

Smithsonian Magazine

Earlier this week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officially delisted Kirtland’s warbler from the endangered species list. The bird, which only nests in a few counties in central Michigan with smaller populations in Wisconsin and Ontario, was one of the first species added to the list in the early 1970s. Almost fifty years of efforts between federal and state agencies, timber companies and conservation organizations has increased its population enough that officials no longer believe it is in immediate danger of extinction.

Even in pre-settlement times, Kirtland’s warbler was something of a rare bird. The 6-inch-long songbird with a blue-gray back and yellow tummy was first catalogued by naturalists in 1851. It wasn’t until 1903 that that an intrepid biologist discovered its unique nesting grounds in the forests of central Michigan. The bird has very specialized breeding requirements. It will only build its cup-shaped, grass nests beneath the lowest branches of dense stands of young jack pines, between 6 and 22 years old. The species also requires about 300 to 400 acres of habitat before it will colonize a site. Jack pines, however, have “seratonous” cones, or cones filled with a flammable resin. They won’t open unless they are burned, meaning that decades of fire suppression in Michigan and elsewhere greatly reduced Kirtland's habitat.

The other major problem the species faces is a native parasite called the brown-headed cowbird. In pre-settlement times, the cowbird followed herds of bison in the shortgrass prairies of the central U.S., picking seeds out of their dung. To keep up with the herds, they also developed a neat trick; instead of making their own nests, they kick eggs out of other birds’ nests and lay their own before moving on, essentially tricking other species into raising their chicks. As humans killed off the bison and changed the landscape, filling the U.S. with cows, the cowbirds moved out of their native range and now inhabit almost all of North America north of Mexico. While cowbirds have impacted many species of native birds, they hit Kirtland’s warbler particularly hard.

The one-two punch of fire suppression and cowbird parasitism drove Kirtland's numbers down. Biologists first realized the bird was in trouble in the 1950s. A survey of singing males estimated that about 1,000 of the birds remained in Michigan in 1961. By 1971, however, the population had plummeted to around 400 birds. In 1973, it was one of the first animals on the newly established endangered species list and the USFWS established a multi-agency Kirtland’s warbler recovery team to spearhead its revival. Still, the species struggled, and by 1987, counters only found 200 singing males during their annual survey.

Slowly but surely, however, conservation teams diligently trapped cowbirds during nesting season and teams cleared and planted young jack pines, increasing potential habitat for the birds, which spend the winter in the Bahamas. About 190,000 acres of public land has been set aside in central Michigan for the bird’s conservation, with about 38,000 acres managed each year to attract the warblers. Annually, roughly 4,000 acres of mature jack pine forest is cut and replanted with 2-year-old saplings to make sure habitat remains available for the birds in the future.

All that work paid off, and by 2001 the species reached 1,000 pairs. Over the following decade, small colonies of the birds dispersed to appropriate habitat in Wisconsin and Ontario. Today, there are an estimated 2,000 pairs of the birds breeding in the upper Midwest, twice the recovery goal.

“The effort to recover the Kirtland’s warbler is a shining example of what it takes to save imperiled species,” Margaret Everson, principal deputy director of Fish and Wildlife Service, says in the press release. “Truly dedicated partners have worked together for decades to recover this songbird. I thank them for their efforts and applaud this historic conservation success.”

Even though the species is off the endangered list, it still requires annual habitat management to keep its numbers healthy, William Rapai, chairman of the Kirtland’s Warbler Alliance, tells Keith Matheny at the Detroit Free Press.

Some conservationists, however, want a little insurance to make sure people don’t forget about the rare species that calls Michigan home. Rapai tells Neal Rubin at The Detroit News that the Kirtland’s warbler should be elevated to Michigan’s state bird, which is currently the American robin. While the robin is a fine bird, it’s also found in every state in the U.S. The Kirtland’s warbler, the rarest warbler in the U.S., can only be reliably found in Michigan and draws nature-loving tourists to the state from around the world. There’s even a monument to the bird in the town of Mio. “Show me a monument to a robin in Michigan,” says Rapai, who points out that, technically, the selection of the robin as state bird by schoolchildren in 1931 expired long ago. “The Kirtland’s warbler is Michigan’s story.”

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali Wins the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize

Smithsonian Magazine

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has awarded the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize to Abiy Ahmed Ali, the Ethiopian prime minister who, with stunning alacrity, has made major strides in resolving a decades-long border conflict with Eritrea.

According to Matina Stevis-Gridneff of the New York Times, Abiy became prime minister in 2018 and “threw himself at a breakneck pace into ... peace negotiations with the rebel-turned-dictator Isaias Afwerki, president of Eritrea.”

The roots of the conflict between the two countries began in the 1960s, when Ethiopia annexed Eritrea, according to Vox’s Alexia Underwood. In 1993, after 30 years of fighting, Eritrea held a referendum in which voters opted to separate from Ethiopia, and the two nations cleaved on reportedly friendly terms. But five years later, a dispute erupted over the border town of Badme, spurring a violent war that led to the deaths of as many as 100,000 people between 1998 and 2000. In 2002, an international boundary commission awarded Badme to Eritrea, but Ethiopia would not surrender the town, leading to a lasting military stalemate.

The war also played a role in transforming Eritrea into a reclusive regime, known as “Africa’s North Korea.” As the conflict raged, Isaias suspended his country’s constitution and implemented an unending state of emergency. Every Eritrean is now required to undertake “national service” for an indeterminate period of time after they turn 18. “Some are assigned to civil service positions, while most are placed in military units, where they effectively work as forced laborers on private and public works projects,” according to Human Rights Watch. In 2001, independent newspapers were shut down, their editors and top journalists arrested. The government restricts religious freedoms, and citizens live under the threat of arbitrary imprisonment and torture.

But since taking office, Abiy has made concerted efforts to end hostilities with his country’s isolated neighbor. According to Mark Lewis and Elias Meseret of the Associated Press, he announced that Ethiopia would accept a peace agreement with Eritrea. He and Isaias formally restored diplomatic relations last July, and agreed to open embassies in their respective capitals. Telecommunications and commercial flights between the two countries were restored, allowing families that had long been separated by the conflict to finally reconnect.

“An important premise for the breakthrough was Abiy Ahmed’s unconditional willingness to accept the arbitration ruling of an international boundary commission in 2002,” the Nobel committee notes.

Abiy has also been praised for implementing reforms at home. Though the country was formally governed by a four-party political coalition, power had long rested in the hands of the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front, which represented the interests of one ethnic group, according to Underwood. Recently, protesters began demanding political and economic changes. The former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn stepped down, and Abiy, a “young technocrat,” took his place, reports Yohannes Gedamu of Al Jazeera. He belonged to the ruling coalition that had sparked dissent within the country, but hails from a mixed ethnic background and enjoys a “broad political appeal,” Gedamu writes.

Within his first 100 days as prime minister, Abiy lifted Ethiopia’s state of emergency, granted amnesty to thousands of political prisoners, legalized banned opposition groups, and dismissed military and civilian leaders accused of corruption, according to the Nobel Committee. He also ended media censorship—as of last year, Ethiopia reportedly had no journalists in prison—and promised the country would hold free elections next year. Ethiopia now has a gender balanced Cabinet, according to the AP, and its first female president, Sahle-Work Zewde.

But there are some who have questioned the Nobel Committee’s decision to award this year’s Peace Prize to the upstart prime minister. Meron Estefanos, an Eritrean-Swedish activist, tells Stevis-Gridneff of the Times that while circumstances are, in some respects, improving in Ethiopia, President Isaias maintains an iron grip on Eritrea. “How do you award a peace prize without peace?” she says. “Do Eritreans have peace? No.”

In spite of Abiy’s strides, Ethiopia also continues to struggle with internal conflicts. Ethnic tensions, once tempered by political repression, have been boiling over in the country, forcing millions of people to flee their homes. The swell in violence represents, according to Tom Wilson of the Los Angeles Times, what is “arguably the greatest threat to [Abiy’]s lofty ambitions.”

In its announcement, the Nobel Committee acknowledges that “some people will think this year’s prize is being awarded too early.” But it hopes that the newly awarded prize will bolster Abiy’s reconciliation efforts. “Ethiopia is Africa’s second most populous country and has East Africa’s largest economy,” the Committee states. “A peaceful, stable and successful Ethiopia will have many positive side-effects, and will help to strengthen fraternity among nations and peoples in the region.”

“[I]t is now,” the Committee adds, “that Abiy Ahmed’s efforts deserve recognition and need encouragement.”

Revolutionary Design: The Cuban Film Poster

Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum
Image features a white candelabrum set against a dark background. The candles, although white, drip red, recalling blood. The title of the film advertised appears across the top of the poster. Please scroll down to read the blog post about this object.In recognition of National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15-October 15, 2019), this week’s Object Of The Day posts celebrate Latinx designers’ works in the collection.  This post is written by Maeve Coudrelle. The Cuban Revolution of 1959 brought major changes to the country’s cultural fabric. Less than three months after the new revolutionary state came...
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