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Found 968 Collections

 

Read Between the Brushstrokes: Using Visual Art as a Historical Source

This Learning Lab from the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) will explore the connection between visual art and history. 

When studying history, it is important to remember that all historical sources do not look the same. Visual art, being an active response to a stimulus, serves as a mirror to the contemporary landscape. Art engages in a conversation with history while acting as a visual expression of contemporary thoughts and ideas.

Through the visual art piece Ethiopia by Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller (1921), students will learn more about the events and cultural context of the 1920s in America, including the Harlem Renaissance. Fuller's piece reflects the racial politics of the period, especially African Americans' quest for self identity. Ethiopia serves as a symbol of African Americans' identity exploration post-World War II and in the midst of the Pan-African movement.

The questions, prompts, and information provided in this Learning Lab will help students hone their skills in visual literacy competency. Students can use this Learning Lab collection to help sharpen their historical thinking skills and expand their conceptions of historical sources.

The guiding questions of this Learning Lab are

  • What is visual art’s connection to historical events? Why is it important that we recognize these connections?
  • How do contemporary events shape artists’ responses in their art making?
  • What does studying art add to our understanding of historical events and time periods?

The goals of this Learning Lab are

  • Bridge the gap in understanding between art analysis and historical analysis
  • Explore the inherent ties between art pieces and their surrounding historical context
  • Introduce the foundations of formal art analysis and develop close looking skills for visual art pieces

If you are new to Learning Lab, visit https://learninglab.si.edu/help/getting-started to learn how to get started!

National Museum of African American History and Culture
12
 

Uncovering America: Transportation

How does transportation affect our daily lives?

What can we learn about transportation and travel from works of art?

Discover compelling stories of creativity, struggle, and resilience in this new set of resources for K–12 educators featuring works of art that reflect the richness and diversity of the people, places, and cultures of the United States. Encourage creative, critical, and historical thinking in your students as you examine works of art from the country’s creation to the present day.

National Gallery of Art
4
 

Uncovering America: Activism and Protest

Why and how do people protest?

How might works of art show support or advocate for a cause?

How are people, communities, and events affected by works of art?

Discover compelling stories of creativity, struggle, and resilience in this new set of resources for K–12 educators featuring works of art that reflect the richness and diversity of the people, places, and cultures of the United States. Encourage creative, critical, and historical thinking in your students as you examine works of art from the country’s creation to the present day.

National Gallery of Art
4
 

Uncovering America: Immigration and Displacement

Why do people migrate to and within the United States?

How might works of art help us understand personal experiences of immigration and displacement?

Discover compelling stories of creativity, struggle, and resilience in this new set of resources for K–12 educators featuring works of art that reflect the richness and diversity of the people, places, and cultures of the United States. Encourage creative, critical, and historical thinking in your students as you examine works of art from the country’s creation to the present day.


National Gallery of Art
4
 

Virginia History Tour

From Jamestown to the present, explore some of the people, places and events that tell the story of the history of Virginia. 

( Curated to support Virginia Standards of Learning for the  Virginia Studies course.)


Nancy Butler
56
 

The Haida People and Their Culture

By Jeane Breinig (Haida), 2009

(This is shortened version of a longer essay from the Smithsonian book Living Our Cultures, Sharing Our Heritage: The First Peoples of Alaska.)

Sea, Land, Rivers

It’s an endless cycle – gathering food, putting it up, sharing it among the people. Subsistence is fundamental to our being, even for city-dwellers. Every summer since the kids were little, we would return to Kasaan to join in harvesting activities with family and friends. Our traditions pass on through the foods, the seasons and the generations. I am Haida Yáahl-Xúuts (Raven–Brown Bear), of the Taslaanas clan (The Sandy Beach People) at Kasaan, Alaska. By the custom of our matrilineal society, I trace my descent and clan affiliation through my mother, her mother and a long line of Raven women going back through the centuries.

Haida identities are linked to the history of our people. Alaskan Haida look south to Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands, Canada) as their ancestral homeland. The present villages of Masset and Skidegate were the only settlements that remained after a smallpox epidemic ravaged Haida Gwaii in 1862. Survivors from at least seventeen other communities found refuge there. Alaskan Haida are the descendants of emigrants who left Haida Gwaii sometime before European contact. Residents of Old Kasaan, one of the original Alaskan villages, moved to (New) Kasaan in 1902, and people from Howkan, Klinkwan, and other early Alaskan Haida settlements consolidated at Hydaburg in 1911. The distance from northern Haida Gwaii to Prince of Wales Island is not great, only about thirty-five miles. It is easy to imagine our forebears going across in their canoes: the Haida are justly famous as seafarers and boat builders. Our red-cedar canoes, some large enough to carry forty passengers, traveled up and down the coasts of Alaska and British Columbia and were sought in trade by Tlingit, Tsimshian and other peoples.

When the salmon start jumping in Kasaan Bay, it’s time to begin gathering the foods of our land. We pick sghiw (black seaweed) during the minus tides of May, when you can get out to the rocks where it grows. They spread it out on flat rocks to dry in the sun, took it home in gunnysacks, ground it up, and stored it as a savory food for winter. We love to eat it by the handful or sprinkle it on fish soup. As the summer goes on we fish for halibut and the different species of salmon that arrive in our waters. Sockeye from the Karta River, a staple of the diet in Kasaan, are smoked and preserved using an endless variety of family recipes. Clams, abalone, “gumboots” (chitons), crabs and shrimp are also harvested, and salmonberries, blueberries and huckleberries are picked as they ripen in succession. The men go deer hunting in the fall. Another staple is hooligan (eulachon) oil or “grease,” called satáw in the Haida language. Haida traditionally bartered for fish grease and soapberries from the Tsimshian in exchange for our dried seaweed and halibut. That kind of trading still goes on at the annual Alaska Federation of Natives convention every October, when everyone brings specialties from home to exchange for favorite foods from other places.

Family and Community

In a traditional Haida village, cedar-plank longhouses stood side by side, each paired with a tall pole displaying the crest animals of the clan members who resided there. An opening through base of the pole, representing the mouth or stomach of the lowest crest figure, served as the doorway to some houses. Like other southeast Alaskan peoples, the Haida are socially divided between Ravens and Eagles, each half (moiety) composed of numerous matrilineal clans. Traditional marriages were always between a member of a Raven clan and a member of an Eagle clan. The residents of a longhouse included multiple generations of male clan members and women of other clans who came there to live with their husbands.

Much of a child’s education was the responsibility of clan mentors outside the nuclear family: for a boy, this was his maternal uncle, and for a girl, her maternal aunt. On their pathways to adulthood, children received the names of ancestors, as well as piercings and tattoos that signified their clan and rank. Children still learn through watching and participating in the activities of the community. Our oral tradition is another participatory way of learning. Elders teach through stories, although the message may be indirect. If you seek an elder’s counsel, you might hear a tale about another place and time. It is up to you to think about the meaning and apply it to your own life.

The worst horrors of Haida contact with the West were waves of epidemic disease – smallpox, influenza, tuberculosis, whooping cough and others – that consumed the aboriginal population, unchecked by natural immunity. Perhaps fourteen thousand Haida in the 1780s had withered to six hundred by 1915. It is hard to imagine loss on that scale, not only of life, but also of culture and heritage. Most of the clan leadership was gone, and consolidation of the widespread population into just a few villages almost destroyed the complex social system as it had functioned until then.

Haida oral literature is renowned for its epic tales of battles and migrations, transformations from animals to human beings and vice versa, and journeys to spirit worlds in the sky and underwater. Other Haida tales, especially Raven stories, are simply fun with a touch of mystery. Raven, the comical trickster is always in trouble. Elders say that he turned black by getting stuck in the smoke hole of a house and being too fat and lazy to escape.

Today there are fewer than a dozen fluent Alaskan Haida speakers. I am fortunate that my mother, Julie Coburn, is one of them. Her Haida name is Wahlgidouk, “Giver of Gifts,” meaning a person who brings in presents to be distributed at a ceremonial giveaway, or potlatch. She has been giving the gifts of language and literature throughout her life. Keeping her language was a kind of heroism under all the pressures for acculturation. Her parents, concerned about their children’s survival in Western culture, spoke Haida to them at home but asked them to answer in English. At her boarding school in Sitka, speaking Haida was harshly punished. But as an adult in her fifties, she recognized that the language was fading away, so she relearned it and now has had the good fortune also to teach others. She participated in the Haida Society for the Preservation of Haida Language and Literature and contributed to work accomplished at the Alaska Native Language Center when Haida elders developed a standardized writing system.

Ceremony and Celebration

In 1880, Chief Son-I-Hat built Neyúwens ("Great House") near Kasaan Bay, a mile from the location where New Kasaan was later founded. That structure, today called the Whale House, was restored in 1938 by Haida craftsmen working for the Civilian Conservation Corps. The restoration included the house’s crest pole and carved interior posts, which portray Coon-Ahts, a legendary figure who captured the monster Gonaqadate and put on his skin to hunt whales. Surrounding the house are additional totem poles brought over from Old Kasaan and restored, along with copies of several more. The Whale House is the only surviving traditional Haida clan house in Alaska.

The English word potlatch has been used for traditional Haida ceremonies that centered on feasting, dancing and the distribution of property by chiefs and other leaders. The Haida word is 'wáahlaal. The largest potlatches marked the completion of a new clan house or the death of a chief and succession of his heir. Chief Son-I-Hat, one of the wealthiest Haida leaders, hosted numerous potlatches before his death in 1912. Potlatches were outlawed by the Canadian government in 1884, and they were discouraged by Christian missionaries who came to the Haida region in the 1870s and 1880s.

Despite attempts to suppress of our traditional ceremonies, we still hold feasts and memorial potlatches, but now in transformed ways. Traditionally, potlatches represented a time for the deceased person’s clan to repay those from other clans who had helped them at the time of the death. In many respects, a potlatch can be viewed as a social occasion but with very formal aspects, acknowledging the sadness of the loss but also marking the end of mourning. Potlatches are also the time to repay those who have served as witnesses for naming ceremonies. By accepting a gift, recipients acknowledge that the name is legally granted within the traditional Haida system.

We are celebrating and revitalizing Haida culture in southeast Alaska. Teaching the language and rebuilding the Whale House are just a part of it. Every summer in Kasaan, a culture camp for the kids is held, with storytelling, dancing and subsistence activities. They want to learn and are so proud of their heritage. What does it mean to be Haida? The answer now is different from that of the past, obviously. We need to know our history and learn from it. We need to know our culture and draw strength from it. We need to make it work for us today.

Tags: Haida, Alaska Native, Indigenous, Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center in Alaska

Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center in Alaska
20
 

Black Art History

Artists to support Black (Art) History Month, February

Jamie Cosumano
29
 

The Third Dimention

A collection of sculptures created with various material. 

Larry Johnson
8
 

Medieval Manuscript

Collection of Medieval Manuscripts from anywhere in the world. 

Ty Torrence
7
 

Exploring Ava DuVernay's "Selma": History as Visual Culture

The guiding questions of this Learning Lab are

  • What is visual art’s connection to historical events? Why is it important that we recognize these connections?
  • What does studying art add to our understanding of historical events and time periods?

The goals of this Learning Lab are

  • Bridge the gap in understanding between art analysis and historical analysis
  • Explore the inherent ties between art pieces and their surrounding historical context
  • Introduce the foundations of formal art analysis and develop close looking skills for visual art pieces

If you are new to Learning Lab, visit https://learninglab.si.edu/help/getting-started to learn how to get started!

#NPGTeach


Special thanks to National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), the National Museum of American History (NMAH), Smithsonian Folkways, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) for inspiring this learning lab and for their resources.

Keywords: Portraiture, African American, American, Selma, Alabama, visual art, Civil Rights Movement, United States, visual literacy

Ashleigh Coren
45
 

Uncovering America: Gordon Parks Photography

How does Gordon Parks use photography to address inequities in the United States?

How do Gordon Parks’s images capture the intersections of art, race, class, and politics across the United States?

What do photographs in general—and Gordon Parks’s photographs more specifically—tell us about the American Dream?

Discover compelling stories of creativity, struggle, and resilience in this new set of resources for K–12 educators featuring works of art that reflect the richness and diversity of the people, places, and cultures of the United States.

National Gallery of Art
4
 

Which One Doesn't Belong

This collection includes digital museum resources and models the listening and speaking strategy Which one Doesn't Belong.  The collection can be copied and adapted for use in your own classroom. 




#EthnicStudies


Jennifer Smith
8
 

Uncovering America: Manifest Destiny and the West

In what ways was the US settled and unsettled in the 19th century?

What role did artists play in shaping public understandings of the US West?

Discover compelling stories of creativity, struggle, and resilience in this new set of resources for K–12 educators featuring works of art that reflect the richness and diversity of the people, places, and cultures of the United States.

National Gallery of Art
4
 

Uncovering America: Faces of America/Portraits

What is a portrait? What truths and questions does a portrait communicate?

What might a portrait express about the person portrayed? How does it reflect the sitter’s community, setting, family, or friends? What does the portrait reveal about the artist?

Discover compelling stories of creativity, struggle, and resilience in this new set of resources for K–12 educators featuring works of art that reflect the richness and diversity of the people, places, and cultures of the United States.

National Gallery of Art
4
 

Willi Smith

Willi Smith (1958-1987)

Willi Smith was an African American fashion designer whose street wear line known as WilliWear was and experiment of democracy in fashion. WilliWear designs were known to be bold, blurring the lines between high and low culture, and his work often involved collaborations with other artists and designers. The openly gay designer's career was cut short when he died in 1987 from complications from HIV/AIDS.

This collection is a representation of the 2020 exhibition Willi Smith: Street Couture at the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum, which features over 200 pieces from Smith’s work and career and his numerous collaborations with artists, dancers, choreographers, graphic designers, architects, and more. The works on view include video, sketches, patterns, photographs, and garments.

Cooper Hewitt Education Department
67
 

Herbert Bayer

Herbert Bayer (American, born Austria, active Germany and USA, 1900–1985) was a student and teacher at the Bauhaus. This famous German art and design school, which operated from 1919 to 1933, sought to integrate art, design, and daily life. At the Bauhaus, Bayer experimented with geometry, photomontage, and functional typography to help forge a new approach to graphic design. He applied Bauhaus theories of art and design to commercial practice and promoted the Bauhaus legacy to the public during a prolific career spanning over six decades and two continents.

As a student during the early years of the Bauhaus, Bayer utilized hand-drawn letters and basic geometry to create posters, postcards, and murals. In 1925, he became a "young master" at the Bauhaus and established a modernized print shop in the school's new building in Dessau. Here, he deployed photography and machine-based printing to promote the school and its products, such as furniture, housewares, and wallpaper.

After leaving the Bauhaus in 1928, Bayer worked in Berlin and in 1938 he left Germany for New York City. He eventually moved to Aspen, Colorado, a town he helped transform into a thriving cultural center. In the United States, Bayer created information graphics, books, advertisements, exhibitions, architecture, and magazine layouts for diverse clients, and he pioneered the field of corporate design.

This exhibition marks the centenary of the founding of the Bauhaus in Weimar, Germany, in 1919.

Many of the objects displayed in this exhibition, including all the works from the Bauhaus period, have been generously loaned by Merrill C. Berman. In 2015, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum acquired over 500 pieces documenting Bayer's later career, made possible through a gift from the Taub Foundation. They are presented here to the public for the first time.

Cooper Hewitt Education Department
56
 

Local Materials: Yup'ik Ingenuity

Coming soon!

Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center in Alaska
1
 

Sharing Resources: Athabascan Potlatches Today

Coming soon!

Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center in Alaska
1
 

Alaska Native Technologies: Bolas

Coming soon!

Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center in Alaska
1
 

Graviky Lab's Air-Ink, 2013-ongoing

Responding to the pollution in cities caused by carbon emissions from vehicles, Graviky Labs founder Anirudh Sharma has developed a device that can be attached to exhaust pipes to capture the tiny particles in exhaust. Once captured, this fine particulate matter can be converted into water-resistant ink, a nearly pure carbon pigment.

Cooper Hewitt Education Department
6
 

Ultraboost Shoe, 2016-Ongoing

Cooper Hewitt Education Department
9
 

Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg's The Substitute

On March 19, 2018, the last male northern white rhino, Sudan, died, bringing his subspecies to the brink of extinction. As scientists work to resurrect the rhino through experimental and controversial biotechnologies, Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg “brings back to life” a male northern white rhino using data generated by artificial intelligence to ask the question “what errors in reproduction may arise as we recreate life artificially?” As it habituates to its environment, the rhino’s form and sound toggle from pixelated to lifelike—reminding us that this rhino, coming to life without its natural context, is entirely artificial.

Cooper Hewitt Education Department
7
 

Learning through Games

Coming soon!

Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center in Alaska
1
 

The Tlingit People and Their Culture

By Rosita Worl (Tlingit), 2009

(This is shortened version of a longer essay from the Smithsonian book Living Our Cultures, Sharing Our Heritage: The First Peoples of Alaska.)

Sea, Land, Rivers

Lingít haa sateeyí, "we who are Tlingit," have owned and occupied southeast Alaska since time immemorial. When we say haa aaní, “our land,” we are speaking from the heart. Those words mean ownership, which we have had to defend through history. They mean identity, because this is our homeland. They mean the nourishment of body and spirit provided by bountiful rain forests, coasts and rivers. This land and its gifts have sustained us for hundreds of generations.

We believe that animals are our ancestors. Each matrilineal clan has its ancient progenitors. I am an Eagle from the Thunderbird clan, of the House Lowered from the Sun in Klukwan. I am proud to be a child of the Lukaax.ádi, or Sockeye, my father’s clan. The history of our lineages is portrayed by images of ancestral animals and by origin stories, ceremonial regalia, dances, songs and names. These things represent at.óow, or “crest” beings, to which each clan has exclusive rights. Mountains, glaciers and other places on the land are also at.óow, because they are linked to incidents in the birth of our people. For a Tlingit person at.óow embody history, ancestry, geography, social being and sacred connection. They symbolize who we are.

The Tlingit homeland extends from Icy Bay in the north to Prince of Wales Island in the south, some four hundred miles along Alaska’s panhandle. The population is about ten thousand, distributed among a dozen villages, cities and towns. The ocean spreads out before us, with a maze of wooded islands, fjords and channels that Tlingit seafarers historically traveled in cedar-trunk canoes. Behind us are high glaciated mountain ranges that extend inland from the coast.

Fish, especially salmon, is the most important and bountiful resource in the Tlingit region. Harvested in summer and fall and preserved by smoking and drying, it allowed the historical population to grow large, to live in permanent winter villages and to produce surpluses for trade. It is still the year-round staple of our diet. The winter is long, and we look forward to spring and to herring eggs. We pick spring greens as they come up. Through the summer people gather berries and put them away. Summer is the season for hunting seals, which are important both for meat and for their fat. Nutritionists note the exceptional quality of our traditional diet, which includes omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon, cancer-preventing antioxidants in blueberries, and the rich vitamins and proteins of wild meats and fish. We’ve always enjoyed the health benefits and superb tastes of those foods.

Community and Family

Tlingit are divided into opposing and complementary halves, Eagle and Raven, which are called moieties. Each moiety is composed of large extended families that we identify as clans. The clans, in turn, are divided into tribal houses. In the present day, many Tlingit people introduce themselves to others first by personal name and moiety—Eagle or Raven—and then by clan name and house. We inherit clan membership from our mothers but call ourselves the “children” of our father’s clan. In the past, children lived in the house of their father. But when a boy reached the age of ten, he went to live with his mother’s brother, who assumed responsibility for the schooling of his young nephew. A girl remained in her father’s clan house until she married.

Although locally organized by village and clan, our region was never politically unified until coming into conflict with the West. When the Treaty of Cession was signed in 1867 our great-grandparents were astonished to learn that Russia had purported to sell Alaska, including our aboriginal lands, to the United States. Tribal leaders sent a lawyer to Washington to tell the government, “If you want to buy Alaska, then buy it from us, its rightful owners.” The struggle for our land continued for more than a century. The Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Tribes, established during World War II, litigated for thirty years to reach a financial settlement over tribal property taken by the U.S. federal government to create the Tongass National Forest. In 1968, the Tlingit and other groups unified under the Alaska Federation of Natives to pursue both state and federal claims.

The Tlingit people, like all Alaska Natives, endured a long, hard fight for their civil rights. We were denied U.S. citizenship until 1922 and experienced decades of overt discrimination and segregation. Alaska’s own “Jim Crow” laws excluded us from stores, jobs, schools and public buildings. In 1945, the Alaska Native Brotherhood and Alaska Native Sisterhood, based in southeast Alaska, finally won the repeal of discriminatory laws by the state legislature. To earn his Certificate of Citizenship, my grandfather had to pass an English-language and civics test administered by white schoolteachers and then have his application approved by a judge. To practice his rights as a citizen, including the right to vote, he was forced to show that he had given up his Native language and culture to lead a “civilized” life.

When he was dying my grandfather called me to his bedside. I was fourteen years old. He said, “I want you to build a fire in the clan house.” What he was saying is that my generation had to rekindle the fire of our culture and language. That became our responsibility. We have worked hard to help restore cultural knowledge, practice, pride and fluency among our people. We have had substantial success, as witnessed by the huge public expression of our cultures that takes place every other year during the regional Celebration gathering. Progress has been made with the Tlingit language as well, although I don’t know that we’ll ever speak it the way our ancestors did. I will tell you, though, that the voices of our ancestors will always be heard in our land. And our core cultural values will be maintained.

Ceremony and Celebration

One of our strongest values is the maintenance of social and spiritual balance between Eagle and Raven clans to ensure the well-being of society. In addition, we have spiritual obligations to ancestors and future generations, a concept of cultural perpetuation called haa shagoon. These traditional beliefs form the basis of ceremonies called ku.éex’ or potlatch in English. The most significant ku.éex’ ceremonies are memorials to those who have passed away. When someone of an Eagle clan dies, members of Raven clans come to assist the grieving relatives. They bring food, contribute to the funeral expenses and sit with the body through the night.

A year after the death the Eagle clan hosts a ku.éex’ for the Ravens, who come as guests. The hosts display their clan treasures, or at.óow. In this context, the word at.óow refers to works of traditional art that bear the images of crest beings. They include Chilkat blankets woven from dyed mountain sheep wool, button blankets, headdresses, carved and painted boxes, masks and drums. Clan ownership of these crest objects is revalidated by their presentation in the memorial ceremony, accompanied by a recounting of their histories and the origin stories of the crests themselves. Balance is maintained through the response of the Raven clans by presenting their own at.óow. The Eagle clan repays the Ravens, who came to the Eagles’ assistance, by distributing gifts and acknowledging them in oratory and song.

At a memorial ku.éex’ we name and honor the deceased person, our ancestors and others in the clan who have recently died. We feed these ancestors and departed relatives with their favorite foods, perhaps smoked cockles, gumboots (chitons) or deer meat. We transfer the food to the spirit world by fire or by giving it to the opposite side to eat.

If the person who died was a clan leader, his successor is named and assumes office at the time of the memorial ceremony. Therefore, a ku.éex’ has multiple functions: repaying the opposite moiety and reuniting with them, fulfilling spiritual obligations, and conducting legal and political affairs. This institution, which remains so vital and important in our contemporary lives, is far more complex than a stereotypical understanding of the word potlatch might imply.

Tags: Tlingit, Alaska Native, Indigenous, Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center in Alaska


Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center in Alaska
20
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