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Found 8,887 Resources

Music of Ghana: Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Ghana's Independence

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Webpage discusses how Ghana's musical traditions remain intimately attached to the survival of communities. Video and audio clips demonstrate the ways that the music marks the cycles of life, animates religious rituals, and communicates social values.

Devi: The Great Goddess

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Website looking at six aspects of the Indian Goddess Devi. These six aspects are the different forms she takes and the functions these forms have. Includes information on the contemporary and historical worship of Devi, activities for children and families, and a list of resources on South Asian arts and cultures.

Musica Latina: Exploring Hispanic Heritage through Music

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Webpage includes an essay on the growing Latino community in the United States and the infusion of Latin music. Includes musical selections from Colombia, Texas, and Puerto Rico, and film clips of live performances.

The Art of African Exploration

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Online exhibition includes compelling images from the European imperialist period. In primary-source documents, photographs, maps, and drawings, see Africa's animals, peoples, and landscapes through the eyes of the explorers.

The Pichs Collection: Exploring the History of Cuba through Postal Stamps

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Webpage with an overview of Cuban postal history from the pre-philatelic period to 1939 with folded letters, stamped envelopes, and historic postcards from the Pichs Collection. A second section describes Cuban aviation and airmail history.

Office of Visitor Services

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Main information page for people visiting the Smithsonian museums. Includes events calendar, hours, visitor guides, foreign language guides, exhibit highlights, museum information, Smithsonian news, tips on visiting with children, locations and maps, and information on tours, dining, and security policies.

Ainu: Spirit of a Northern People

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
This online tour explores the Ainu: Spirit of a Northern people exhibit. This exhibit explores the ancient origins of the Ainu of Northern Japan and their evolving relations with the Japanese. Each room has an audio tour and highlighted objects.

Archive of African Artists

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Online exhibit featuring a sampling of exhibition announcements and gallery brochures for 21 African artists from eleven countries. The National Museum of African Art Library maintains a fast-growing collection of more than 3,300 files on contemporary African artists. No other library in the United States is developing or maintaining this type of collection.

Radio Africa

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Free streams of the sounds that make up the diverse music of Africa including complete tracks from the collections of Smithsonian Folkways. From the rhythms of Benin to the wedding music of Ethiopia to the traditional Zulu music of South Africa to the parade music of Senegal, you'll never know what you'll hear next. Includes podcasts of talks, interviews, story-reading.

Ancestor Worship Today

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Website presents the research of a group of Chinese American teenagers who looked into their own communities for modern examples of ancestor worship. Includes photos and interviews gathered by the teens.

Strings of the North: National Instruments of Sweden, Norway, and Finland

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Webpage introduces the ways that musical instruments serve as symbols of national identity and pride. Listen to audio clips and discover the unique characteristics of the Swedish nyckelharpa, the Norwegian Hardanger fiddle, and the Finnish kantele.

Art to Zoo: Africa Behind and Beyond the Headlines (1980)

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Lesson plan introducing students to the interplay between environment and traditional culture in sub-Saharan Africa. Students learn about the significance of African masks and create their own masks.

Figure Study, Possibly for Dome of Manufactures and Liberal Arts Building, World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, IL

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Woman kneeling on right knee, drapery across thighs; torso bent backward; left arm raised, right arm extended across body; study of left hand, in which rests portion of a staff, at upper right.

Study for Monument to Soldiers of World War II [sculpture] / (photographed by Peter A. Juley & Son)

Archives and Special Collections, Smithsonian American Art Museum
Black-and-white study print (8x10).

Orig. negative: 8x10, Safety, BW.

The Morse Code, Study for Manufactures and Liberal Arts Building, World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, IL

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Draped figure of a woman seated on a stool, seen from below, turned half-way toward left. Across knee a folio, to left corner of which hand is held, while right hand rests on shelf. Squared in red pencil for copying.

The Electric Light, Study for Manufactures and Liberal Arts Building, World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, IL

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Woman kneeling on right knee, drapery across thighs; head bent backward; left arm raised to hold framework for sphere, right arm extended across body. Below, sketch of a cat. Squared for copying.

Celebrate the Arts of the Silk Road

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Collection of links related to the Silk Road. Includes exhibitions connected to the Silk Road, additional links for more information, and events/talks about the Silk Road.

Memoirs of a World War II Buffalo Soldier

Smithsonian Magazine

On his dining room table James “Pat” Daugherty had arranged some old faded photographs from his Army days, his Bronze Star, a copy of his recently published World War II memoir, The Buffalo Saga, and his olive-drab steel helmet, marred near the visor by a chunk of now-rusted iron.

“If you feel the inside of the helmet, you can see how close it was,” he says of the shrapnel from a German mortar that struck the young private in Italy in the fall of 1944. A few more millimeters, and he might never have lived to write his memoir, which is what I went to his home in Silver Spring, Maryland, to learn about.

Daugherty, 85, served in the Army’s storied 92nd Infantry Division, which was made up almost entirely of African-Americans and was the last racially segregated unit in the U.S. armed forces. Known as the Buffalo Soldiers—a name that Native Americans had bestowed on a black cavalry unit after the Civil War—men of the 92nd division were among the only African-Americans to see combat in Europe, battling German troops in Italy. In 1948, President Truman issued an executive order that ended racial segregation in the military.

Daugherty, drafted at age 19, was so deeply affected by his two years in the division that he wrote an account of the experience soon after he returned home in 1947. He self-published the story this year, virtually unchanged from the manuscript he had scribbled in longhand. The Buffalo Saga promises to be a significant addition to the history of African-American troops in World War II because it was written by a participant almost immediately following the events in question, rather than recollected or reconstructed years later.

Daugherty says he put pen to paper because friends and family members were always asking, “ ‘What did you do when you were over there?’ ”

Years ago he tried once to find a publisher, with no success. “I think the content was too caustic,” says Dorothy, his wife of 59 years.

The Buffalo Saga is indeed a raw, unvarnished, often angry account of a decorated young soldier’s encounter with institutionalized racial prejudice. Once, while fighting in Italy in 1945, another soldier in the 92nd Infantry Division said his company had lost too many men to continue fighting. Daugherty asked why the officers couldn’t just call up replacements. “Look, bud, they don’t train colored soldiers to fight,” the soldier told Daugherty. “They train them to load ships, and you don’t expect them to put white boys in a Negro outfit, do you? What do you think this is, a democracy or something?”

Daugherty’s memoir also recalls the time a black soldier got shipped out to the front lines in Italy after confronting a white officer. Word was the officer had threatened to send him where he’d get his “smart Negro brains” blown out. “I merely wondered how many men were here to be punished because they had dared to express a desire to be treated like men,” Daugherty writes.

But the book isn’t a screed. It’s an honest, even poignant account of a young man fighting in a war.

Image by Molly Roberts. The Buffalo Saga promises to be a significant addition to the history of African-American troops in World War II. (original image)

Image by Molly Roberts. James "Pat" Daugherty, 85, served in the Army's storied 92nd Infantry Division, which was made up almost entirely of African-Americans. (original image)

One night in late December 1944, Daugherty’s platoon got orders to patrol a mountain and not come back until it had a prisoner. He and the rest of his company ducked under friendly fire, and Daugherty advanced ahead of the troops. “The first thing I knew I had stumbled upon a barrier constructed of wooden plank and heavy-cut branches,” he wrote. “I was about to try to cross this when I caught the movement of a form in the darkness. I looked up, and it was a Jerry.” He and another private captured him and returned to camp. For this, Daugherty earned his Bronze Star.

The Buffalo Soldiers of World War II arouse intense scholarly and popular interest (a recent treatment is Miracle at St. Anna, a 2008 film by director Spike Lee based on the novel by James McBride). Their long-overlooked achievements gained national prominence in 1997, when seven African-American soldiers were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Only Vernon Baker, who served with the 92nd Infantry, was still alive.

“It was something that I felt should have been done a long time ago,” Baker said at the time. “If I was worthy of receiving a Medal of Honor in 1945, I should have received it then.” In 2006, Baker published his own memoir, Lasting Valor, with the help of journalist Ken Olsen.

The medals were issued after a historian documented that no African- American who fought in the war had even been nominated for one. “At the end of World War II, the white officers in particular wanted to wash their hands of the Italian campaign experience with the 92nd Division,” says historian Daniel Gibran, author of The 92nd Infantry Division and the Italian Campaign in World War II. “It was an experience that a lot of white officers didn’t really want, and they might as well soon forget that kind of experience.”

At the end of the war, Daugherty returned to his hometown, Washington, D.C., determined, he wrote at the time, “to help make it a place that shows compassion for, humility for, high regard for, and values all its citizens alike.” Of course, Daugherty and his fellow Buffalo Soldiers returned not to a hero’s welcome but to segregated schools and job discrimination. “The road has been long and hard; blood and sweat, death and destruction have been our companions,” he wrote. “We are home now though our flame flickers low. Will you fan it with the winds of freedom, or will you smother it with the sands of humiliation? Will it be that we fought for the lesser of two evils? Or is there this freedom and happiness for all men?”

Daugherty didn’t let his own flame go out. He went on to study at Howard University in Washington, D.C. on the G.I. Bill and to work as an administrator in the U.S. Public Health Service. He was the first African-American to serve on the board of the Montgomery County Public Schools, among the nation’s largest public school districts. Following publication of his book, Daugherty has become somewhat of a celebrity in his adopted hometown—July 28 is now officially “Buffalo Soldier James Daugherty Day” in Silver Spring.

He sits in the living room of the ranch-style house he built nearly five decades ago and in which he and his wife raised their four sons. He recalls that his work in the public health system also taught him about inequity.

“The majority of the health centers were in poor, black areas where people couldn’t get health care and all that,” Daugherty says. “But I also had to go up into West Virginia to the coal mines, and they were mistreated something terrible. A lot of these weren’t black, they weren’t Asian; they were white, Caucasian.”

Daugherty’s original handwritten manuscript remains sealed in two yellowed envelopes. Daugherty mailed them to himself more than half a century ago, in lieu of obtaining an official copyright. The postmarks read April 28, 1952. It’s his way of proving that The Buffalo Saga is his story.

Czech Book Covers of the 1920s and 1930s

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Online exhibit featuring Czechoslovakian book covers from the 1920s and 30s. During the period between the two World Wars, the Czechoslovak Republic was an important and prolific center for avant-garde book design. Includes information on the four artistic movements prominent in Czechoslovakian avant-garde book design: Poetism, Constructivism, Surrealism, and Socialist Realism. Includes selected biographies, a bibliography, and an image gallery searchable by movement, author, or date.

Dwellings Around the Globe

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Activity exploring dwellings across the globe. Students conduct collaborative research on cliff dwellings, igloos, longhouses, and yurts and reflect on these dwellings': underlying environmental and cultural conditions.

Viking Learning Center

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Website featuring historical, cultural, and archaeological contexts for the Vikings. Includes bibliography, teaching guide, explanation of runes, description of a Viking board game, maps, and a glossary.

Telling Our Own Stories Through Corridos

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Lesson plan using the lyrics and music of corridos along with the accompanying website to analyze written texts, visual images, and objects to develop students' understanding of various themes, regions, and perspectives of North American history. Students look at music as a primary source of history by interviewing family members about the songs they grew up with and comparing these songs to narrative corridos.

A Window into the World of Diane Arbus

Smithsonian Magazine

Diane Arbus is known for her unsettling photographic portraits of people on the outskirts of society. She also was one of the first photographers to successfully leap from the commercial sphere to the art world, at a time when critics and curators by and large did not consider photography to be an art form. She did so in part based on the strength of a portfolio she began putting together in 1969 to try to create some financial independence and to establish her artistic identity.

That portfolio, A box of ten photographs, is on display at the Smithsonian American Art Museum until January 2019. The museum is the only venue for the portfolio, one of just four complete editions that Arbus printed and annotated. The three other editions—the artist never executed her plan to make 50—are held privately.

The Smithsonian edition was made for Bea Feitler, an art director who both employed and befriended Arbus. It includes an 11th photo, Mrs. Gladys “Mitzi” Ulrich with the baby, Sam a stump-tailed macaque monkey. After Feitler’s death, Baltimore collector G.H. Dalsheimer bought her portfolio from Sotheby’s in 1982 for $42,900. The American Art Museum then bought it from Dalsheimer in 1986. The portfolio was put away in the museum’s collection, until now.

Arbus was transparent in many ways, but mysterious in so many others, starting with how she decided on the ten photos included in the portfolio. “She has left virtually no information about that,” says John Jacob, the museum’s curator of photography. Jacob ventures that those photos are “how she saw herself, how she created her self-image,” he says. “It also becomes how we know her today.”

Equally unknown: why she took her own life in 1971, swallowing a handful of barbiturates and slitting her wrists, just as she seemed to be reaching the pinnacle of her career.

“Considered in relation to the portfolio, the odyssey of Diane Arbus is the odyssey of photography itself,” says Jacob. Writing in the exhibition catalog, Jacob says, “At the time of her death, Diane Arbus was already a growing influence on the field of photography but not widely known to the larger public.”

A woman with her baby monkey, N.J. by Diane Arbus, 1971 (Museum purchase. © The Estate of Diane Arbus)

A box of ten “initiated the transition, connecting Arbus’s past as a magazine photographer with her emergence as a serious artist, and bridging a lifetime of modest recognition with a posthumous career of extraordinary acclaim,” he writes.

A big breakthrough occurred when Philip Leider, editor of the art world’s pre-eminent publication—Artforum—published the portfolio’s Patriotic boy with straw hat, buttons and flag on the cover and five other portfolio images inside the May 1971 issue, breaking his long-held tradition of ignoring the field. “With Diane Arbus, one could find oneself interested in photography or not, but one could no longer. . . deny its status as art. . . . What changed everything was the portfolio itself,” Leider wrote.

A few years earlier—in 1967—Arbus’s work had caused a stir at New Documents, a show at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). John Szarkowski, the MoMA’s curator of photography from 1962 to 1991, and a huge believer in Arbus, had chosen 30 of her portraits to display, including many of those included in A box of ten.

Jacob says that Leider’s enthusiasm, along with the portfolio’s selection for the 1972 Venice Biennale international art show—making her the first American photographer to be represented there—and a full layout of seven of the portfolio images in the October 1972 issue of Ms. magazine, “were the first steps toward the almost mythical status of Diane Arbus today.”

Carving Out Her Own Direction

Arbus had her own ideas of who she was and what her work was about. She was always defying convention—from the rejection of her privileged Manhattan childhood to her unorthodox marriage to her eventual choice of photographic subjects. Beginning in high school, Arbus was itching to go to the places where she wasn’t allowed or expected, or maybe even wanted.

She intended to live her life as she chose, and that included marrying at the age of 18, instead of going to college, and following her husband—Allan Arbus—into photography.

They started out working together on fashion spreads in the post-World War II period for Seventeen, Glamour and Vogue. He was the technical savant; she was the artiste, who came up with the vision for their work. But neither Allan nor Diane saw a future in what was then a relatively risk-free milieu. Allan wanted to be an actor—he would go on to an off-Broadway and a long television and movie career that included a ten-year run as the psychiatrist Sidney Freedman on the 1970s smash-hit M.A.S.H.

Diane, meanwhile, was absorbing everything she could about photography and the New York art world, studying at the New School for Social Research under Berenice Abbott—a photographer who had evolved out of the Parisian avant garde of the 1920s to become a documentarian. Arbus then went on to study in 1956 with Lisette Model, also at the New School. It was Model, a French-Austrian known for her massive 16 x 20 photographic portraits of the extremes of society—rich and poor, beautiful and ugly—who was considered to have the most influence on Arbus, outside of her husband.

Arbus also developed long-lasting and important relationships with Marvin Israel, an art director she’d first met at Seventeen, who went on to be one of her biggest patrons through his art direction at Harper’s Bazaar. It was Israel who suggested that she create a portfolio, and he came up with the translucent plastic box that contained the ten photographs. Walker Evans, an exquisite documentarian of the Depression and American life became a close friend and adviser, helping her land a John Simon Guggenheim Foundation fellowship in photography in 1963. And fellow New Yorker and peer Richard Avedon—who also worked for Harper’s Bazaar and became known for his equally startling portraits—was an important lifeline during her rising art career.

Secrets and Adventures

Model instilled in Arbus the idea that photography could reveal secrets. Arbus imbued it with her own philosophy. “A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells, the less you know,” said Arbus in 1971.

What seemed transparent in her motive and her work was really just a surface observation. Sometimes the riddle could not be solved.

She did, however, make it clear to anyone who wanted to know that photography gave her a way to step outside of herself and have an adventure. “My favorite thing is to go where I’ve never been,” she said, in a 1970 slide show for a group of magazine editors that was organized by Cornell Capa, a photojournalist who was trying to generate interest in his idea for a photo museum that later became the International Center of Photography.

Boy with a straw hat waiting to march in a pro-war parade by Diane Arbus, cover of Artforum, May 1971 (SAAM, Museum purchase. © The Estate of Diane Arbus © Artforum, May 1971, “Five Photographs,” by Diane Arbus. Photo by Mindy Barrett)

From 1962 to 1967, Arbus journeyed to nudist camps around New Jersey. She found them astounding, funny, shabby and full of paradoxes. “It was a naughty thing to do and it was terrific,” she said during that 1970 talk. Arbus couldn’t just go, fully clothed, and tromp around the camps. To gain the residents’ trust, she stripped down, wearing only a camera around her neck and a hat on her head. The nudists told Arbus they were morally superior—because without clothing, there was no longer a sexual obsession. Meanwhile, “they have dirty magazines and they’re really playing footsy all the time,” said Arbus.

One of the shots in A box of tenRetired man and his wife at home in a nudist camp in N.J. one morning, from 1963—drops into the living room of an older couple, as if the viewer were sitting in the corner, having coffee and chatting. They smile amiably. He wears slippers and she’s got on a pair of flip flops; both are otherwise entirely nude. Arbus found it hilarious that they had two framed portrait photos of themselves on top of the TV, both in the buff.

She was known to ride her bike all over New York, hunting for subjects. The subway also provided rich fodder. On the underground trains, Arbus encountered a woman who looked like Elizabeth Taylor. She followed her and begged for her picture. Thus came, A young family in Brooklyn on a Sunday outing (1966), which depicted the wife, husband, baby daughter, and, in Arbus’ own words, a “retarded” child.

Promotional flyer for A box of ten photographs by Diane Arbus, 1970-71 (Museum purchase. © The Estate of Diane Arbus © Artforum, May 1971, “Five Photographs,” by Diane Arbus. Photo by Mindy Barrett)

Arbus also habituated Hubert’s Freak Museum in Times Square, especially a favorite after she saw—and then obsessively watched again and again—Tod Browning’s 1932 film Freaks. One of her subjects from the various carnival shows she attended was Lauro Morales, a person with dwarfism who she photographed for a decade. In the 1970 photo she included in A box of ten, Morales sits half-naked in ruffled sheets, fedora jauntily perched on his head, pencil-thin mustache outlining full lips. He placidly stares directly at the camera. It’s an extremely intimate portrait, as if Arbus just had sex with him.

She also turned that intimate gaze onto personal spaces. Xmas tree in a living room in Levittown, Long Is., N.Y. from 1962 puts the viewer right in the room. Two just-visible chair arms jut from the bottom of the frame. As it turns out, Arbus went to Levittown—home of the nation’s first planned suburb—to spy. She caught this image by looking through a window. The presents under the tree “had this incredible Christmas wrapping,” she said in 1970.

After seeing the Arbus portraits at the 1967 MoMA show, critic Marion Magid Hoagland wrote in Arts magazine that her works create a sort of transaction between the photograph and the viewer. “In a kind of healing process, we are cured of our criminal urgency by having dared to look,” wrote Hoagland. “The picture forgives us, as it were, for looking. In the end, the great humanity of Diane Arbus’ art is to sanctify that privacy which she seemed at first to have violated.”

Diane Arbus in Washington Square Park, NYC by John Gossage, 1967 (Private Collection, photo ©John Gossage)

The struggle

While Arbus had some critical and curatorial recognition in the late 1960s—and the admiration of many of her colleagues in the photo world—her commercial work was declining. Arbus and her husband Allan separated in 1960, and finally divorced in 1969. For years, she struggled not just as an artist trying to make a living, but as a single mother with two daughters.

She was skeptical of the museum world—despite her growing acclaim—and often of her own abilities. Sometimes she said she took “rotten pictures.”

And yet, Arbus “saw print sales as a potential source of income,” says Jacob, the show’s curator, even though purchasing prints as art was not yet common.

It was rough going. In 1969, MoMA bought two prints for $75 each. The same year, the Smithsonian Institution bought five prints for just $125. And after almost a year of protracted negotiation, in 1970, the Bibliotheque nationale de France received some 20 prints from her at about $20 to $30 each.

When she began putting A box of ten together, it was in the hopes of getting $100 each, or $1,000 total. Portfolios “were a labor of love,” for Arbus and other artists, says Jeffrey Fraenkel, owner of the Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco, which has exhibited many of Arbus’s photos. “They didn’t really make anybody any money. At best they established some sort of a stable stylistic identify that was disbursed into the world,” he said.

Lucite Box designed by Israel for A box of ten photographs, with cover sheet by Diane Arbus by Diane Arbus and Marvin Israel, 1970-71 (Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco; SAAM, ©The Estate of Diane Arbus, photographs courtesy Torin Stephens, Fraenkel Gallery)

The portfolio itself—ten prints, each with an overlaid vellum paper in which she handwrote the captions—was housed in a completely clear plastic box, which “served both as the storage container and the exhibition frame,” says Jeff L. Rosenheim, curator in charge at the photography department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Met owns the entire Arbus archives. Instead of the photos being fixed statically on the wall, the owner of the portfolio “could rotate your pictures through and delight yourself, and I think she just must have loved that idea,” says Rosenheim.

When Arbus sold a portfolio to artist Jasper Johns, she wrote to her ex-husband in late April 1971, “First one who doesn’t know me,” adding, “four are sold, two-and-a-half paid for. The owners are out of who’s who. My confidence is absurdly on a roller coaster.”

Arbus never knew how famous she was to become. After her suicide, her daughters Doon and Amy, decided to complete the edition of 50, as had been planned. Neil Selkirk, an Arbus student, printed the remainder. It was a difficult task, not least because Arbus had perfected her own idiosyncratic printing technique. Although she proclaimed that the taking of the photo was the most important aspect of her work, “no one was more bananas than her about the print,” says Selkirk.

Many of those posthumous editions have been broken up for sale, having appeared at various auction houses. And, some of the complete posthumous editions have been sold, the most recently by Christie’s in April 2018—for $792,500. Other posthumous complete sets are being held in museum collections around the United States, London, Amsterdam and Hannover, Germany. Three sets printed by Arbus, labeled “artist’s proofs” because they do not have the vellum overlays, are held by the Tate London/National Gallery of Scotland, the Harvard Art Museums, and Pier 24 Photography in San Francisco.

But, as Arbus said in her 1970 talk, “Your images mean more to you than to anybody else.”

“Diane Arbus: A box of ten photographs” is on view at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. through January 21, 2019.

97-120 of 8,887 Resources