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Found 6,932 Collections


A STEAM Approach to Understanding Bees

Explore bees' behavior and their role in pollination through real-world sources and data and meet Smithsonian experts in the field. This collection includes instructional strategy, student activities, assessment, and extension ideas. Organization is made visible by divider tabs indicating such components as concept understanding, Project Zero thinking routines, and calls to action.

This collection was developed by Sandra Vilevac, STEAM Specialist, Washington International School. See Sandra's other collections by searching the Learning Lab for #SmithsonianSTEAM.

Keywords: animal, insect, plant adaptation, animal communication, flowers, pollen, honey, hive, engineering, entomologist, pollinator, colony, system

Thank you to our sponsor, the Smithsonian Women’s Committee.


Sandra Vilevac

Eone was founded with an innovative spirit and an unwavering mission: to create fashionable products that are accessible for everyone.

Eone was founded to solve a problem: to tell time, people who are blind have had to choose between intrusive talking watches, or fragile tactile watches. There were hardly elegant, quality alternatives.

Eone founder Hyungsoo Kim was a graduate student at MIT when he learned of this problem through a friend who is blind. Guided by the conviction that everyone has a right to time, he collaborated with designers and persons with vision impairments to create a watch that everyone—sighted or blind—can use and enjoy. Learn more here

Taryn Grigas



Taryn Grigas

Money and Exchange in West Africa

The objects in this collection, from the crescent-shaped manilla to the colorful banknotes, formed part of West Africa’s vibrant and varied monetary system in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Each object has its own story about when and how it was used. A person shopping in a market in Accra, Ghana in the 1980s, for example, might have received the 1 cedi coin below as change from a small transaction. In the Akan language, the word “cedi” means cowrie shell, a currency which a person shopping in the same market a century earlier might have used. Like the 1 cedi coin, cowrie shells were used to make small purchases. Symbolically, the image of a cowrie shell appears on the coin. Not far from Accra, in the old Asante city of Kumasi, the figurative gold weights pictured here would have been used around the same time to measure gold dust for transactions ranging from significant market purchases to judicial fines. 

How did West Africa move from a monetary system based on objects like manillas, gold dust, and cowrie shells to one based on notes and coins? It was once popular to attribute this change to the colonization of West Africa by European governments in the nineteenth century. According to this story, colonial governments wanted to impose their own “modern” currencies on West African economies to make it easier for merchants and colonial authorities to do business between the colony and Europe. From recent historical research on West African currencies and their uses, we now know the story is not that simple. Colonial governments did introduce new currency systems with European forms of money, but they were not immediately or universally adopted by Africans in the way that colonial governments intended. 

After the end of the colonial period, some countries like Ghana and Nigeria, issued their own currencies as an expression of national sovereignty. Other new countries, such as Senegal and the Ivory Coast, focused instead on building or maintaining monetary unions with shared currencies in order to reinforce links between their economies. Some of these post-colonial coins and banknotes depict pre-colonial currencies, like the cowrie on the Ghanaian cedi coin or the Kissi penny on the Liberian dollar. 

The history of West African money from the nineteenth century onwards reflects the history of economic, political, and social change in the region over that same period. This collection uses objects from the Smithsonian’s National Numismatic Collection to tell that history, linking to broader questions about the nature and uses of money, the ways in which economic change can influence how money is used, and the relationship between money and political sovereignty.


Below is a list of suggested readings on West African money and exchange. To see all of the West African currency objects in the National Numismatic Collection, click here.  Please feel free to reach out to Dr. Leigh Gardner or Dr. Ellen Feingold with questions or feedback.


This project was generously funded by the Knowledge Exchange and Impact Fund at the London School of Economics. It was completed in partnership with the Smithsonian’s National Numismatic Collection.


Suggested Reading

Historical overviews:

Gardner, Leigh A. “From Cowries to Mobile Phones: African Monetary Systems Since 1800.” In The History of African Development: An Online Textbook for a New Generation of African Students and Teachers, edited by Ewout Frankema, Ellen Hillbom, Ushehwedu Kufakurinani, and Felix Meier zu Selhausen. African Economic History Network (2018):

Guyer, J. and Karin Pallaver. "Money and Currency in African History.” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of African History (2018):

Pre-colonial currencies:

Arhin, Kwame. “Monetization in the Asante State.” In Money Matters: Instability, Values and Social Payments in the Modern History of West African Communities, edited by Jane I. Guyer, 97-110. London: James Currey, 1995.

Herbert, Eugenia W. Red Gold of Africa: Copper in Precolonial History and Culture. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1984.

Hogendorn, Jan S., and Marion Johnson. The Shell Money of the Slave Trade. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

Colonial currency systems and African responses:

Feingold, Ellen R. "International Currency Counterfeiting Schemes in Interwar West Africa." Journal of West African History 3, no. 1 (2017): 77-101. 

Gardner, Leigh A. “The Curious Incident of the Franc in the Gambia.” Financial History Review 22, no. 3 (2015): 291-314.

Gardner, Leigh A. "The Rise and Decline of Sterling in Liberia.” Economic History Review 64, no. 4 (2014): 1089-1112.

Guyer, Jane I. “Introduction: The Currency Interface and its Dynamics.” In Money Matters: Instability, Values and Social Payments in the Modern History of West African Communities, edited by Jane I. Guyer, 1-34. (London: James Currey, 1995).

Helleiner, Eric. “The Monetary Dimensions of Colonialism: Why Did Imperial Powers Create Currency Blocs?” Geopolitics 7, no. 1 (2002): 5-30.

Hogendorn, Jan S., and Henry A. Gemery. “Continuity in West African Monetary History? An Outline of Monetary Development.” African Economic History 17 (1988): 127-146. 

Hopkins, A.G. “The Currency Revolution in South-West Nigeria in the Late Nineteenth Century.” Journal of the Historical Society of Nigeria 3, no. 3 (1966): 471-483. 

Saul, Mahir. “Money in Colonial Transition: Cowries and Francs in West Africa.” American Anthropologist 106, no. 1 (2004): 71-84.

Money and national independence:

Schenk, Catherine R. “Monetary Institutions in Newly Independent Countries: The Experience of Malaya, Ghana, and Nigeria in the 1950s.” Financial History Review 4, no. 2 (1997): 181-198.

Stasavage, David. The Political Economy of a Common Currency: the CFA Franc Zone Since 1945. Aldershot: Ashgate (2003).

Uche, Chibuike U. “Bank of England vs. the IBRD: Did the Nigerian Colony Deserve a Central Bank?” Explorations in Economic History 34 (1997): 220-241. 

NMAH and London School of Economics


Put the ARTS in STEM - From Egypt to South Africa, take a brief tour of the African Cosmos  and have your students discover the intersection of Art and Astronomy in the southern hemisphere.   Explore constellations only seen on the African continent.  See why the Goliath beetle became a symbol of rebirth for the Egyptian scarab.  Learn about celestial navigation by people and animals. 

Create Your Own Constellation!  

Deborah Stokes

Black Panther Movie Collection

The visual arts can be an entry point to literacy in the classroom.  Use these objects in the collection of the National Museum of African Art to aid students to explore authentic African art works that inspired the Academy Award winning costume design of Ruth Carter in the blockbuster movie Black Panther.  Students can develop visual vocabulary through close looking to describe mood, tone, atmosphere, and inference and explore cross-curricular and cross cultural connections.  It allows them to really be creative and critical thinkers!  

Keywords: Arts Integration; Africa; African Art; Global Arts; 

Deborah Stokes

Patapsco Women's Suffrage

maryland, baltimore, Patapsco area #PHGWomen

Debbie Farthing

Civil Rights: One Act - The 1968 Olympics

I created this small collection for my students to consider the roles of each individual in this photograph. When they engaged in the See, Think, Wonder thinking routine many of them wanted to know more about the white man wearing a medal and why he wasn't raising his fist. They generated many additional questions around this idea. I added the ESPN video to help the think more about the photo and its meaning. We had a class discussion that revisited their questions from the day before.

Ellen Rogers

Unveiling Stories: Children at Work

I created this collection to have my students understand better the role children played in the past. Considering how quickly I have to teach history to my 4th graders I wanted to rely on photographs to help orient the students into time and place. I focused on the late 1800s into the mid-1900s. The students in my class wanted to know more about children's lives during the time period we were learning about. The purpose of the collection is to push the students to think beyond what they immediately see and consider the bigger ideas captured in these photographs.


Students engaged in thinking routines during this activity:

See, Think, Wonder

  • What do you see?
  • What do you think?
  • What do you wonder?

Unveiling Stories

  • What is the story?
  • What is the human story?
  • What is the world story?
  • What is the new story?
  • What is the hidden story?

Ellen Rogers

Getting Started with Design Thinking

This collection allows students and teachers to gain an understanding of the Design Thinking process utilizing Cooper Hewitt learning lab resources as well other materials. 


Mary Marotta

Henry David Thoreau - Resources and “Walden: A Game"

Can a Video Game Capture the Magic of Walden? 

Henry David Thoreau’s

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Mary Marotta

Designers are Problem Solvers-Teacher Resource Collection

Designers are inspired by problems! With a defined problem as a starting point, designers find solutions through a design process that includes empathizing with the user, brainstorming ideas and prototyping solutions. At Cooper Hewitt, your class will see the design process in action during a deep exploration of various objects featured in our permanent and temporary exhibitions. Students will also experience the design process in a hands-on, interactive workshop where they will work collaboratively to solve problems through design thinking.

Program objectives:

  • Students will be able to define key design process terminology including define, empathize, brainstorm, prototype, test, and launch.
  • Students will understand the user’s role in the designer’s process
  • Students will understand that a designer’s choice of materials inform the form and function of a design.


Mary Marotta



Mary Marotta

National Art Education Association Webinar: "Constructing Curriculum with the Smithsonian"

This collection was created to complement a National Art Education Association (NAEA) webinar, "Constructing Curriculum with the Smithsonian"  (December 11, 2019) featuring resources from the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian Learning Lab. 

The webinar features inquiry-based strategies in examining the American experience depicted through portraiture and unpacking the context of historical narratives communicated through art with students. 

This collection was created in collaboration with Briana Zavadil White (National Portrait Gallery) and Candra Flanagan (National Museum of African American History and Culture).

Ashley Naranjo

The Soul's Expression: Identity, Individuality, & the Spirit in Visual Art

Art provides a pathway for individuals to express their inner self while also capturing the outer—this great wide world so intricate it's difficult to define.  Throughout history, humans have sought to  comprehend both their environment and their own inherent cultural uniqueness. This search has become symbolized in their artistic accomplishments and aesthetic heritage. Whether through representations of specific individuals and the human figure or awe-inspiring works of architecture, these art pieces are a window into the creative core of our past. 

In this collection, we will observe the ways in which the soul/spirit has been expressed in art, and how human creativity sheds light upon both individual and cultural identities and its varied interpretations throughout the ages. This collection is organized in three symbolic steps on a stone staircase entitled "The Stone Path of Eternity." To truly travel through each piece, I have included an image, a brief description of the work under information, and then, signified by the yellow (1) above, I've provided my own analysis and interpretation of the piece in its relationship to the collection theme. 

Through lingering through the "Stone Path of Eternity," which is represented by the first two tiles, we will from one stone to the next in seeking the many ways in which the soul's expression can be defined. 

In Stone Number One, "The Spirit's Encased Construct," we'll see how architecture and large-scale artistic projects merge to reflect both cultural identity and the individuality of their leaders through works from ancient Babylonia, Egypt, the Byzantine Empire and into the combinations made possible by the aesthetic  innovations of modern times. 

Shifting step to Stone Number Two, "Human Identity Immortalized in Matter," we delve into the ways in which the human figure is represented and what these images can share with us in terms of the varying levels, purposes, intentions behind the artist's created expressions and impact of depicting the Spirit on Earth. This idea is exemplified in creations ranging from the Paleolithic period to modern times, with examples from Egypt, Ancient Greece,  the Italian Renaissance and the 20th century popular culture. 

Finally, in Stone Number Three,"Individuals and Spirituality Entwine," we step into the door of the spirit directly, traveling through the many methods which cultures apply in trying to simultaneously convey and understand what realms are in union with and beyond this life.  Some cultures who address this idea in their artistic tradition are seen in instances of Egyptian art and work from ancient and Hellenistic Greece, as well as both the Italian Renaissance, Northern European Renaissance, and contemporary Western art. 

 The intended audience for this collection is just as varied as my subject matter. Those who might be drawn to this collection are people attracted to the enigmas of life and death, who have questioned their place in society and the mysteries this world has to hold, and are curious to know more about how, historically, cultures have related to these probing questions—for, as you will see, they certainly have existed as long as humans have walked the earth. No matter if you're in high school, college, or beyond formal education, I hope you will find my musings on these artworks and their meanings compelling and thought-provoking. 

Renowned artist and poet William Blake once wrote, "To see the world in a grain of sand, and to see heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hands, and eternity in an hour."   From the most abstract art to the remarkably realistic, there is always an image of ourselves, in the an esoteric sense, waiting to be found within.  With its timeless method, Art seeks to create a definition for this all-encompassing and ever-evading essence and I hope to continue that quest with you as we explore this collection. #AHMC2019

Emma Geller

Don Quixote

Mary Bernhardt

Abraham Lincoln Primary Sources

Here are some primary sources near ford's theatre and lincoln's deathbed.

Daniel Mian

Test run artifact

Mabi Aleman


Adeola Bankole

Bracero Program: Unveiling Stories

In this activity, students will examine photographs documenting the Bracero Program, the largest guest-worker program in US history. Started in 1942 as a temporary war measure to address labor demands in agriculture and railroads, the program allowed Mexican nationals to take temporary agricultural work in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, and 24 other states. By the time the program ended in 1964, over 4.6 million contracts were awarded.

Using two Project Zero Global Thinking Routines - "Unveiling Stories" and "The 3 Ys" - students will analyze the stories these photographs tell about the experiences of braceros in this program, and the impact of these stories in multiple contexts. Additional resources (primary sources, a digital exhibition, and an article) and information on how to use these routines in the classroom can by found by clicking Read More ».

Keywords: mexican, immigration, work, migration, migrant workers, agriculture, reform, politics, government, leonard nadel, photojournalism, activity, inquiry strategy, global competency, global competence, latino, chicano, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Arkansas, 1940s, 40s, 1950s, 50s, 1960s, 60s

molly page

Women´s Suffrage in the United States (early 20th c.)

Artifacts of the Suffrage Movement  and Anti-Suffrage Movement 

Avery Beebe


Look closely at these resources. What looks like an example of simplicity to you?

Eveleen Eaton

Design with Empathy (Objects)

This collection includes objects that reflect a design with empathy approach. Explore the objects further on the URLs under the info link.

Jasmine Kassulke

Comparing Modern Artists Who Were Inspired By The Ancient Arts

This collection dives into the comparison of modern and contemporary artists who were inspired by the ancient arts (prehistoric, ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt, etc.) and builds upon the meaning of art and transformation of the different styles. What do these artists have in common? How were they inspired by the ancients?


Ashley Goerke
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