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U.S. National Museum (NMNH) Floor Plan Print 4

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
For other views of interior drawings of the United States National Museum, see Negs. SIA2009-2060, SIA2009-2061, SIA2009-2062, SIA2009-2063, and SIA2009-2066.

This print can be located in the Smithsonian Institution Archives Reading Room. The Drawing Control Number associated with this image is SO4/I382, Curator Number DC-58-K224. Creator Drawing Number: H/M # 266. Reproduction Neg #: 91-2224.

Print is of the original architectural plan of the first floor of the United States National Museum, now known as the National Museum of Natural History. Drawn in 1907 by J. C. Hornblower and J. R. Marshall, the image has an inscribed title of "First Floor Plan East Section." The original print is in black and red ink pen on tracing cloth, and the original drawing is 53.75"h x 31.00"w. People associated with this drawing were Bernard R. Green, Superintendent of Construction; S. H. Woodbridge, Engineer; and was checked by A. L. E.

U.S. National Museum (NMNH) First Floor Plan Print

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
For other views of interior drawings of the United States National Museum, see Negs. SIA2009-2061, SIA2009-2062, SIA2009-2063, and SIA2009-2066.

This print can be located in the Smithsonian Institution Archives Reading Room. The Drawing Control Number associated with this image is SO4/I364, Curator Number DC-58-1123. Creator Drawing Number: H/M # 245. Reproduction Negative Number: 90-16663.

Print is of the original architectural plan of the first floor of the United States National Museum, now known as the National Museum of Natural History. Drawn in 1907 by J. C. Hornblower and J. R. Marshall, the image has an inscribed title of "Heating Basement." The original print is ink pen on tracing cloth, and the original drawing is 54.50"h x 31.00"w. People associated with this drawing were Bernard R. Green, Superintendent of Construction; S.H. Woodbridge, Engineer; E.S.W., Draftsman.

Costume design drawing by Judy Dearing for Maria in Porgy and Bess

National Museum of African American History and Culture
A costume design drawing by Judy Dearing for the character Maria in the musical Porgy and Bess. The drawing depicts a woman standing with her left hand on her hip and her right hand hanging behind her side. She wears a white hat with a wide brim and a large off-white bow around the hatband, and a loose-fitting white dress falling to her mid-calf with a belted waist, a lace collar, and full-length billowing sleeves with tight cuffs that have a lace or other patterned design on them. Her white shoes have a short heel and a decorative seam across the top of the toe box. The woman and her clothing are outlined in graphite with an unidentified pigment shading. The stamp for the United Scenic Artists Local 829 is in black ink in the lower left facing corner, with Dearing's signature in black ink below the stamp. The reverse is blank.

Ukrainian Protesters Are Already Establishing a Museum for Maidan Artifacts

Smithsonian Magazine

Less than a week after the uprising in the Ukraine overthrew the government, some groups are already working on documenting the historic moment. 

The blog Unfree Archaeology reports that a coalition of museums, NGOs and activists are attempting to collect artifacts related to the protest movement.

From the Facebook page of the newly created Maidan Museum (via Google translate):

We encourage all participants and witnesses crucial for Ukraine the events of November 2013 - February 2014 to take care of the preservation for posterity of all tangible and intangible evidence. These may include virtually every subject that was at the epicenter of events. Every phenomenon that was born in the struggle citizens their right . Every emotion, joy and pain. Of particular interest are household items, protesters barricade design elements and means of self-defense activists are things that prove creativity and ingenuity maydanivtsiv, art objects, postcards, posters and other creative expressions on the Maidan.

Here's the original text:

Ми закликаємо усіх учасників і свідків доленосних для України подій листопада 2013 – лютого 2014 р. подбати про збереження для нащадків усіх матеріальних і нематеріальних свідоцтв. До таких може належати практично кожен предмет, що опинився в епіцентрі подій. Кожне явище, що народилося в ході боротьби громадян за свої права. Кожна емоція, радість і біль. Особливий інтерес становлять предмети побуту протестувальників, конструктивні елементи барикад і засоби самозахисту активістів, речі, які засвідчують творчість і винахідливість майданівців, мистецькі об’єкти, листівки, плакати й інші креативні вияви на Майдані. 

The fledgling museum is actually not the first exhibition of artifacts related to the protests. The Ukrainian Museum in New York hosted a film screening and has extended the run of an exhibit of posters from the protests last November. 

In the Ukraine, the National Museum of Art has expressed interest in preserving a trebuchet (a type of catapult) created by protesters, while protesters created a museum of the projectiles police had fired at them during the protest. 

Help the museum dig into mining history!

National Museum of American History
Update: The project to transcribe our 1897 mining journal is now complete! Over 50 digital volunteers from 15 different countries contributed to the project, transcribing handwritten notes on over 200 pages. We sincerely appreciate the efforts of everyone who helped transcribe the journal and spread the word about this project. The journal is now available online and will be studied by researchers, students, and the public to better understand mining history.

On September 6, 1897, an employee at an eastern Pennsylvania coal company penned a terse message in the company's daily journal:
"Colliers idle...Labor Day...Few men working...Colliers idle."
Detail photograph of the September 6th entry in an 1897 mining journal.
For scholars, these nine words provide a vital insight into American history. Why? In 1897, Labor Day was a relatively new holiday. In fact, when the company's employee penned this short missive, it had only been three years since Congress—following the lead of 23 state legislatures, including Pennsylvania in 1889—had officially designated the first Monday of September as Labor Day, a "legal public holiday" for all Americans. Nevertheless, thanks to historical sources like this journal, we can know that Pennsylvania coal miners—many of whom were new immigrants to the United States—had taken Congress's message to heart. They stayed home, and the colliers (a term synonymous with "coal mine") stood idle.
 
Photograph of the cover of the museum 1897 mining journal. The cover's text reads "Excelsior Journal 1897" in dramatic gold font.
The museum is inviting the public to help us transcribe this handwritten 1897 mining journal, in the hopes that, together, we can uncover even more fascinating insights into the joined histories of labor and business in the United States. Beginning August 25, 2016, the journal will be publicly available through the Smithsonian's Transcription Center. By signing up as a digital volunteer, visitors will be able to browse through all of the journal's more than 400 pages, transcribe any entries that catch their eye, and review entries transcribed by other volunteers.  Thanks to volunteers’ efforts, researchers and enthusiasts around the world will soon have the opportunity to discover, explore, and cite this rare historical record.
 
For Peter Liebhold, curator in the museum's Division of Work and Industry, the transcription project is the natural next step in a more than five-year-long relationship with the 1897 artifact. Although the journal has been a part of the museum's collections since the mid-20th century, it was rediscovered by the division's collections manager, Shari Stout, during a 2011 reorganization of the museum's mining collection. (The reorganization also led to other discoveries, including a series of rare photographs taken inside an 1884 Pennsylvania coal mine.)
 
Photograph of four miners, underground, sitting next to a dynamo.
Although the journal included very little documentation beyond a small card that read "Mill Creek Coal Company Vulcan and Buck Mt. collieries," its sharp tone (at times bordering on sarcastic) immediately caught curator Liebhold's eye. At the time, Liebhold was furiously making plans for American Enterprise, a permanent exhibition on the history of business in the United States, and the journal presented a rare opportunity to humanize an important but otherwise esoteric topic: changing work patterns and the rise of “management” as a profession in the late 1800s. Thanks in large part to the journal's influence, when the exhibition opened in the summer of 2015, it included a section titled "Workers and Managers," which introduces visitors to the distinct and often opposing worldviews of miners and mine-owners in Pennsylvania coal country.
 
Photograph of the Workers and Managers section in the museum's American Enterprise exhibiiton. Varius artifacts representing miners and managers are arrayed side by side to contrsat the two groups.
According to Liebhold, the mining journal is unusually significant because it captures a pivotal period in U.S. labor history. Coal mining was a booming U.S. industry in the late 1800s. Throughout the summer of 1897, the coal fields of Pennsylvania and other states were shaken by waves of protests and strikes, many of them spearheaded by a then-young union, the United Mine Workers of America. The journal captures the day-to-day effects of these strikes, and it also shows how managers and miners responded to one of the darkest moments in U.S. mining history—the "Lattimer  massacre."
 
On September 10, 1897, the sheriff of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, and a posse of armed supporters opened fire on a group of striking mine workers. Nineteen miners died; 36 more were wounded. Since the Vulcan and Buck Mountain colliers were close neighbors to Luzerne County, the clerk who filled out the 1897 journal carefully described both the massacre and its fallout, giving readers a firsthand view of what this disturbance felt like to people who lived through it.

A 1910 safety sign where various warnings are reprinted in eight different languages, arranged side by side on a single large sheet.
Not all of the journal's entries focus on the give-and-take between mine workers and managers. Many simply capture the day-to-day rhythm of life in Pennsylvania coal country: the changing seasons and weather, the breakdown and repair of machines, even the fate of the year's huckleberry harvest. Other events recorded in the journal, Liebhold noted, resist easy classification, such as when a deceased miner was discovered in a well, or when a former employee returned to the mine to show off a diamond he had acquired on an expedition to South Africa. Transcribing these stories will certainly offer new insights into the history of mining in the United States, but Liebhold suspects that's only the tip of the iceberg. "The most exciting use of the journal," said Liebhold, "is something we can't predict; it's probably something we haven't even thought of yet!"
 
Photograph of a miner's hat from the 1930s. The cloth cap has a large lamp mounted on the brim.
Interested in exploring the journal for yourself? Visit the project at the Transcription Center today, and try your hand as a digital volunteer. In the weeks ahead, the museum will be sharing more mining history stories on our blog, Facebook page, Instagram, and Twitter. After the journal's transcription is complete, the museum will hold a Twitter chat with curator Peter Liebhold to answer volunteers’ questions and explore some of the stories they uncovered in the journal.
 
Jordan Grant is a New Media assistant working with the American Enterprise exhibition. He has also blogged about the complicated history of May Day in the United States.
 
Posted Date: 
Monday, August 29, 2016 - 08:00
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Sculpture of ‘Zombie Boy’ Fleshes Out London's Science Museum

Smithsonian Magazine

Rick Genest, a Canadian model and artist, has been given the moniker "Zombie Boy" for good reason. Over the years, he has tattooed the inside of his body onto his skin. There's a tattoo of his brain outside his cranium. On his shoulders, muscle tissue. In fact, roughly 90 percent of his body is inked.

Now, his body art is set to become a permanent fixture at the Science Museum in London, Mark Brown reports for The Guardian.

British artist Marc Quinn is working on making ​a towering, 11.5-foot sculpture of Genest, titled “Self-Conscious Gene." The work will be unveiled at the museum’s new medicine galleries in 2019, according to a museum press release.

Quinn, who is perhaps best known for freezing his own blood in a silicone mold self-portrait, says he wants the work to explore the intersections between medicine and technology, identity and modification.

“What I love about Rick is that his body is at the crossroads of popular street culture, deep philosophical meaning, and medicine,” Quinn says in a statement. “It seemed to me that this was exactly what was needed in the Science Museum.”

The sculpture, he says, is intended to challenge museum goers to rethink their own relationships with their bodies. It will join more than 2,500 medical artifacts spanning 500 years that will showcase the history of medical research and practice in the Science Museum’s first floor.

Genest began getting tattooed after recovering from a period of illness connected to a brain tumor when he was 16. Now, cancer free, he continues working to modify his own body, transforming himself into a “living skeleton.”

“Literalising a quest to understand his own body, his tattoos are like a kind of poetry,” Quinn observes in the release.

Ian Blatchford, director of the Science Museum, tells Brown he doesn’t think people will be scared by the sculpture when it unveils in the fall of next year. Though, he predicts, for some folks, the sight of it may come as a “surprise.”

Write on the Walls at New Museum’s New Exhibit

Smithsonian Magazine

Most artwork in museums is in its final, finished state, but at the New Museum in New York City, visitors are invited to participate in the creative process. The exhibit, titled "The Neighbors," is Polish artist Pawel Althamer’s American debut. It features many of his sculptures and video—exactly the sort of art you'd expect. But there's also a large space with blank white walls, where people are encouraged to express themselves.

Visitors can write on the walls, floor, or a canvas teepee. Althamer, the Daily Beast says, "takes pleasure in the work’s collective ownership and the negotiations over space and content that the work engenders."

It does sound like fun. The Beast

“Marte and her classmates from the Lower East Side’s New Design High School got first crack at the piece. They made quick work covering the walls with peace signs, vines, and hash tags (#Julieisawesome). Shaden Espinoza, 16, drew a grinning, over-lifesized woman’s face and liked the freedom of it.

“At school, teachers tell you what to do,” Espinoza said. “Here you get to do anything you want. You get to be free.

The absence of rules made for some heated moments in the work’s Berlin iteration, where one visitor painted a swastika and another promptly inked it over.”

Althamer will be at the exhibit, working on sculptures that will be added to the displays. He's also hired street musicians to play outside, with their music broadcast on the third floor of the museum. 

There's one more unique aspect to this exhibit—the price visitors pay for admission. From the museum description

“In many of his previous museum exhibitions, Althamer has used the visibility and resources of the organizing institution to benefit different local communities. For “The Neighbors,” Althamer has initiated a coat drive for the Bowery Mission, the Museum’s neighboring organization, which has been serving the homeless and hungry since 1879. Over the course of the exhibition, visitors who bring new or gently used men’s coats to the New Museum will receive free entry. All the coats will be donated to the Bowery Mission.”

Locked and loaded: unique trigger design fires this ant’s snapping jaws

Smithsonian Insider

In conflicts between predators and prey, speed is a decided advantage, and evolution has given the trap-jaw ant a distinct advantage with spring-loaded jaws that […]

The post Locked and loaded: unique trigger design fires this ant’s snapping jaws appeared first on Smithsonian Insider.

Link Love: 8/29/2014

Smithsonian Institution Archives

This clay facial reconstruction of Kennewick Man was carefully sculpted around the morphological features of his skull, and lends a deeper understanding of what he may have looked like nearly 9,000 years ago. By Brittney Tatchell, August 25, 2014, Smithsonian Institution.

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Costume design drawing by Judy Dearing for Robbins in Porgy and Bess

National Museum of African American History and Culture
A costume design drawing by Judy Dearing for the character Robbins in the musical Porgy and Bess. The drawing depicts a man standing with his hands hanging behind his sides. He wears a brown derby hat with a black hatband, brown round-rimmed glasses, a pale blue and green striped dress shirt, a white necktie, and a matching mustard yellow single-breasted vest and trousers. He has on dark brown oxford shoes. The man and his clothing are outlined in graphite with watercolor and unidentified pigment shading. Written in graphite in the lower left facing corner is the text "Robbins / 22". The reverse is blank.

Costume design drawing by Judy Dearing for Annie in Porgy and Bess

National Museum of African American History and Culture
A costume design drawing by Judy Dearing for the character Annie in the musical Porgy and Bess. The drawing includes three different drawings, a large central figure, a smaller figure at the lower right, and between them a partial back view of the clothing without a person. The large center drawing depicts a standing woman wearing thin-framed glasses, a brown and cream plaid drop waist dress with short sleeves that falls just below her knees, and brown low-heeled clogs. The smaller figure on in the lower right corner depicts the same woman wearing the same clothing, but with an off-white bib apron that has small orange polka dots on it. The partial back view of the clothing without the woman's figure is situated between the other two figures, and shows a back view of a yellow dress with an apron tied at the center back waist. The woman and her clothing are outlined in graphite with an unidentified pigment shading. The stamp for the United Scenic Artists Local 829 is in black ink in the lower left facing corner, with Dearing's signature in black ink below the stamp.

Costume design drawing by Judy Dearing for Nelson in Porgy and Bess

National Museum of African American History and Culture
A costume design drawing by Judy Dearing for the character Nelson in the musical Porgy and Bess. The drawing depicts a man standing with his left hand in his pocket and his right hand hanging behind his right side. He wears a mustard yellow derby hat with a dark brown hat band, and a three-piece plaid suit consisting of a light brown and dark brown single-breasted jacket, a light brown and mustard yellow vest, and mustard and dark brown pegged pants. He wears a white dress shirt and a medium brown bowtie under his vest, and white and dark brown oxford shoes. The man and his clothing are outlined in graphite with an unidentified pigment shading. The stamp for the United Scenic Artists Local 829 is in black ink in the lower left facing corner, with Dearing's signature in black ink below the stamp. The reverse is blank.

Costume design drawing by Judy Dearing for Jake in Porgy and Bess

National Museum of African American History and Culture
A costume design drawing by Judy Dearing for the character Jake in the musical Porgy and Bess. The drawing depicts a standing man wearing a light gray single-breasted jacket and coordinating pants. He wears a tan vest under his open jacket, with a white dress shirt and a dark brown necktie. He has on dark brown dress shoes. The man and his clothing are outlined in graphite with watercolor and unidentified pigment shading. The stamp for the United Scenic Artists Local 829 is in black ink in the lower left facing corner, with Dearing's signature in black ink below the stamp. The reverse is blank.

Costume design drawing by Judy Dearing for Robbins in Porgy and Bess

National Museum of African American History and Culture
A costume design drawing by Judy Dearing for the character Robbins in the musical Porgy and Bess. The drawing depicts a standing man with brown round-rimmed glasses and a thin mustache. He wears a brown derby hat with a gray hatband, a mustard yellow three-piece suit, a light gray dress shirt, a light blue necktie, and dark brown shoes. The man and his clothing are outlined in graphite with watercolor and unidentified pigment shading. The stamp for the United Scenic Artists Local 829 is in black ink in the lower left facing corner, with Dearing's signature in black ink below the stamp. The reverse is blank.

Costume design drawing by Judy Dearing for Peter in Porgy and Bess

National Museum of African American History and Culture
A costume design drawing by Judy Dearing for the character Peter in the musical Porgy and Bess. The drawing depicts a standing man with a thick mustache and wearing brown round-rimmed glasses. He also wears a gray slouch hat with a yellow hat band, a white dress shirt, blue overalls, and brown brogan shoes. The man and his clothing are outlined in graphite with watercolor and unidentified pigment shading. The stamp for the United Scenic Artists Local 829 is in black ink in the lower left facing corner, with Dearing's signature in black ink below the stamp. The reverse is blank.

Costume design drawing by Judy Dearing for Bess in Porgy and Bess

National Museum of African American History and Culture
A costume design drawing by Judy Dearing for the character Bess in the musical Porgy and Bess. The drawing depicts a woman standing with her left hand at her side and her right hand on her hip. She wears a short-sleeved, low neck white peasant top tucked into a dark blue knee-length wrap skirt, and light brown high-heeled pumps. The woman and her clothing are outlined in graphite with her hair colored in with black ink and other shading done with an unidentified pigment. The stamp for the United Scenic Artists Local 829 is in black ink in the lower left facing corner, with Dearing's signature in black ink below the stamp. The reverse is blank.

Architectural History of the Anacostia Community Museum, 1985

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
Ewing, H., & Ballard, A. (2009). A guide to Smithsonian architecture. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Books.

The Anacostia Neighborhood Museum was first conceived by Secretary S. Dillon Ripley as a way to reach underserved communities outside of the National Mall. The museum was first opened in the renovated Carver Theater (built in 1948) in 1967. The museum proved to be immensely popular and soon outgrew the space.

Ground breaking for the new museum took place in May, 1985. Designed by the Washington architecture firm Keyes Condon Florance, this 28,000 square foot museum is considered to be cultural expressionist style architecture.

The museum opened in 1989, and in 1995 was renamed Anacostia Museum and Center for African American History and Culture, and served as a planning site for the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. In 2002 it undertook an extensive renovation. The renovation, led by architecture firms architrave p.c. and Wisnewski Blair, was sought to maximize the space of the museum, but also to add elements to the building that express the history and culture of African Americans. Elements that were added include the red brick facade that invokes a woven Kente cloth, and the glass, block, and blue tile inlaid concrete cylinders that are reminiscent of the ruins of Great Zimbabwe. In 2006 the museum was renamed the Anacostia Community Museum.

Wheelwoman "Louise" rolls into the museum

National Museum of American History

The year is 1895. Louise Gibson and her bicycle, Sylvia, are at the forefront of the bicycle craze sweeping America in the late 19th century. Louise has just ridden in from the recently established railroad town of Takoma Park to visit the nation's capital and the Smithsonian Institution on the National Mall for the day. To Louise, the bicycle boom represents new opportunities for women like herself.

A photo of the actor who plays the wheelwoman character, posing with her bicycle

Our very own Wheelwoman character "Louise" was created for the Patrick F. Taylor Foundation Object Project, a new interactive learning space that features a section on the history of cycling in America, and through the generous support of the Smithsonian Women's Committee. Louise is portrayed by actor Julie Garner, who has formerly played another role at the museum as Mary Pickersgill, the real-life seamstress who sewed The Star-Spangled Banner. Louise rides around the museum on an antique 1898 Reliance Model D bicycle, speaking with visitors about her independent journey to Washington, D.C., and the freedom she feels after learning how to ride the bicycle.

Black and white photograph of a woman posing with her bicycle in front of a studio backdrop. She wears a hat and long skirt. One foot on the bike pedal.

The Wheelwoman character does not represent a specific historical figure; rather, she is an everyday 1890s woman who has learned how to ride a bicycle and is going out on her own for the first time. Unlike the high wheel bicycle, which had one large wheel in the front and a small wheel in the back, the groundbreaking safety bicycle she rides has two wheels of equal size and a drop frame that accommodates a woman's full skirt. Before the 1890s, the bicycle was a dangerous toy for aristocrats and adventurers. With the invention of the safety, everyone could ride, leading Susan B. Anthony to christen it the "freedom machine."

Black, white, and red sheet music cover showing a woman actively peddling her bicycle

When developing the Wheelwoman character, we hoped to demonstrate to visitors how important the bicycle was in fostering a greater sense of independence for women. Our character's story begins when Louise and her husband, a railway man, move to Takoma Park from an urban area, leaving Louise in need of transportation. Not willing to keep a horse, her husband buys her a bicycle, which she uses to travel freely wherever she pleases. By the late 19th century, the bicycle became a symbol of this newfound freedom and innovation, one that allowed women like Louise to leave their homes and demonstrate their independence and self-sufficiency.

At the age of 35 and with two children, Louise embodies the women who embraced self-discovery and wondered about a woman's place in the modern world. A new sense of freedom and time to devote to oneself allowed women to start contemplating issues such as temperance, child labor, and woman suffrage. If a woman like Louise could ride a machine all on her own across the country, the possibilities were endless for what else she could do!

"Bicycling for Ladies" book, showing a woman riding a bicycle at night. Next to the book is a bicycle lamp like the one pictured on the book.

We drew inspiration for Louise from her contemporaries such as Annie Londonderry, who in January 1895 had just begun her cross-country bicycle tour; Frances Willard, a leader of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and author of A Wheel Within a Wheel: How I Learned to Ride the Bicycle; Maria E. Ward, who wrote guides such as Bicycling for Ladies. These women taught not only about etiquette and technique when riding a bicycle, but also about the health benefits one would receive and the importance of knowing how the machine works. Their texts helped us create the Wheelwoman character to form the basis of Louise's bicycling knowledge.

Cover of "Good Roads" magazine

Louise subscribed to the principles of the League of American Wheelmen (L.A.W.), the premiere national bicycle club, which established the Good Roads Movement. As bicycle clubs began to emerge throughout the country, small outings turned into large social tours, closing the distance between cities and towns. In order to travel these distances, country roads needed to be smoothed, and the Good Roads Movement hoped to push the government to improve infrastructure in rural areas. After researching the importance of the bicycle in literally paving the way for the automobile and forming the beginning of our modern road system, we realized that the roads would have had a big impact on Louise's six-mile journey from Takoma Park to Washington, D.C. Louise discusses the importance of the Good Roads Movement with visitors, since she was not able to enjoy the smooth paved surfaces we have today!

Black and white drawing of a well-dressed woman, seated

The program development team (which included educators, curators, the actor who would become Louise, and interns like me) hoped to allude to a special historic meaning when searching for a name for the Wheelwoman. Her surname "Gibson" references artistic personification of the ideal woman of her time, the "Gibson Girl." The Gibson Girl was popularized by illustrator Charles Dana Gibson and was meant to portray the ideal of feminine beauty. She was a tall and slender, yet curvy, woman dressed in the latest fashions, who was athletic, confident, independent, and focused on self-fulfillment. She could enter the workforce or attend college to find a mate, but she was not the type to participate in radical movements such as woman suffrage.

Cartoon drawing of the "New Woman," depicted riding a bicycle in several different scenes

To some degree, the Gibson Girl provides a contrast to the New Woman, a feminist ideal popularized by American writer Henry James. This modern persona represented the educated, independent career woman who advocated for issues such as women's rights. Louise is a composite of these two types. She is a woman who is still concerned with traditional feminine responsibilities but is also exploring new possible roles for women through her bicycle.

Advertisement showing a woman's bicycle that cost $85

Louise still wears a corset, but it is a sport corset with elastic, designed for comfort during exercise; she is even considering purchasing bloomers to replace her long skirts. The Rational Dress Movement was formed in the late 1800s to reform the Victorian-era dress in favor of more practical and comfortable clothes for women. As women began to engage in physical activities such as bicycling, the large and heavy skirts of the Victorian era became increasingly impractical. For now, Louise is equipped with a skirt lifter to separate her skirts and a skirt guard to make sure that her clothes do not get caught in the wheel.

After hours of role-playing and modifying the character with our actor, the Wheelwoman made her debut on the floors of the museum at the July opening of our new Innovation Wing. Look for her on your next visit. You can also explore bicycling history in our online exhibition and learn about the conservation of a very fancy bike.

Brianna Mayer was a summer 2015 intern with the Office of Public Programs and Strategic Initiatives. She is a studying history and anthropology at the University of Michigan.

Author(s): 
Intern Brianna Mayer
Posted Date: 
Tuesday, March 8, 2016 - 11:15
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The oldest microscope in the museum

National Museum of American History

In the store-rooms of the museum, we recently discovered a small microscope made around 1750. The "I. CUFF Londini Inv. & Fec." inscription (which is Latin for "designed and made by I. Cuff of London") is that of John Cuff (1708-1772), a talented instrument maker whose shop was to be found "directly against Serjeant’s-Inn Gate in Fleet-Street." Maps of the period indicate that this address was just three doors away from Crane Court, home of the Royal Society of London, an early and important scientific organization. While craftsmen such as Cuff were seldom elected to Fellowship in the Society, they could attend meetings and interact with gentlemen who might appreciate and afford their wares.

Wooden box lined with green velvet containing microscope parts

At a meeting of the Royal Society in the winter of 1738-1739, Cuff met Johann Nathanael Lieberkühn, a German physician who had come to England to promote two instruments he had recently devised. One, the solar microscope, used sunlight to throw an enlarged image of a small specimen onto a wall on the other side of the room. The other, the microscope for opaque objects, used a silvered mirror to throw light onto the objects under investigation. After watching Lieberkühn's demonstration, Cuff took great pains to improve these instruments and "bring them to perfection"—the words are from Henry Baker, Fellow of the Royal Society and author of The Microscope Made Easy (London, 1742), a popular text that went through several editions.

It was also through the Royal Society that Cuff hooked up with Abraham Trembley, a Swiss naturalist whose observations of small aquatic creatures that could regenerate lost parts was creating a buzz within the scientific community. Martin Folkes, President of the Royal Society, showed some of Trembley's polyps (as the creatures were known) to large and enthusiastic audiences in March 1743, and probably used his Cuff microscope for this purpose. When Trembley visited London in 1745, he asked Cuff to make a microscope that would facilitate observations of aquatic creatures as they moved about. By 1747, Cuff was boasting of "The AQUATIC MICROSCOPE" which was "invented by him for the Examination of Water Animals."

Microscope set up on case

Our microscope is of this sort. It is a brass instrument with a single lens that can move in three directions (right and left; forward and back; up and down), a large stage, and a sub-stage mirror. A wooden box covered with fish-skin serves as a base for the microscope when in use, and as protection when not. There are also several extra lenses as well as sliders made of ivory. The provenance, alas, is unknown.

In 1752, Cuff made a slightly simplified aquatic microscope for the naturalist, John Ellis, and Ellis included an explanation and illustration of this instrument in his Essay Towards a Natural History of the Corallines (London, 1755), a popular text that was soon republished in French, Dutch and German. Ellis also sent an example of this instrument to Alexander Garden, a physician and naturalist in Charleston, South Carolina, who gave his name to the Gardenia. This was probably the first aquatic microscope, and the first Cuff instrument, in North America.

Cuff may have had many talents, but he was a lousy businessman who went bankrupt in a terribly competitive environment. When George Adams, proprietor of the leading instrument shop in London, offered "Ellis's aquatic microscopes," he essentially erased all memory of the contributions that Cuff and Trembley had made to the form. Most historians have followed Adams' lead, but our aquatic microscope may help restore the record.

Deborah Warner is a Curator of the Physical Sciences Collection in the National Museum of American History. She has also blogged about the buzz for spectroscopy.

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