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Zamālik, Jazīrat az Island. Cairo, Egypt, [negative]

Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives
Title source: Index card based on photographer's notes.

The photograph depicts the southern extremity of Zamālik, Jazīrat az Island (Gezirah Island) with Tahrir (Liberation) Bridge and 590-foot-high Cairo Tower. The edifice was built in 1957 and is surmounted by a revolving restaurant and a radio and television mast. This photograph was taken when Eliot Elisofon was on assignment for Life magazine and traveled to Africa from August 18, 1959 to December 20, 1959.

Zamālik, Jazīrat az Island, Cairo, Egypt, [slide]

Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives
Title is provided by EEPA staff based on photographer's notes.

The photograph depicts the southern extremity of Zamālik, Jazīrat az Island (Gezirah Island) with Tahrir (Liberation) Bridge and 590-foot-high Cairo Tower. The edifice was built in 1957 and is surmounted by a revolving restaurant and a radio and television mast. This photograph was taken when Eliot Elisofon was on assignment for Life magazine and traveled to Africa from August 18, 1959 to December 20, 1959.

Zamālik, Jazīrat az Island, Cairo, Egypt, [slide]

Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives
Title is provided by EEPA staff based on photographer's notes.

The photograph depicts the southern extremity of Zamālik, Jazīrat az Island (Gezirah Island) with Tahrir (Liberation) Bridge and 590-foot-high Cairo Tower. The edifice was built in 1957 and is surmounted by a revolving restaurant and a radio and television mast. This photograph was taken when Eliot Elisofon was on assignment for Life magazine and traveled to Africa from August 18, 1959 to December 20, 1959.

Zamālik, Jazīrat az Island, Cairo, Egypt, [slide]

Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives
Title is provided by EEPA staff based on photographer's notes.

The photograph depicts the southern extremity of Zamālik, Jazīrat az Island with Tahrir (Liberation) Bridge and 590-foot-high Cairo Tower. The edifice was built in 1957 and is surmounted by a revolving restaurant and a radio and television mast. This photograph was taken when Eliot Elisofon was working on "The Nile" project and traveled to Africa from March 14, 1961 to March 31, 1961, visiting Egypt.

Zamālik, Jazīrat az Island, Cairo, Egypt, [slide]

Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives
Title is provided by EEPA staff based on photographer's notes.

The photograph depicts the southern extremity of Zamālik, Jazīrat az Island with Tahrir (Liberation) Bridge and 590-foot-high Cairo Tower. The edifice was built in 1957 and is surmounted by a revolving restaurant and a radio and television mast. This photograph was taken when Eliot Elisofon was working on "The Nile" project and traveled to Africa from March 14, 1961 to March 31, 1961, visiting Egypt.

Zamālik, Jazīrat az Island, Cairo, Egypt, [slide]

Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives
Title is provided by EEPA staff based on photographer's notes.

The photograph depicts the southern extremity of Zamālik, Jazīrat az Island with Tahrir (Liberation) Bridge and 590-foot-high Cairo Tower. The edifice was built in 1957 and is surmounted by a revolving restaurant and a radio and television mast. This photograph was taken when Eliot Elisofon was working on "The Nile" project and traveled to Africa from March 14, 1961 to March 31, 1961, visiting Egypt.

Zamālik, Jazīrat az Island, Cairo, Egypt, [slide]

Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives
Title is provided by EEPA staff based on photographer's notes.

The photograph depicts the southern extremity of Zamālik, Jazīrat az Island (Gezirah Island) with Tahrir (Liberation) Bridge and 590-foot-high Cairo Tower. The edifice was built in 1957 and is surmounted by a revolving restaurant and a radio and television mast. This photograph was taken when Eliot Elisofon was on assignment for Life magazine and traveled to Africa from August 18, 1959 to December 20, 1959.

Yume no Ukihashi (Floating Bridge of Dreams)

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Three Japanese masks looking towards center of poster, one at left, one at top center, and one at bottom. Behind masks, a collage of imagery including red flames, architectural motifs, skeletons, demons and mountain scenes.

Young Fisherman

Smithsonian American Art Museum

You've Got Chocolate on My Peanut Bar

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
This lesson plan asks students to design, innovate, invent. and work cooperatively in groups. They build bridges made of toothpicks and Dot candies, testing each structure's strength.

You Can Now 3D Print Glass

Smithsonian Magazine

Hamburg’s new concert hall opened late last year to acclaim from architectural critics around the world. The soaring structure has a façade of some 2,000 flat and curved glass panels, giving the impression of a wave about to break. But the project was six years late and hundreds of millions of euros over budget, with some of the overage due to the ancient, time-consuming molding technique used to curve the glass panels.

But what if the glass panels could simply have been printed with a 3D printer?

Until now, this wouldn’t have been possible at all. The most commonly used 3D printing materials are polymers, and techniques exist for printing metals, ceramics, concretemedication, even food as well. But glass has been almost absent from the equation.

“Glass is one of the oldest materials that mankind has used, and it’s astonishing to see the 3D printing revolution of the 21st century has ignored glass until now,” says Bastian Rapp, a researcher at Germany’s Karlsruhe Institute of Technology.

Rapp’s team has come up with a new technique for 3D printing glass, one which can produce glass objects that are both strong and transparent. The technique makes use of a traditional method of 3D printing called stereolithography. In stereolithography, the printer builds up the object layer by layer using a liquid—traditionally a polymer—that hardens when touched by a laser light. Rapp’s team has figured out how to do this using powdered glass suspended in a liquid polymer. Once the object is printed, it’s placed in a high temperature oven, which burns away the polymer and fuses the glass particles, leaving behind only hardened glass.

The printed glass has high thermal shock resistance, as demonstrated here, when the fused silica glass is exposed to a flame of 800 degrees Celsius. (NeptunLab/KIT)

Though Rapp’s technique isn’t the first example of 3D printing glass—MIT researchers developed a method for extruding molten glass two years ago, while other teams have used lower-temperature techniques that produce a weak, cloudy product—it is the first to print clear glass at low temperatures. It’s also the first to take advantage of ordinary, off-the-shelf 3D stereolithography printers, meaning it can be used without much special equipment.

Glass has a number of unique properties that make it desirable as a 3D printed material, Rapp says.

“There is almost no material that can be exposed to such high temperatures as glass can be exposed to,” he says. “And there is almost no chemical that can attack glass, whereas polymers can be degraded by UV light and organic solvents.”

The team printed this three-dimensional glass pretzel. (NeptunLab/KIT)

Glass also has a transparency unmatched by other materials. Light doesn’t pass nearly as well through even the clearest plastics, which is the reason houses have glass windows, despite their breakability. High quality camera lenses are always glass for this reason, Rapp says, while smartphones’ lenses are usually plastic.

“This is why the quality of the photo you take with a state of the art smartphone as compared with a camera is always inferior,” Rapp says.

The new technique could be used to print almost anything, Rapp says. It could be used for tiny, intricate objects like jewelry, lenses or computer parts, or for large objects such as windows. The only variable is the printer itself.

Here is a three-dimensional structure of a castle gate printed in fused silica glass. (NeptunLab/KIT)

The 3D printing technique has advantages over non-printing methods of making small glass models in that it doesn’t require chemical etching, which uses dangerous hydrofluoric acid, and that it can have closed cavities and channels, which isn’t possible in traditional glass-blowing. And it potentially has a speed advantage over non-printing methods of glass production as well.

For their research, Rapp’s team used an inexpensive, unmodified printer of a type that could be bought by any home enthusiast.

“It’s a well-established technological platform in terms of machinery, and it’s a well-recognized and well-known material,” Rapp says. “The only thing we made was the bridge in between.”

The team’s research was published this month in the journal Nature.

Rapp has created a company to commercialize the technique. He hopes to have a first product on the market by the end of the year. 

Wooded Landscape with Bridge

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Woman with a Sack [painting] / (photographed by Peter A. Juley & Son)

Archives and Special Collections, Smithsonian American Art Museum
Title transcribed from negative.

Inventory of American Paintings, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Smithsonian Institution.

Orig. negative: 8x10, Safety, BW.

Winter in the Country

National Museum of American History
Colored print; rural house and stream in winter. Two adults and three children with a dog cross a wooden bridge with bundles of twigs and sticks in hand.

Wind and Rain on the Thames

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Williamsburg Bridge River Scene

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Williamsburg Bridge

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Why You Should Visit Europe's Two New Capitals of Culture

Smithsonian Magazine

What would a city be without a few quirks? Wroclaw, Poland has plenty, like its love of dwarves—over 300 miniature bronze statues of gnomes dot the city. And then there's San Sebastián, Spain, whose sun-bathed residents care as much about modernist architecture as building handmade boats.

Aside from their towering cathedrals, these cities don't seem to have much in common. But their histories follow a similar arc. Despite moments of adversity, both cities came back from trying times and are now stronger than ever. And now, both have been designated European Capitals of Culture for 2016.

The list of Capitals of Culture, which is added to by the European Union each year, was intended to enrich each selected city through art and culture, instill a sense of community and boost tourism. More than 50 cities have earned the designation, which is selected by a team of cultural experts.

Over the next 12 months, both Wroclaw and San Sebastián will celebrate the designation with festivals, parades, concerts, art exhibitions and theatrical performances. Here are a few of the destinations that make each city deserving of the honor.

Wroclaw, Poland

Market Square

Wroclaw's Market Square is encircled by brightly colored residential buildings begging to be Instagrammed. #nofilterneeded (Anna Stowe/LOOP IMAGES/Corbis)

Located about 225 miles southwest of Warsaw, Poland, Wroclaw is a picturesque playground with a rich culture to match. This city of half a million is filled with towering cathedrals, ornate bridges and colorful historic buildings that will host over 1,000 cultural events in 2016.

For a glimpse of what day-to-day life is like, visit Market Square, an area filled with restaurants and boutiques. It’s also where many of the Capitals of Culture festivities will take place. Kick off the Capital of Culture celebrations at “Made in Europe,” an exhibition that traces 25 years of contemporary architecture in Europe at the Museum of Architecture just off the square.

National Museum of Wroclaw

The National Museum of Wroclaw contains one of the largest collections of contemporary art in Poland. (Imaginechina/Corbis)

Wroclaw boasts dozens of museums, but one of its most popular is the National Museum of Wroclaw. Although much of Wroclaw’s art history was lost during World War II after the Nazis extinguished any remnants of Polish culture in the city, many priceless pieces of artwork were saved and stored at museums outside of Poland. After the war, they were returned to Wroclaw and are now on display as part of the museum’s permanent collection.

For the Capitals of Culture celebration, the museum will host a number of special exhibitions for 2016, including “Masterpieces of Japanese Art in Polish Collections” (through January 31) and “Chairs, Stools, Armchairs: A Brief History of Seats” (through February 28).

Cathedral Island

Cathedral Island or Ostrow Tumski is the oldest part of the city and contains several examples of cathedral architecture. (Frank Fell/robertharding/Corbis)

Just across the Odra River from the city center is Cathedral Island (Ostrów Tumski), the city’s oldest area. It’s named after the many cathedrals that make up its skyline. Archaeological digs have unearthed remnants of buildings dating back to the ninth century.

Visitors can explore the area’s cobblestone streets and tour the oldest church still standing, St. Giles, which was built in the 13th century. Other notable cathedrals include the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist, known for its Gothic architecture and dual towers, and St. Elizabeth’s Church, which has a nearly 300-foot-tall tower and an observation deck.

Centennial Hall

More than 800 lights illuminate the fountain outside Centennial Hall. The fountain can project streams of water up to 40 feet in height. (Arno Burgi/epa/Corbis)

When the final section of Wroclaw’s Centennial Hall was set in 1912, critics claimed that the concrete building looked like either a hatbox or a gas meter. Today it stands as an architectural marvel that was one of the first European structures built using reinforced concrete technology. The massive building has hosted concerts, sports, exhibitions, and other events, including a Nazi rally led by Adolf Hitler.

This year, Centennial Hall will serve as one of the main venues for Capitals of Culture festivities, hosting a ballet and a concert starring Polish rock band KULT. The fountains outside the building are also great for photo ops, especially during the Hall’s after-dark multimedia music and light show.

The Dwarves of Wroclaw

More than 300 miniature dwarf statues can be found throughout Wroclaw, and have been a unique part of the city since 2001. (Yvan Travert/Photononstop/Corbis)

Wroclaw is a city of dwarves: Since 2001, over 300 miniature bronze statues of gnomes have popped throughout the city center. Many are in plain sight, clasping onto light poles or leaning against a building’s facade, while others are hidden. The city’s tourist information center at Market Square sells maps showing each dwarf’s location, or you can try to sleuth them out on your own.

San Sebastián

Playa de la Concha

Playa de la Concha is a popular urban beach in the heart of San Sebastián. (John Harper/Corbis)

If ever there were a land of leisure, it would be San Sebastián. The coastal city of nearly 200,000, located 280 miles northeast of Madrid in Basque Country, is known for its white sand beaches and epic surf. San Sebastián will kick off its 2016 Capital of Culture festivities with the “Big Opening,” a day of celebration set for January 23.

One of San Sebastián’s most popular places to sunbathe and swim is Playa de la Concha—but it wasn’t always so serene. In 1961, the area was plunged into political unrest due to the Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA), a Basque separatist movement that launched surprise attacks on the city. Even today, many of San Sebastián’s whitewashed buildings are pockmarked with bullet holes as a silent reminder of its turbulent past. In 2011, the ETA declared a permanent ceasefire, and the city has been quietly recovering ever since. As a way to help the community heal, this year’s celebrations will include “Peace Treaty,” a series of seminars, conferences and artistic productions that highlight the role of peace in the arts.

Kursaal Congress Centre and Auditorium

Locals often call the Kursaal Congress Centre and Auditorium "the cubes" thanks to its boxy architecture. (Melba/age fotostock Spain S.L./Corbis)

One of the main venues for this year’s festivities will be San Sebastián’s Kursaal Congress Centre and Auditorium, a glass megaplex designed by Spanish architect Rafael Moneo that overlooks the coastline. Locals call it “the cubes” thanks to twin glass structures that house a 1,800-seat concert hall, exhibition spaces and a chamber hall.

Among the concerts planned for 2016 are performances by Elvis Costello, the Swedish Chamber Orchestra, the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, Javier Camarena, Buika, George Benson and more. Click for a full list of events.

Buen Pastor Cathedral and Iesu Church

The San Sebastián Cathedral is one of the tallest buildings in the city and contains a crypt, an organ, and elaborate stained-glass windows. (Rob Tilley/Corbis)

Like other Capitals of Culture, San Sebastián is known for its stunning architecture. Built in 1897 and 246 feet tall, the Buen Pastor Cathedral is the city’s tallest structure. It’s famous for its Gothic architecture and impressive stained glass windows representing the 12 apostles, Jesus and the Virgin Mary.

More modern but equally impressive is the Iesu Church in the city’s suburbs. Designed by Rafael Moneo (he also designed the Kursaal), Iesu resembles a two-story white box. The Catholic temple is known for its minimalist design and is a striking contrast to the city’s more typical medieval structures. In 2010, a white flower garden called Memory Park was built at the church as a solemn reminder of those whose lives were lost during times of war and terrorism.

Albaola: The Sea Factory of the Basques

The Albaola: the Sea Factory of the Basques is part museum, part factory. Visitors can watch as builders construct boats using ancient methods passed down from previous generations of craftspeople. (Robert B. Fishman/dpa/Corbis)

Life revolves around the beach in San Sebastián, from the tanned, barefoot tourists who stroll the coastline to surfers scrambling to find the perfect wave. The city has a longstanding boat building history too. To get a glimpse of its seafaring past, there’s no better place to visit than Albaola: The Sea Factory of the Basques. Part factory, part boat building school, it hosts daily tours that focus on maritime history and technology.

Stay in the maritime mood with a visit to Concha Promenade, which hugs the Concha Bay and is a popular spot to watch the sunset. Or take a boat ride to nearby Santa Clara Island for breathtaking views of the city skyline.

Bandera de la Concha

One of the city's most popular events is the Bandera de la Concha, an annual boat race held in the Bay of Biscay. The first race was held in 1879. (Juan Herrero/epa/Corbis)

San Sebastián is a city of festivals. One of the most popular is the annual Bandera de la Concha (Kontxako Bandera) boat race in the city’s Bay of Biscay, which typically draws a crowd of more than 100,000 onlookers and takes place the first two weekends in September.

Other popular annual events include the International Jazz Festival, which will take place July 20 through 25 with performances on stages throughout the city, and the Donostia-San Sebastián Musical Fortnight, Spain’s longest-running classical music festival.

Why We Have a Civic Responsibility to Protect Cultural Treasures During Wartime

Smithsonian Magazine

Sometime in the mid-6th century A.D., an unknown artist sculpted a beautiful figure standing nearly six feet tall out of the limestone in a man-made cave in northern China. Commissioned by a Buddhist emperor of the Northern Qi dynasty, the figure was a bodhisattva, representing an enlightened human being who delayed his own entry to paradise to help others achieve their own spiritual development. It joined an array of other sculptures, forming an underground temple of Buddhist iconography and signaled the regime’s desire for divine guidance and protection.

But neither enlightenment nor protection prevailed when in 1909 looters, encouraged by civil strife and lawlessness in China, started to cut and remove statues and sculpted heads from the temple cave and sell the treasures on the art market. The standing bodhisattva came to Paris in 1914, in the possession of Chinese immigrant and art dealer C.T. Loo and Swiss poet, collector and antiquities aficionado Charles Vignier. Two years later, they sold the piece to financier Eugene Meyer, who almost immediately offered to exhibit it at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. He and his journalist wife Agnes owned and loaned it for decades. The Meyers eventually bought the Washington Post and supported civic, educational and cultural causes. Agnes Meyer donated the statue to the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art in 1968. A few years ago, the standing bodhisattva helped anchor an exhibition, "Echos of the Past," organized by the Smithsonian and the University of Chicago, that included the statue’s appearance in a digitally reconstruction of the original Xiangtangshan cave before it was looted.

We know a lot about the sculpture from what we call provenance research—tracking the record of ownership of an artwork. It’s good practice, prescribed in the museum community to ensure that works are legally acquired. Museums generally operate according to a 1970 Unesco treaty that says that artworks illicitly obtained should be returned to their rightful owners. The U.S. and several other nations also seek to recover art work looted during the Nazi-era and return those as well—a practice initiated by the now well known “Monuments Men”—and women.

While museums are sometimes criticized for holding onto items acquired from other nations, their goal has been to preserve, exhibit and learn from them. It’s a noble, worthwhile and civic idea—that we of today might gain insight from understanding the past, and even be inspired by our heritage and that of others. Civic leaders generally support cultural heritage preservation and education as worthy social goals, though sometimes convincing politicians and officials that such efforts merit support from public coffers is not always easy. But actions undertaken in different parts of the world to destroy such heritage brings the basic mission of museums into strong relief.

The Taliban’s blowing up of the Bamiyan Buddhas in 2001 was a shock, as has been the burning of medieval manuscripts in the libraries of Timbuktu and ISIS thugs taking sledgehammers to Akkadian and Assyrian sculptures in the Mosul museum. These heinous acts, condemned around the world, point to the material obliteration of history, of people’s diversity and often a society’s complex, multifaceted nuanced identity.

Extremists say that these objects have no value, but they cynically loot and sell what they can carry off, using such treasures to help finance further destruction. Cultural heritage, whether in the tangible form of monuments, mosques, temples, churches and collections or in the more intangible form of living customs, beliefs and practices is under attack as a strategic pillar of extremist warfare. It is a war on civilization itself—whether that be Islamic, Jewish, Christian, Hindu or Buddhist, eastern, western or indigenous.

Image by © Jamal Saidi/Reuters/Corbis. Assistant Director of the Iraq Museum, Donny Youkhanna, shows the head of a statue of a man from an Assyrian winged bull, damaged by thieves who used a chainsaw to cut the head from the bull's stone body at an archaeological site in Khorsabad, located north of Mosul, in 1996. (original image)

Image by © S. SABAWOON/epa/Corbis. Afghan women pass by the scene where one of the two colossal statues of Buddha carved into the sandstone cliffs were demolished by the Taliban in March 2001, in Bamiyan, Afghanistan. The monumental statues were carved from the cliff in the early 6th and 7th centuries AD. (original image)

Image by © David Honl/ZUMA Press/Corbis. The site of the ancient Buddha Statues of Bamiyan, on the outskirts of Bamiyan, Afghanistan. The statues were destroyed by the Taliban in March 2001. (original image)

Image by © M.A.PUSHPA KUMARA/epa/Corbis. Workers engaged in the final stages of one of the world's tallest granite seated image of the Buddha are seen at the Rambodagalle temple at Rideegama near Kurunegala, Sri Lanka, in September 2014. The structure, 67.5 feet high and designed on the lines of a Bamiyan Buddha image in Afghanistan destroyed by the Taliban, is taking shape not only as a symbol of Buddhism but as a sign of unity among the different communities and religions in Sri Lanka. (original image)

Image by REUTERS/Joe Penney (MALI - Tags: RELIGION SOCIETY) --- Image by © JOE PENNEY/Reuters/Corbis. Librarian Aboubakar Yaro examines an Islamic manuscript from the 17th century at the Djenne Library of Manuscipts, in Djenne, Mali, September 2012. Djenne is thought to have at least 10,000 manuscripts held in private collections, dating from the 14th to 20th centuries. (original image)

Image by Freer Gallery of Art, Gift of Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer. In 1909, encouraged by civil strife and lawlessness in China, looters started to cut and remove statues like this mid-6th century standing Bodhisattva from the temple cave and sell the treasures on the art market. (original image)

Image by Freer/Sackler Gallery. The Boddhisattva anchored a 2011 exhibition, "Echos of the Past: The Buddhist Cave Temples of Xiangtangshan," organized by the Smithsonian and the University of Chicago, which included a digital reconstruction of the original location where looters had removed the artworks in 1909. (original image)

Image by © Corbis. A c.1814 illustration details the fire damage to the Senate and House wings following the attempted burning of the U.S. Capitol by British. (original image)

Image by © MATTES Rene/Hemis/Corbis. The Old Bridge of the city of Mostar in Bosnia-Herzegovina was destroyed in fighting between Croats and Muslims in the 1990s. In 2004 it was rebuilt, again serving to recognize a shared history. (original image)

Image by © Andrew Aitchison/In Pictures/Corbis. The Kigali Memorial Centre, located on a site where 250,000 of the victims of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda were buried in mass graves, opened in 2004 on the 10th anniversary of the atrocity. (original image)

Image by © STRINGER/Reuters/Corbis. A man stands along in a courtyard, during a night vigil to honor former South African President Nelson Mandela, near B Section of Robben Island Maximum Security Prison off the coast of Cape Town in December 2013. (original image)

Image by © NIC BOTHMA/epa/Corbis. The art installation "Sunstar" by artist Christopher Swift on Signal Hill above the city of Cape Town, South Africa, is a 24-meter, eight-pointed star constructed from the original fence that once surrounded Robben Island where former president Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 27 years. (original image)

Image by © Frank Schumann/dpa/Corbis. An estimated 1.5 million people were murdered at Auschwitz, a concentration camp that was liberated by Soviet troops on January 27, 1945, and turned into a memorial site and museum in 1947. (original image)

Image by © Frank Schumann/dpa/Corbis. The barbed wired fence and watch towers of Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp stand covered in mist in Oswiecim, Poland. The camp became a memorial site and museum in 1947 and since 2007 a UNESCO heritage site.. (original image)

One might be tempted to say, sacking and looting are the heritage of humankind in their own right—think the destruction of Solomon’s temple, the pillaging of Rome, the ransacking of Baghdad by the Mongols and the exploits of Conquistadors among the Aztecs and Incas. There are, of course, more modern examples.

Last year we celebrated the bicentennial of the Star Spangled Banner, held in the Smithsonian’s collection. The flag flew over Baltimore weeks after the British burned the U.S. Capitol, the White House and other public buildings in an effort to dispirit the young nation’s citizenry. Often, in modern warfare the scale of bombing and destruction by weaponry can make valued cultural heritage a casualty of inadvertent destruction.

The U.S. faced heavy criticism for the fire-bombing of the architecturally significant Dresden during World War II, but President Franklin Roosevelt and General Dwight Eisenhower recognized the need to try to protect heritage in the midst of the Allied invasion of Europe. Still there are times when a key decision makes a difference. Kyoto, home to much of Japanese imperial tradition and its most treasured sites, was high on the target list for the dropping of the atomic bomb. But U.S. Secretary of War Henry Stimson, even in an all-out war, recognized its cultural importance and vetoed that idea.

Cultural heritage, while targeted for destruction in war, can also be used to help heal after conflict and to reconcile people with their former enemies and their past. As Japan was recovering from the war and under U.S. occupation, it was no less a warrior than General Douglas MacArthur who supported the efforts of Japanese authorities to preserve their cultural treasures. In post-World War II Europe, Auschwitz, the largest concentration camp, became a memorial and museum to recognize and draw understanding from the Nazi effort to exterminate the Jewish people. The 1954 Hague Convention recognizing the value of heritage, demonstrated world-wide condemnation for the deliberate destruction of cultural property in armed conflict and military occupation, and a 1972 Unesco convention formalized an international regime for recognizing world heritage sites.

In the U.S. in the 1980s, American Indians and their culture, a century earlier marked by the government for destruction and assimilation, were celebrated with a national museum at the foot of the U.S. Capitol. In the 1990s, Robben Island, once the home of the infamous prison housing Nelson Mandela and his compatriots fighting against apartheid was turned into a museum for the new South Africa. Both prisoners and guards became docents, educating visitors about the era, and a site that had once drastically divided a population, helped to bring it together. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Mostar Bridge, commissioned by Suleiman the Magnificent had been destroyed in fighting between Croats and Muslims. The bridge had more than a roadway; it was a symbol of connection between the two communities and wiping it out served to divide them in conflict. In 2004 it was rebuilt, again serving to recognize a shared history.

The same year, the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre and museum opened in Rwanda, at the site of mass graves of victims of that genocide, and provided a means to encourage all citizens of that country, Hutu and Tutsi to avoid the racism and intolerance that led to that national tragedy. Not only museums and memorials, but heritage encapsulated in living traditions that once divided people can be used to bring them together. Unesco’s Slave Route project focused on how the African diaspora illustrated the perseverance of people and their cultures while enduring a most odious practice. The Smithsonian working with Yo-Yo Ma, the Aga Khan and Rajeev Sethi demonstrated how conflicts, forced migration and exploitation along the historic Silk Road were surmounted, and resulted in complex and creative cultural expressions in art, music, cuisine, fashion and ideas that connected people around the globe.

Cultural heritage teaches us things. It embodies knowledge of particular times about architecture, engineering, design, social structure, economy, craftsmanship and religious beliefs. It offers an appreciation of history, and lets us understand something about the way in which people lived. But heritage is not only about the past. Heritage is either forgotten and obscured, or articulated and valued in the present. It symbolizes how people think of themselves and others, including their predecessors and neighbors today. In that sense, cultural heritage teaches us about tolerance and respect for a diverse humanity. Saving heritage saves us from the foibles of arrogance, intolerance, prejudice toward and persecution of our fellow human beings. It reminds us of our better nature and like the standing bodhisattva, helps us all live in a more humane world.

The discussion continues in a program “Cultural Heritage: Conflict and Reconciliation” organized at the Smithsonian with the University of Chicago at the Freer Gallery’s Meyer Auditorium on April 17. A session featuring Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO, Emily Rafferty, the President of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Mounir Bouchenaki, Director of the Arab Regional Centre for World Heritage, and Richard Kurin, interviewed by David Rubenstein, Smithsonian Regent and University of Chicago Trustee, and co-founder of The Carlyle Group. The event will be available via webcast.

Whitestone Bridge [painting] / (photographed by Peter A. Juley & Son)

Archives and Special Collections, Smithsonian American Art Museum
Agee, William C., "Ralston Crawford," Pasadena, Calif: Twelve Trees Press, 1983, no. 19.

Memorial Art Gallery, University of Rochester, 2012.

Black-and-white study print (8x10).

Orig. negative: 4x5, Safety, BW.

copy 1 negative: 4x5, Safety, BW.

Downtown Gallery.

Where Are They Now?

Smithsonian Institution Archives
Lynda Schmitz Fuhrig, Electronic Records Archivist, with contributions from Emma Wolman, Susan Eldridge, Carrie Tallichet Smith, Robin Camille Davis, Killian Escobedo, Julianna M. Barrera-Gomez, and Greg Palumbo

Every summer, and sometimes fall, the Archives welcomes interns who are interested in getting some hands-on experience in an archival environment. The Digital Services Division wanted to catch up with some of its former interns to see what they are up to now.

Emma Wolman interned at the Smithsonian Institution Archives in 2009. Photo courtesy of Emma Wolman.Emma Wolman

  • Interned at the Smithsonian Institution Archives: Summer 2009
  • Project/Focus: Digital Preservation (migration of digital files, inventory of assets, digitization of analog materials and metadata entry, and development of digitization methodology)
  • Favorite Memory: It was really exciting and enriching to get to use what I learned in the classroom in a real archival institution. I especially enjoyed getting to work with historic primary sources.
  • What are You Doing Now?: I am the Digital Assets Manager for the Portland Art Museum in Portland, Oregon, since 2010. I create, migrate, preserve, and catalog digital assets and am part of a team working hard to increase access to art digitally.
  • Blog Post: To Market, To Market, The Bigger Picture blog

Susan Eldridge 

  • Interned at the Smithsonian Institution Archives: Summer 2010 while I was getting my masters from the University of Michigan, School of Information. 
  • Project/Focus: Conversion of Digital Audio Tape (DAT) recordings of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra from the 1990s. The recordings had to be converted in real time, which meant I got to enjoy jazz concerts nearly eight hours a day. However, if something went wrong, I had to start the conversion of that tape all over, which meant I had to be careful to avoid software/hardware disruptions and crashes - more delicate work than it seems! In addition to the conversions, I also prepared a report on the format and the best practices of converting DAT recordings. My internship at the Archives is one of my fondest memories of grad school. I immensely enjoyed getting to know the staff, volunteers, and other interns at the Archives, as well as all the exciting projects they were working on. Those three months went by much too quickly! 
  • Favorite Memory: Beyond the archives, I loved experiencing Washington, D.C., in the summertime. Having Fridays off allowed me to explore many, but sadly not all, of the museums and sights in the area. One of my favorites was the National Museum of American History and its dresses of the First Ladies exhibit. I also was able to take in a game at the Nationals' ballpark (the Giants won . . . and would later go on to win the World Series that year!), and watch the fireworks from the Lincoln Memorial on July 4th. Yes, it was hot, muggy, and very crowded, but it was all well worth it.
  • What are You Doing Now?: Currently I am an instructional designer at San Francisco State University. I work with faculty to (re)design and improve their courses, whether they are face-to-face, hybrid, or fully online. I also help instructors incorporate instructional technology into their courses in order to ensure every student gets the most out of the course, and hopefully help the instructors use their time more efficiently. Though not an archive or museum, working in academic technology allows me to be at the heart of a university, solve interesting problems, and work to make the higher education experience better for all.
  • Blog Post: Swingin' and Swayin' in the Archives, The Bigger Picture blog

Carrie Tallichet Smith interned at the Smithsonian Institution Archives from 2010-2011. She participated in the Smithsonian Human Sunburst photo during the staff picnic, by Dane Penland.Carrie Tallichet Smith

  • Interned at the Smithsonian Institution Archives: June 2010 - February 2011.
  • Project/Focus: I participated in a wide variety of projects, many of which involved digitizing analog materials, recording metadata, and performing quality control. I worked with digitizing and collecting metadata for a large quantity of photographs. I also contributed to a project to convert DATs to WAV format and fulfilled some researcher requests requiring audio-video migration. Lastly, I researched and prepared training materials for embedding IPTC metadata  into digitized images. This involved merging metadata stored in a Microsoft Access database with the corresponding images. 
  • Favorite Memory: I have two. The first would be the weekly ritual of doing the crossword with Ricc Ferrante and Peter Finkel over lunch. The second would be forming the Smithsonian Human Sunburst during the staff picnic. See the picture with the arrow pointing to me. 
  • What are You Doing Now?: As of November 2013, I am an Archivist in the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Special Access unit of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).  Previously, I was a Reference Archivist in NARA's Electronic Records Division. 

Robin Camille Davis interned at the Smithsonian Institution Archives in 2011. Photo courtesy of Robin Camille Davis.Robin Camille Davis

  • Interned at the Smithsonian Institution Archives: Summer 2011 as web preservation intern.
  • Project/Focus: I set up the initial web preservation workflow for Smithsonian-created web content. In two months, we captured more than 680,000 pieces of content, ready to be appraised and preserved. 
  • Favorite Memory: My favorite place in DC is the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden. After work on Fridays, some of the other interns and I would go there to listen to live jazz and eat salty chocolate cookies from Teaism. 
  • What are You Doing Now?: I am the Emerging Technologies & Distance Services Librarian at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. I love my job - I explore how new technologies can facilitate knowledge discovery and creation in an academic library. By night, I'm also a graduate student in Computational Linguistics at the CUNY Graduate Center, studying natural language processing.
  • Anything Else to Add: Doing real work in the Archives was such a blast - what I learned hands-on at the Archives, I use every day in my job! 
  • Blog Posts: Five Tips for Designing Preservable Websites and Saving the Smithsonian's Web, The Bigger Picture blog

Killian Escobedo

  • Interned at the Smithsonian Institution Archives: Summer 2011 
  • Project/Focus: Assessment and preservation recommendations for digital video accessioned at SIA.
  • Favorite Memory: Crossword puzzle lunches. It's amazing how quickly a group of archivists can solve a crossword puzzle. A close second were daily, rooftop lunches overlooking DC. Tied for second was riding my bike over a closed-to-traffic Arlington bridge after 4th of July fireworks on the Mall. 
  • What are You Doing Now?: I'm an interaction designer in San Francisco at Practice Fusion, which is a free, web-based electronic health records (EHR) platform for ambulatory care. I get to design the user interface for a records management solution that holds more than 80 million patient records. 
  • Blog Posts: Digital Video Preservation: Identifying Containers and Codecs and Digital Video Preservation: Further Challenges for Preserving Digital Video and Beyond, The Bigger Picture blog

Julianna M. Barrera-Gomez

  • Interned at the Smithsonian Institution Archives: I interned at the Archives in the summer of 2011, as part of an IMLS-funded project from the University Of Michigan, School Of Information that linked aspiring archivists with host institutions for internships. 
  • Project/Focus: I got to work with Lynda Schmitz Fuhrig and Ricc Ferrante in the Digital Services Division, where I learned how to process digital material that came in with various accessions. 
  • Favorite Memory: I was absorbed in processing the born-digital collections of Dr. Devra Kleiman, a research scientist at the National Zoological Park. It really made me think about the issues involved in accessioning born-digital collections, the dangers of obsolescence, the importance of metadata (and how it can be missing, lost, or changed) and the impact archival processing can have on users who may need to make sense of her data. Processing this collection really sparked my interest in research and academic records, which was a major driver in my future career decisions.
  • What are You Doing Now?: I am the University Archivist at the University of Texas at San Antonio, busily accessioning, processing, describing, curating, and facilitating access to our many collections, which are in nearly every format imaginable.
  • Anything Else to Add?: I felt like I'd landed the Most Amazing Internship Ever while I worked at the Archives. I still can’t believe how beneficial it was for me to get the chance to process digital collections, and even take charge of a collection I could explore in-depth. But working at the Archives did more than build my archival skills.  All of the archivists, volunteers, and other staff at the Archives were generous with their time and shared their skills and knowledge freely. It was an excellent place to learn.
  • Blog Post:Passwords and Paper Printouts: Preserving the Electronic Records of the Devra Kleiman Papers, The Bigger Picture blog

Greg Palumbo interned at the Smithsonian Institution Archives in 2011. Photo courtesy of Greg Palumbo.Greg Palumbo 

  • Interned at the Smithsonian Institution Archives: Fall 2011
  • Project/Focus: CAD (Computer Assisted Design) archiving and preservation research of Smithsonian architectural plans.
  • Favorite Memory: My favorite part of interning at the Archives was getting to work with records from around the entire Institution. On a day-to-day basis I was able to work with a wide variety of materials from a number of different and interesting disciplines. I also enjoyed being able to take part in collaborative efforts with other organizations and institutions around the country, and the world, as we continued to develop strategies and methodologies for archiving born-digital materials. 
  • What are You Doing Now?: I now work as a contractor for the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture. As part of the Office of Curatorial Affairs, I manage our digital assets, including audio, video, and still images, as well as oversee our rights and reproductions efforts.
  • Blog Post: Digital Dilemma: Preserving Computer Aided Design (CAD) Files, The Bigger Picture blog

The Smithsonian Institution has many internship opportunities. Learn more from the Office of Fellowships & Internships.

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When the Street Light First Came to London, Disaster Ensued

Smithsonian Magazine

The 20-foot monstrosity rose up in the middle of the road, between Bridge Street and Great George Street in London, two arms stretching up during the day, a gas lamp glowing like a gaping maw at night. Built by engineers, designed by a railway manager, and approved by Parliament, the strange contraption had a purpose as serious as its appearance was strange: to protect pedestrians from carriage traffic and keep the streets outside the House of Parliament from filling with congestion. On December 9, 1868, London became the first city to have a traffic light.

The structure would hardly be recognizable today. Compared to the modern lights seen at every corner, this lamp was an architectural spectacle. “Gothic paneling at the base supported a hollow cast-iron pillar, painted green and relieved with gilding, which then evolved into a thick metal coil, encompassed at the top by acanthus leaves which appeared to be growing out of an octagonal box containing the lamps, itself finished off by a pineapple finial,” writes James Winter in London’s Teeming Streets, 1830-1914. Despite its gaudy design, the lamp was a marvel. Newspapers crowed its success. Engineers predicted the arrival of these technological wonders on every street, with an accompanying police officer to operate them. But within a month all excitement had abated; the design proved to have a fatal flaw.

* * *

London of the 19th century was a dangerous place for commuters. The medieval city had been constructed along routes following the Thames River, and the Industrial Revolution brought more workers and horse carts than had ever before plied the narrow roads. When a hackney coach broke down and caused a traffic jam in the major thoroughfare known as the Strand in 1803, two men and a woman were trapped between coal wagons and crushed to death. In 1811, London Bridge hosted 90,000 pedestrians, 5,500 vehicles and 764 horse riders in a single day. And the flood of people only continued to grow. By 1850, about 27,000 commuters entered the city daily from outside towns, and they represented only a tenth of the total number of workers, most of whom came by foot or omnibus (a large wagon pulled by horses).

“Traffic staggered visitors to the city,” writes Jerry White in London in the Nineteenth Century. “In the West End the noise, for French-American traveler Louis Simond, was ‘a universal hubbub; a sort of uniform grinding and shaking, like that experienced in a great mill with fifty pairs of stones.’”

One tourist commented on a pile-up that included advertising vehicles, hackney coaches, donkey carts, and a cat’s-meat man. Another noted the courtiers sitting in their carriages, dressed in finery and snacking on biscuits as they awaited the end of a long “traffic lock.” According to historian Judith Flanders, “The nature of horse transport meant that some slowdowns were inevitable.” As she writes in The Victorian City: Everyday Life in Dickens’ London, “Plans for improvement were made. And remade. And then remade again.” Meanwhile, an average of three or four people died in street traffic incidents every week.

The lack of traffic regulations only compounded the problem. Every street had different rules for how it should be negotiated, and even then, the rules were rarely obeyed. But railway manager John Peake Knight had a possible solution. Knight had already made a mark when it came to safety on commuter rails. He was the first to order carriages be lit with electricity, and among the first to install pull-bells in cars that would let passengers alert guards to stop the trains. In 1865, he proposed using a semaphore signal for streets in London, modeled off the principle already in use on railway lines. The pillar would include two red arms, lowered when traffic could flow freely, held up to alert drivers to stop and let pedestrians cross.

The traffic signal erected in London in 1868, as seen in the Illustrated Times. (The Illustrated Times)

The idea quickly moved from the Metropolitan Police to the Parliament, and by 1868 was approved. Police commissioner Richard Mayne printed 10,000 pamphlets and distributed them about town, alerting drivers and pedestrians to the new change. The traffic signal would use its semaphore arms during the day, and red and green gas lamps at night, all of it operated by an officer—though whether police officers actually had the authority to restrict drivers in any way was up for debate among the drivers themselves, Flanders notes.

But when the lamp had been erected, drivers seemed surprisingly compliant. “The regular drivers are fairly, and to quite an unexpected extent, amenable to the signals, whether caution or the absolute stop,” noted the Illustrated Times in early 1869. The South London Chronicle reported, “A more difficult crossing-place could scarcely be mentioned, and should the anticipations of the inventor be realized similar structures will no doubt be speedily erected in many other parts of the metropolis.”

Winter notes that the man who brought the lamp to London was particularly ecstatic. “Knight, delighted with his apparent success, was soon predicting that his signal would be appearing at the bottom of Fleet Street and other important junctions.”

But the railway engineer was premature in his excitement. In January, a leaky gas pipe under the pavement allowed the lamp’s hollow tower to fill with gas. The resulting explosions severely burned the face of the constable who had been operating it (some reports claim the man was killed in the explosion). The traffic signal was taken down shortly thereafter and never replaced, possibly due to political inertia or the police commissioner’s retirement, Winter writes.

London continued to struggle with its traffic issue for decades. A treatise on how to improve traffic in 1871 noted that even if such rules were applied, no one would comply. It would be more than half a century before traffic signals returned to London again. As the city grew and motor vehicles arrived, so too did a new, electric form of stoplight. By 1925 police-operated traffic signals had returned, and in 1926 the first automated light appeared. But however much safer and more effective the new apparatus was, it could never quite live up to the flamboyant style of London’s first traffic light.

When America Invested in Infrastructure, These Beautiful Landmarks Were the Result

Smithsonian Magazine

Long before "stimulus" became a dirty word in some quarters of Washington, the federal government put people to work building things. Lots of things.

This spring marks the 80th anniversary of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the biggest and most ambitious of more than a dozen New Deal agencies created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Designed to give millions of unemployed Americans jobs during the Great Depression, the WPA remains the largest public works program in the nation's history. It provided 8 million jobs in communities large and small. And what those workers put up has never been matched.

The WPA built, improved or renovated 39,370 schools; 2,550 hospitals; 1,074 libraries; 2,700 firehouses; 15,100 auditoriums, gymnasiums and recreational buildings; 1,050 airports, 500 water treatment plants, 12,800 playgrounds, 900 swimming pools; 1,200 skating rinks, plus many other structures. It also dug more than 1,000 tunnels; surfaced 639,000 miles of roads and installed nearly 1 million miles of sidewalks, curbs and street lighting, in addition to tens of thousands of viaducts, culverts and roadside drainage ditches.

"A vast amount of our physical and cultural infrastructure went up between 1933 and 1940," said Robert Leighninger, author of Long-range Public Investment: The Forgotten Legacy of the New Deal. "To paraphrase Winston Churchill, never in our history has so much been built for so many in so little time and been so thoroughly forgotten."

When World War II sent millions of men into the military and defense-related industries, unemployment plummeted and so, too, the need for the WPA. Congress shut it down in June 1943.

The Public Works Administration (PWA) built larger public projects -- New York's Triborough Bridge and Lincoln Tunnel, Washington state's Grand Coulee Dam, Florida's Overseas Highway to Key West. But the WPA provided more jobs and touched more communities by funding smaller, less glamorous projects initiated by state and local governments.

About half still remain. All are showing their age.

"Many of those structures are nearing the end of their useful lives," said Adrian Benepe, a former New York City parks commissioner now with the Trust for Public Land. He fears that a lack of political willpower and resources may condemn some architectural and cultural treasures to the wrecking ball. Hundreds of WPA and other New Deal structures have already been demolished or are in danger of being torn down

"A lot will last a while longer but they’re not going to last forever. There are diminishing returns. Not everything can be preserved," Benepe said.

Yet at a time when, despite widespread consensus that the country's bridges, roads and other public facilities are falling apart, "This nation doesn't seem to know how to do public infrastructure anymore," Benepe said. Still, he added, "I can't imagine New York without the stuff that was built under the WPA."

Such "stuff" is everywhere. A small sampling of what the WPA left us:

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