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“We Heard a Loud Boom!” - Interview with Miracle on the Hudson Passenger

National Air and Space Museum
Within three minutes of takeoff from New York City's LaGuardia Airport on January 15, 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 struck a flock of geese causing the aircraft to lose all engine power. Pilots Chesley Sullenberger and Jeffrey Skiles glided the plane down into the Hudson River, where all 155 passengers on board were rescued by nearby boats. Passenger Beth McHugh recounts her experience on flight 1549, known as the Miracle on the Hudson.

“This Is a D.C. Thing!” Head-Roc on Social Issues in Music

Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage

He has been called the “Mayor of D.C. Hip-Hop.” Vance Levy, known to many as Head-Roc, has made a name for himself across the region through his commitment to making and supporting music that matters. On the scene since 1993—as a founding member of Infinite Loop and a member of Three Levels of Genius (3LG), which won the Washington Area Music Association’s hip-hop award four times—his musical talents and fearless outspokenness have distinguished him as a force to be reckoned with on and off the stage.

With his initiative Chocolate City Rocks, Levy works to bring public awareness and support to socially conscious D.C. artists by organizing performances and other events held around the city. As a writer, he has commented on local issues for the Washington City Paper and Huffington Post DC. As the education director for Washington Area Lawyers for the Arts, he also contributes to ensuring that artists have access to legal resources.

Levy grew up near Seventh and Kennedy streets NW, an area he refers to as “Uptown.” Though his family later moved to Maryland, he has spent much of his adult life working and living in the district. From this vantage point, he can testify to how music in the city has impacted both him and the broader culture of Washington, D.C.

Here’s what he had to say in an interview from September 2019.

How did you get the name Head-Roc?

My first name, attribute, was G-Clef. It stands for Giving Civilized Lessons Educating Forever. I went by that in the hip-hop collective I’m a member of, the Infinite Loop. One day we were doing a show with KRS-ONE in a place called the Zulu Cave, which was near Bladensburg Road and New York Avenue—where the train tracks are—at a place called De Zulu Cave. This was a place that catered to sounds from Jamaica, reggae music, dance hall. At this show, I was handling the business for the Infinite Loop, and there were some negotiations that needed to happen last minute.

So, I was talking to the promoter, and there was a Rasta nearby, who, apparently, witnessed everything that went down between me and the promoter. When that situation ended, he stopped us and he said, “Man, where I’m from, we call you Heady!” And they started laughing, and they started calling me Heady, and they wouldn’t call me G-Clef no more.

So to put the “hip-hopinization” on it, if you will: Head. Dash. Roc. You got Vin Rock (Naughty By Nature), Chubb Rock. You got a lot of “Rocks,” you know, so: Head-Roc. That’s how that came about.

How has D.C. music influenced you?

Fourth or fifth grade, sixth grade, middle school, high school—that’s when I really began to identify D.C. music. Like understanding about go-go, “Oh, this is a D.C. thing!” You know, you heard it, but I began to understand it as something unique to D.C. in my middle school years, in the 1980s. Once we identified that this is from D.C., we all wanted to play it. So, we would have go-go bands in the garage, practicing in the garage at my parents’ house or at my friends’ parents’ houses.

How did you know you wanted to be a musician?

In elementary school, I used to make comic books with a group of friends. It was called the “Cosmic Comics Group.” We would have our own comic book characters. We had our own universe. That was my first artistic expression.

It wasn’t until high school when a brother named Sir Johnson and his family moved into my neighborhood. They were from New Jersey. Sir was a barber. He used to cut hair for Busta Rhymes. He’s actually quite a figure in hip-hop. I don’t like to say he’s a “background” figure, but, you know, he was a less recognized figure in hip-hop.

But let me be clear about this: I attribute meeting him to be the origins of my wanting to be a musician. One thousand percent! His family had two turntables in the basement and all these records. I had never seen a setup like that before. And they would be in there practicing, DJing and all that. There was a brother, who goes by the name DJ Infinite, used to live with the Johnson family. He and I, together with Sir, formed a group we called Last Resort.

I credit Infinite and Sir and the Johnson family with being the reasons why I eventually decided that I could earn a living as an artist in the discipline of music.

What do you find most powerful and unique about D.C. music?

For me as a black artist, D.C. music is very bluesy. It’s very soulful. It’s very funky. We are laid back! We some laid back cats here. So I have a D.C. understanding of rhythm, and that gave me an advantage in hip-hop because our rhythm is laid back. It’s very funk, heavily funk-based. And what’s more, the standards for funk here are very high. Extremely high. There are a lot of D.C. musicians that play all over the world, in funk bands, in different types of outfits that require a funky understanding of rhythm, if you will.

I find this to be true of D.C. music, whether it’s go-go, hip-hop, punk: a lot of us are talking about the social conditions in this town because this is the nation’s capital. If there’s one place in the country where the Constitution and the amendments—where like things are supposed to run by the book, it’s supposed to be here. But it doesn’t run like that! So that’s what artists are talking about.

Even in go-go music, I mean very powerful music. The Junkyard Band’s song “The Word,” talking about Reagan and the Pentagon. It’s a go-go song talking about Reagan in the early eighties! They’re talking about what’s going on in this town. Hip-hop music does the same thing, and so does the punk community. The punk community’s famous for talking about what’s going on in this town. And then there’s the music of other cultures and communities here as well, who are expressing themselves as they carve out their way to hold their ground to survive in this city.

So there’s a lot going on. There’s pop culture and the mainstream and what you would call the “underground.” I’d like to give it a little more prestige than that: “independent”! Let’s say it like that. There’s the community that is independent of the opinions of the mainstream and pop gatekeepers and tastemakers, and so at that independent level, aw man, everybody knows D.C. music is awesome! Some of the best musicians in the country, in the world, come out of here!

Find more from Head-Roc on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Flyer for “Make Me Wanna Holler!” event on April 20, 2019
Design by Emmaline Nelson, National Postal Museum

Perspectives on D.C.’s Music Legacy

Music is embedded into every nook and cranny of D.C. It begs the question: what is D.C. music? Can it be defined?

On April 20, 2019, the Smithsonian collaborated with Chocolate City Rocks and the Charles Sumner School Museum and Archives to present Make Me Wanna Holler!, a series of activities celebrating the U.S. Postal Service’s new stamp honoring D.C. native son Marvin Gaye. Levy organized a discussion in which artists working in different social spaces dug deep into their thoughts and feelings about D.C.

The panel included Elise Bryant (DC Labor Chorus and the Labor Heritage Foundation), Anthony Fields (hip-hop musician, BKA Dimensions of The Package, A.R.K., Infinite Loop), Raj Lidj (funk/go-go musician and creator of Reg’go), and Katy Otto (punk musician and activist, Trophy Wife). Read transcripts of audio excerpts.

Vance “Head-Roc” Levy: What Is D.C. Music?

Levy begins the panel discussion by sharing his thoughts on the meaning of “D.C. music.” He calls attention to the significance of go-go and its components, addressing why it’s so significant to D.C.’s culture.

Katy Otto: The D.C. Punk Scene

Otto talks about her introduction to punk music in high school and how it resonated with her, inspiring her to play the drums.

Ras Lidj: The Reg-go Sound

Creator of the “reg-go” sound, Ras Lidj recites lyrics from two songs, beginning with “Tour Bus,” which was inspired by his experience working at Tower Records in Northwest D.C. during the day and not being able to find cabs that were willing to take him home at night.

Katy Otto, Infinite, Elise Bryant, and Ras Lidj take part in a discussion panel moderated by Vance Levy
Katy Otto, Infinite, Elise Bryant, and Ras Lidj take part in a discussion panel moderated by Vance Levy.
Photo by Nichole Procopenko, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives
A chalkboard at the panel discussion asks, “What does D.C. music mean to you?” Visitors responded on Post-It notes.
Photo by Nichole Procopenko, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives
A chalkboard at the panel discussion asks, “What does D.C. music mean to you?” One visitor responded, “Go-go, hand dancing, marching bands...everything!!”
Photo by Sojin Kim, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives

Gissel Bonilla is a senior at School Without Walls, a magnet school in Northwest D.C. She volunteered at the 2018 Smithsonian Folklife Festival and began interning at the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage in 2019 through the Center for Inspired Teaching’s afterschool program, Real World History.

Special thanks to Takoma Radio WOWD FM for the audio recording of the discussion session.

“Hyperlocal, ultraseasonal, uber-healthy, and utterly delicious”: Reviving indigenous food cultures

National Museum of American History

When Chef Sean Sherman began speaking about his experiences growing up on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, he shattered all-too-common stereotypes of indigenous life in 20th-century America. He jokingly noted that some people expect to hear how he hunted buffalo with his slingshot as a kid, but that romanticized myth of American Indian foodways had nothing to do with his work of rediscovering the foods that sustained his ancestors. He shared insights with museum visitors during the “The Power of Place” roundtable discussion, part of the 2018 Food History Weekend: Regions Reimagined.

Four people appear in chairs on stage, a panelChef Sean Sherman speaks on stage at our Smithsonian Food History Weekend

Yes, Sherman and his family hunted wild game, but, for the most part, he ate differently than past generations of Lakota. Like many children growing up on reservations in the second half of the 20th century, Sherman ate non-perishable foods distributed on Indian reservations by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as part of the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR). Growing up, he noted: “Our shelves were lined with government-issued canned corn, canned carrots, canned peas, canned salmon, chipped beef, saltines, white flour, and bricks of bright orange commodity cheese.” FDPIR, which began in 1977, contributed to a dramatic shift in the eating habits of communities living on reservations—a shift away from traditional indigenous food practices. That shift contributed to the development of serious health problems and a profound sense of disassociation from Native values. 

Within a few generations of FDPIR’s introduction, knowledge of traditional Lakota foodways at Pine Ridge have all but been forgotten. Sherman is trying to change that. He seeks to empower indigenous communities by reviving their healthful historic foodways. 

 

 

In his adult life, Sherman has re-acquainted himself with foods Lakota people had eaten prior to the introduction of FDPIR. Easier said than done. As Sherman noted, he “couldn’t just go online and order The Joy of Native American Cooking,” referencing Irma Rombauer’s canonical cookbook. Instead, he interviewed his grandparents’ generation, probing their childhood memories of family meals and feasts, while also combing through archives to find descriptions of historic foods of the Lakota.

After many years of research into the food cultures of the Lakota and other indigenous communities, Sherman founded The Sioux Chef in 2014—a catering and food education company in Minneapolis that seeks to revitalize and build awareness of indigenous food systems. Through the Sioux Chef business and cookbook bearing the same name, Sherman is shedding light on the diverse farming, foraging, hunting, and production practices of the Lakota and a diverse array of tribes. He is also creating a pathway through which to strengthen indigenous communities’ food sovereignty.

Chef Sean Sherman cooking in our demonstration kitchen, one hand on a food processor and one hand explainingIn our demonstration kitchen, Chef Sherman prepares duck pemmican

During one of our Food History Weekend live-cooking demonstrations, Sherman shared some of those historic food practices with us by preparing duck and wild rice pemmican (Mag˘áksic˘a na Psíŋ Wasná). The dish features dried duck, preserved with salt and maple sugar, which could be stored for a long time and provide protein when game was less abundant. Sherman noted that like many of the dishes in his cookbook, this one does not include any ingredients brought to North America after European settlement on the continent. That means, no dairy, wheat (or gluten), beef, pork, or cane sugar, among other popular ingredients in many Americans’ diets today (and ones regularly distributed through FDPIR). Instead, the food found in Sherman’s cookbook, The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen (2017), relies on flora and fauna indigenous to North America like sea salt, juniper, maple sugar, honey, sumac, maple vinegar, eggs, sunflower oil, wild ginger, and mushrooms.

As Sherman notes in The Sioux Chef, the indigenous diet is “hyperlocal, ultraseasonal, uber-healthy […] most of all, it’s utterly delicious.”

 

 

Don’t be surprised if you start seeing more indigenous eateries, cafes, and restaurants pop up across the United States. In the meantime, try out Sherman’s recipe for duck and wild rice pemmican and watch the recording of the roundtable “The Power of Place” and other conversations from the 2018 Food History Weekend by visiting our website.

A finished dish on a plateChef Sherman’s completed dish

Dr. Ashley Rose Young is the historian of the American Food History Project at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and is also the host of Cooking Up History.

The live cooking demonstrations, as part of Smithsonian Food History Weekend, are generously supported by Hilton, Wegmans Food Markets, Inc., and Sur La Table.

Posted Date: 
Wednesday, December 19, 2018 - 09:00
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“Hyperlocal, ultraseasonal, uber-healthy, and utterly delicious”: Reviving indigenous food cultures

National Museum of American History

When Chef Sean Sherman began speaking about his experiences growing up on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, he shattered all-too-common stereotypes of indigenous life in 20th-century America. He jokingly noted that some people expect to hear how he hunted buffalo with his slingshot as a kid, but that romanticized myth of American Indian foodways had nothing to do with his work of rediscovering the foods that sustained his ancestors. He shared insights with museum visitors during the “The Power of Place” roundtable discussion, part of the 2018 Food History Weekend: Regions Reimagined.

Four people appear in chairs on stage, a panelChef Sean Sherman speaks on stage at our Smithsonian Food History Weekend

Yes, Sherman and his family hunted wild game, but, for the most part, he ate differently than past generations of Lakota. Like many children growing up on reservations in the second half of the 20th century, Sherman ate non-perishable foods distributed on Indian reservations by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as part of the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR). Growing up, he noted: “Our shelves were lined with government-issued canned corn, canned carrots, canned peas, canned salmon, chipped beef, saltines, white flour, and bricks of bright orange commodity cheese.” FDPIR, which began in 1977, contributed to a dramatic shift in the eating habits of communities living on reservations—a shift away from traditional indigenous food practices. That shift contributed to the development of serious health problems and a profound sense of disassociation from Native values. 

Within a few generations of FDPIR’s introduction, knowledge of traditional Lakota foodways at Pine Ridge have all but been forgotten. Sherman is trying to change that. He seeks to empower indigenous communities by reviving their healthful historic foodways. 

 

 

In his adult life, Sherman has re-acquainted himself with foods Lakota people had eaten prior to the introduction of FDPIR. Easier said than done. As Sherman noted, he “couldn’t just go online and order The Joy of Native American Cooking,” referencing Irma Rombauer’s canonical cookbook. Instead, he interviewed his grandparents’ generation, probing their childhood memories of family meals and feasts, while also combing through archives to find descriptions of historic foods of the Lakota.

After many years of research into the food cultures of the Lakota and other indigenous communities, Sherman founded The Sioux Chef in 2014—a catering and food education company in Minneapolis that seeks to revitalize and build awareness of indigenous food systems. Through the Sioux Chef business and cookbook bearing the same name, Sherman is shedding light on the diverse farming, foraging, hunting, and production practices of the Lakota and a diverse array of tribes. He is also creating a pathway through which to strengthen indigenous communities’ food sovereignty.

Chef Sean Sherman cooking in our demonstration kitchen, one hand on a food processor and one hand explainingIn our demonstration kitchen, Chef Sherman prepares duck pemmican

During one of our Food History Weekend live-cooking demonstrations, Sherman shared some of those historic food practices with us by preparing duck and wild rice pemmican (Mag˘áksic˘a na Psíŋ Wasná). The dish features dried duck, preserved with salt and maple sugar, which could be stored for a long time and provide protein when game was less abundant. Sherman noted that like many of the dishes in his cookbook, this one does not include any ingredients brought to North America after European settlement on the continent. That means, no dairy, wheat (or gluten), beef, pork, or cane sugar, among other popular ingredients in many Americans’ diets today (and ones regularly distributed through FDPIR). Instead, the food found in Sherman’s cookbook, The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen (2017), relies on flora and fauna indigenous to North America like sea salt, juniper, maple sugar, honey, sumac, maple vinegar, eggs, sunflower oil, wild ginger, and mushrooms.

As Sherman notes in The Sioux Chef, the indigenous diet is “hyperlocal, ultraseasonal, uber-healthy […] most of all, it’s utterly delicious.”

 

 

Don’t be surprised if you start seeing more indigenous eateries, cafes, and restaurants pop up across the United States. In the meantime, try out Sherman’s recipe for duck and wild rice pemmican and watch the recording of the roundtable “The Power of Place” and other conversations from the 2018 Food History Weekend by visiting our website.

A finished dish on a plateChef Sherman’s completed dish

Dr. Ashley Rose Young is the historian of the American Food History Project at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and is also the host of Cooking Up History.

The live cooking demonstrations, as part of Smithsonian Food History Weekend, are generously supported by Hilton, Wegmans Food Markets, Inc., and Sur La Table.

Posted Date: 
Wednesday, December 19, 2018 - 09:00
OSayCanYouSee?d=qj6IDK7rITs OSayCanYouSee?d=7Q72WNTAKBA OSayCanYouSee?i=WN0JzcP9ZIY:T6LmN3cltKw:V_sGLiPBpWU OSayCanYouSee?i=WN0JzcP9ZIY:T6LmN3cltKw:gIN9vFwOqvQ OSayCanYouSee?d=yIl2AUoC8zA

“9-1-1” Has Meant “Help, Please” For 49 Years

Smithsonian Magazine

On this day in 1968, a phone rang in the police station of Haleyville, Alabama. But unlike all the days before, the caller—Alabama Speaker of the House Rankin Fite, who was not in an emergency situation—didn’t dial the local police number.

He dialed 911, a three-digit number that would go down in local and national history.

The idea for a universal emergency phone number didn’t start in Haleyville, a town of fewer than 5,000 inhabitants that was dry until 2010. It started with a 1957 recommendation from the National Association of Fire Chiefs, writes Carla Davis for the Alabama News Center.

Their recommendation was prompted by a serious problem, she writes: before 911, anyone who needed emergency help had to figure out if they needed the fire department, the police, or medical help, and then call the appropriate local number. Not easy to do when someone is bleeding, a baby is being born, or the building’s on fire.

It took more than a decade before the fire chiefs’ recommendation was put into effect, Davis writes. Haleyville came into the picture when the president of the Alabama Telephone Co., an independent telephone company, fought to have his company launch the new system.

The call was picked up at the police station on a special red phone, wrote Hoyt Harwell for the Associated Press on 911’s 25th anniversary in 1993. At the receiving end of the call was Congressman Tom Bevill, Alabama’s longest-serving congressman—who was still in office when Harwell interviewed him 25 years after that first call. “Immediately afterward, we had coffee and donuts,” Bevill recalled.

But the early days of 911 weren’t all coffee and donuts, Harwell wrote:

A couple of years after the system was installed, newly hired Haleyville police dispatcher Ronnie Wilson received a frantic 911 call.

“A woman said, ‘My water just broke,’ and I told her I’d get her a plumber right away,’” Wilson recalled.

“Then she said I didn’t understand, and I realized she was about to have a baby, and ordered an ambulance for her.”

Haleyville still celebrates the event that put it on the map with an annual 911 Festival, Davis writes.

But out of the 10 possible numbers on a telephone, why were the digits “9-1-1” chosen? That question has an answer that dates back to the 1960s as well. Rotary phones were still common in the 1960s, writes Sarah Stone for Today I Found Out, and the digits of the emergency number were both easy to remember and quick to dial, as they used the number at the end of a rotary phone’s rotation and the number that was fastest to dial. 

‘I Remember’: An Artist’s Chronicle of What We Wore

Smithsonian Magazine

A fashion spread, Hollywood movie or advertisement usually doesn’t reflect with accuracy what everyday people actually wore at a given time. Historically speaking, to really get a sense of the fashions of the times, old newsreels, photojournalism and catalogs offer more true-to-life examples of what was in style.

The cover of Joe Brainard’s I Remember

One literary source is the book-length poem I Remember, by writer and artist Joe Brainard. When it was originally published—in three parts between 1970 and 1973 by Angel Hair Books—the small print runs sold out quickly. Most recently it’s been published by Granary Books. The 1,000 entries in this work all begin with “I remember . . .” and each describes a single memory from Brainard—growing up in Oklahoma in the 1940s, arriving in New York in the ’60s, making art, making friends, making a living.

As the poet and his lifelong friend Ron Padgett explains:

…the repetition in I Remember proved to be a springboard that allowed Joe to leap backward and forward in time and to follow one chain of associations for a while, then jump to another, the way one’s memory does. Coupled with Joe’s impulse toward openness, the I Remember form provided a way for him to lay his soul bare in a confession that is personable, moving, perceptive, and often funny.

The book is a time capsule, a beautiful and candid catalog of one person’s memories, however fleeting. Incorporated into those recollections is documentation of how people dressed—some styles are still worn today, while others were passing trends that are relegated to fashion history. They all share Brainard’s funny, insightful and accessible style. Michael Lally of The Village Voice agreed: “Joe Brainard’s memories of growing up in the ’40s and ’50s have universal appeal. He catalogues his past in terms of fashion and fads, public events and private fantasies, with such honesty and accuracy and in such abundance that, sooner or later, his history coincides with ours and we are hooked.” What follows are a selection of favorites:

Sack dress, 1949. Image from carlylehold via Flickr.

I remember sack dresses.

Singer in pillbox hat, 1958. Lesley University Archives via Flickr.

I remember pill box hats.

I remember thinking how embarrassing it must be for men in Scotland to have to wear skirts.

I remember old women’s flesh-colored hose you can’t see through.

I remember when girls wore lots of can can slips. It got so bad (so noisy) that the principal had to put a limit on how many could be worn. I believe the limit was three.

Woman with beehive working an IBM accounting machine, 1960s.

I remember when “beehives” got really out of hand.

I remember when those short-sleeved knitted shirts with long tails (to wear “out”) with little embroidered alligators on the pockets were popular.

I remember plain camel hair coats that rich girls in high school wore.

Ad for Flagg Bros. shoes, 1970s.

I remember having a crush on a boy in my Spanish class who had a pair of olive green suede shoes with brass buckles just like a pair I had. (“Flagg Brothers.”) I never said one word to him the entire year.

I remember sweaters thrown over shoulders and sunglasses propped on heads.

If, after reading I Remember, you crave more information about the work and life of Joe Brainard, who passed away in 1994, watch filmmaker Matt Wolf’s short documentary  I Remember: A Film About Joe Brainard. Described on the website as “an elliptical dialog about friendship, nostalgia, and the strange wonders of memory,” the film combines archival images, audio recordings of Brainard, and an interview with poet Ron Padgett. Download the film here or check it out at the following upcoming screenings:

April 18 – 28, 2013
Festival IndieLisboa, Portugal
Screening TBA

April 25, 26, 27, 2013
Brooklyn Academy of Music
Crossing Brooklyn Ferry
Screening Times TBA

‘Hamilton: The Exhibition’ Opens in Chicago to Eager Fans

Smithsonian Magazine

On Saturday, April 27, hundreds of fans waiting in line for the opening of "Hamilton: The Exhibition" received a special surprise: The man behind the hit Broadway musical, Lin-Manuel Miranda himself, appeared on the scene with donuts in hand, ready to reward the so-called "Hamilfans" who had braved the dismal Chicago weather with sweet treats and selfies.

As Michael Paulson reports for The New York Times, a specially constructed 35,000-square-foot structure on Chicago’s Lake Michigan shoreline is the first locale to host an immersive, surprisingly educational exhibition on "Hamilton." Dubbed "Hamilton: The Exhibition," the show features an in-depth look at the eponymous Founding Father’s life, correcting historical inaccuracies seen in the musical while simultaneously fleshing out events and themes raised by Miranda’s Tony Award-winning creation.

Catering to the musical enthusiasts sure to flock to the space, the exhibit also includes an audio guide narrated by Miranda and original cast members Phillipa Soo and Christopher Jackson, a reworked instrumental version of the soundtrack recorded by a 27-piece band, and 3-D footage of Miranda leading the Washington, D.C. cast in a performance of the musical’s opening number.

Amazingly, "Hamilton: The Exhibition" cost $1 million more to launch than its Broadway predecessor. Built to travel (at least with the aid of 80 moving trucks), the show carries a hefty price tag of $13.5 million, as opposed to the musical’s $12.5 million—a fact that may account for its high admission rates, which stand at $39.50 for adults and $25 for children. Although the exhibit’s Chicago run currently has no fixed end-date, Jeffrey Seller, the musical's lead producer and the individual in charge of this latest venture, tells Paulson it will likely stay in the Windy City for several months before moving on to cities such as San Francisco and Los Angeles.

According to the Chicago Tribune’s Steve Johnson, Miranda, who served as an artistic advisor for the exhibition, describes the show as a “choose-your-own-adventure” experience. Those hoping to delve into the details of the Revolutionary War, federalism and early 19th-century fiscal policy will want to pay attention to wall text and audio narration, while those more interested in the musical will enjoy interactive visuals, games and set pieces crafted by exhibit designer David Korins.

Writing for the Chicago Sun-Times, Miriam Di Nunzio highlights several of the exhibition’s 18 galleries: There’s the “Schuyler Mansion” ballroom, dominated by bronze statues of Alexander Hamilton, the Schuyler sisters, and George and Martha Washington, and a recreation of the Battle of Yorktown that Seller, in an interview with the Sun-Times’ Mary Houlihan, likens to “a giant [animated] Risk board.” Also of note are a “Hurricane” room centered on Hamilton’s youth in St. Croix, a gallery dedicated to Eliza Hamilton’s efforts to ensure her husband’s legacy following his death in 1804, and a “Duel” space featuring life-size statues of Hamilton and Aaron Burr with their pistols raised.

In essence, "Hamilton: The Exhibition" strives to fill the historical gaps left by its namesake musical.

“I couldn't even fit Ben Franklin in my show,” Miranda tells the Daily Beast’s Kimberly Bellware. “I couldn't get the state of Pennsylvania in. But here, we can do a deeper dive on slavery in the north and the south. We can talk about Native American contributions, [and] we can talk about women in the war effort.”

As Bellware observes, one such nod to these hidden histories is a statue of an enslaved woman standing at the edge of the Schuyler ballroom. Rather than providing a cursory overview of slavery in colonial America, the accompanying audio narration urges visitors to consider the figure as an individual, asking, “Where was she from? Who did she love? What were her dreams?”

Focusing on Hamilton specifically, The New York Times’ Jacobs points toward an unassuming sign clarifying the “ten-dollar Founding Father without a father”’s stance on slavery: Although the song “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story” finds Eliza stating, “I speak out against slavery / You could have done so much more if you / only had— / Time,” the exhibit notes, “The real Hamilton wasn’t an abolitionist, but he did oppose slavery.”

It’s worth noting that "Hamilton: The Exhibition" has its flaws: For the Chicago Tribune, Johnson notes that the show features a cast of reproductions, as the warehouse’s climate has yet to prove stable enough to house actual artifacts, and argues that it too often relies on heavy blocks of text to convey the history behind the musical’s catchy tunes. Still, Johnson concludes, these are just “quibbles.” Overall, “there are a thousand choices on display in this exhibition, and almost all of them at least satisfy, while a great number go beyond that to surprise and delight.”

In the words of "Hamilton"’s King George III—the musical's resident source of comic relief—you’ll be back.

Éva Székely, Holocaust Survivor and Olympic Champion Swimmer, Dies at 92

Smithsonian Magazine

Between December 1944 and January 1945, members of Hungary’s fascist Arrow Cross Party executed as many as 20,000 Jews on the banks of the Danube. Éva Székely was 17 years old when a young official came to round her up. Decades later, providing survivor testimony to the University of Southern California’s Shoah Foundation, she recalled his unique appearance: “One of his eyes was grey and the other one was brown. And this stayed with me, as never before had I seen a man with different colored eyes.”

Székely’s father attempted to plead with the fascist, claiming that his daughter was sick and unable to walk. When that failed to sway the official, her father tried a different approach: “She is the swimming champion of Hungary,” he said, “and one day you will be happy you saved her life!”

Miraculously, Székely was spared. And her father’s words would prove prophetic. In 1950, she won a gold medal in an international swimming competition held on Hungary’s Margaret Island. One of the people presenting her prize was the major of the Communist Political Police.

“Imagine, there I was standing there, up on top of the dais … and the man looks at me,” she recalled. “It was that Arrow Cross man, with his different colored eyes.”

Székely, whose remarkable life was marked by both great adversities and great triumphs, died on February 29 and the age of 92, according to Emily Langer of the Washington Post. The cause of death is not known, but Székely’s health had reportedly been declining. She remained active late in life, continuing to swim even as she neared the age of 90.

Born in Budapest in 1927, Székely became interested in swimming after listening to a radio broadcast of Hungarian swimmer Ferenc Csik winning the 100-meter freestyle at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, reports the Guardian’s Andy Bull. She joined a local sports club team that went on to win a national open water title, but was soon booted from the team because of her Jewish heritage.

Her father, she said, told her that “when all the madness was over one’s religion would make no difference.” But conditions for the Jews of Budapest continued to worsen. Forced to live in buildings marked with Stars of David, some 20,000 were rounded up and deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Then, in November 1944, the Germans forced more than 70,000 Jews to march from Budapest to camps in Austria. Those who survived the brutal journey—and many did not—were taken to concentration camps or put to work as forced laborers. Any Jews who remained in Budapest were relocated to a closed ghetto.

Székely, according to the Guardian, was recruited into a labor battalion, but escaped by “leaping onto a passing streetcar during a forced march through the city.” She spent the latter years of the war in a Swiss-operated safe house where 42 people were packed into just two rooms. According to the Encyclopedia of Jewish Women, Székely stayed in shape by running up and down five flights of stairs 100 times every morning.

Éva Székely in 1956 (Nationaal Archief via Wikimedia Commons under CC BY-SA 3.0)

After the war, Székely started competing in international sporting events. At one competition, she met Dezsö Gyarmati, a Hungarian athlete regarded as one of history’s best water polo players. They married and had a daughter, Andrea.

Between 1946 and 1954, Székely snagged 32 national individual swimming titles and 11 national team titles. In 1948, she competed at the Olympic Games in London, placing fourth in the in the 200-meter breaststroke. Four years later, she competed in the same race at the Olympic Games in Helsinki—and this time, she won the gold medal, setting an Olympic record in the process.

In 1956, not long after the outbreak of the anti-communist Hungarian Revolution, Székely and Gyarmati traveled to Melbourne for the Olympic Games. While in Australia, they learned that the uprising had been brutally crushed by the Soviets. Székely was sick with worry for her daughter and parents, who had stayed behind in Budapest; she reportedly lost more than 12 pounds in the lead-up to the Olympics. Still, she competed, winning a silver medal in the 200-meter breaststroke.

Székely and Gyarmati went back to Hungary and subsequently defected to the United States. They soon returned, however, to care for Székely’s elderly parents. Székely decided to retire from active competition, working instead as a coach for young swimmers—among them her daughter, who would go on to become an Olympic medalist in her own right.

Székely accompanied her daughter to the infamous 1972 Munich Games, during which eight Palestinian militants attacked the Israeli Olympic team. She befriended Moshe Weinberg, an Israeli wrestling coach who was one of the 11 team members killed; according to the Guardian, the two had coffee the morning before the massacre.

In spite of the persecution she had experienced in her lifetime, Székely did not attempt to obscure her Jewish identity—a fact that set her apart from many other Hungarian-Jewish athletes, according to the Encyclopedia of Jewish Women. In 1974, she gave an interview for Hungarian television in which she recalled the discriminatory laws of the 1940s. Some people at the time, she noted, could prove that their grandparents were not Jewish.

“That was no problem for me,” she said. “I did not have to go back as far as my grandparents. Unequivocally, I was a Jew.”

sound►culture Conversations on Carving Stone

Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage
Bernat carving the carvel that he has given to the Smithsonian, on the National Mall at the 2016 Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Photo by SarahVictoria Rosemann
Bernat Vidal carves a corbel from stone leftover from the construction of the Smithsonian Castle. He gifted the piece back to the institution at the end of the Folklife Festival. Photo by SarahVictoria Rosemann

sound►culture is a Folklife Festival podcast series featuring stories, songs, and fieldwork gathered on the National Mall and around the world.

Even master stone carvers are limited by their material. Learning the limitations of any particular stone is a skill that only comes from pushing the boundaries. Bernat Vidal, a stone carver from Basque country, has learned how to expertly read a stone, even characterize its personality.

In the interview below, Bernat speaks about learning how to carve, his work in the Basque country, the importance of symbols, and what makes an expert carving.

Audio
Conversations on Carving Stone with Bernat Vidal
Folklife curator Majorie Hunt and Bernat Vidal having some fun after the interview. Photo by SarahVictoria Rosemann
Majorie Hunt and Bernat Vidal having some fun after the interview. Photo by SarahVictoria Rosemann

This interview was led by Folklife curator Majorie Hunt and translated by Basque program presenter Emily Socolov. Media intern SarahVictoria Rosemann assisted the production and edited the podcast.

cELLAbration Live! A Tribute to Ella Jenkins

Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage
Ella Jenkins, "The First Lady of Children's Music," has made dozens of recordings and earned many awards in her 50-year career, including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Recording Academy. This DVD features a live concert tribute to Ella by some of today's finest folk music and children's performers. 60 minutes, interviews with the artists, photo gallery. Become a fan of Ella Jenkins on Facebook! http://www.facebook.com/pages/Ella-Jenkins/124317344298 To purchase or find out more about this DVD visit: http://www.folkways.si.edu/albumdetails.aspx?itemid=3200 and for more information about Smithsonian Folkways , the non-profit record label of the national museum, click here: http://www.folkways.si.edu/index.aspx The content and comments posted here are subject to the Smithsonian Institution copyright and privacy policy (/www.si.edu/copyright/). Smithsonian reserves the right in its sole discretion to remove any content at any time. ©2008 Smithsonian Institution

before Ranger Launch

National Air and Space Museum
Before Ranger launch. Sketch showing six spectators of the Ranger Launch; the three men on the bottom are seated men in uniform; man in upper center shown looking through binoculars; skin tones painted on the men; uniforms on the bottom painted a tea color.

The spring of 1962 was a busy time for the men and women of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. On February 20, John H. Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. For the first time since the launch of Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957, the U.S. was positioned to match and exceed Soviet achievements in space. NASA was an agency with a mission -- to meet President John F. Kennedy's challenge of sending human beings to the moon and returning them safely to earth by the end of the decade. Within a year, three more Mercury astronauts would fly into orbit. Plans were falling into place for a follow-on series of two-man Gemini missions that would set the stage for the Apollo voyages to the moon.

In early March 1962, artist Bruce Stevenson brought his large portrait of Alan Shepard, the first American to fly in space, to NASA headquarters.(1) James E. Webb, the administrator of NASA, assumed that the artist was interested in painting a similar portrait of all seven of the Mercury astronauts. Instead, Webb voiced his preference for a group portrait that would emphasize "…the team effort and the togetherness that has characterized the first group of astronauts to be trained by this nation." More important, the episode convinced the administrator that "…we should consider in a deliberate way just what NASA should do in the field of fine arts to commemorate the …historic events" of the American space program.(2)

In addition to portraits, Webb wanted to encourage artists to capture the excitement and deeper meaning of space flight. He imagined "a nighttime scene showing the great amount of activity involved in the preparation of and countdown for launching," as well as paintings that portrayed activities in space. "The important thing," he concluded, "is to develop a policy on how we intend to treat this matter now and in the next several years and then to get down to the specifics of how we intend to implement this policy…." The first step, he suggested, was to consult with experts in the field, including the director of the National Gallery of Art, and the members of the Fine Arts Commission, the arbiters of architectural and artistic taste who passed judgment on the appearance of official buildings and monuments in the nation's capital.

Webb's memo of March 16, 1962 was the birth certificate of the NASA art program. Shelby Thompson, the director of the agency's Office of Educational Programs and Services, assigned James Dean, a young artist working as a special assistant in his office, to the project. On June 19, 1962 Thompson met with the Fine Arts Commission, requesting advice as to how "…NASA should develop a basis for use of paintings and sculptures to depict significant historical events and other activities in our program."(3)

David E. Finley, the chairman and former director of the National Gallery of Art, applauded the idea, and suggested that the agency should study the experience of the U.S. Air Force, which had amassed some 800 paintings since establishing an art program in 1954. He also introduced Thompson to Hereward Lester Cooke, curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art.

An imposing bear of a man standing over six feet tall, Lester Cooke was a graduate of Yale and Oxford, with a Princeton PhD. The son of a physics professor and a veteran of the U.S. Army Air Forces, he was both fascinated by science and felt a personal connection to flight. On a professional level, Cooke had directed American participation in international art competitions and produced articles and illustrations for the National Geographic Magazine. He jumped at the chance to advise NASA on its art program.

While initially cautious with regard to the time the project might require of one of his chief curators, John Walker, director of the National Gallery, quickly became one of the most vocal supporters of the NASA art initiative. Certain that "the present space exploration effort by the United States will probably rank among the more important events in the history of mankind," Walker believed that "every possible method of documentation …be used." Artists should be expected "…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race." He urged quick action so that "the full flavor of the achievement …not be lost," and hoped that "the past held captive" in any paintings resulting from the effort "will prove to future generations that America produced not only scientists and engineers capable of shaping the destiny of our age, but also artists worthy to keep them company."(4)

Gordon Cooper, the last Mercury astronaut to fly, was scheduled to ride an Atlas rocket into orbit on May 15, 1963. That event would provide the ideal occasion for a test run of the plan Cooke and Dean evolved to launch the art program. In mid-February, Cooke provided Thompson with a list of the artists who should be invited to travel to Cape Canaveral to record their impressions of the event. Andrew Wyeth, whom the curator identified as "the top artist in the U.S. today," headed the list. When the time came, however, Andrew Wyeth did not go to the Cape for the Cooper launch, but his son Jamie would participate in the program during the Gemini and Apollo years.

The list of invited artists also included Peter Hurd, Andrew Wyeth's brother-in-law, who had served as a wartime artist with the Army Air Force; George Weymouth, whom Wyeth regarded as "the best of his pupils"; and John McCoy, another Wyeth associate. Cooke regarded the next man on the list, Robert McCall, who had been running the Air Force art program, as "America's top aero-space illustrator. Paul Calle and Robert Shore had both painted for the Air Force program. Mitchell Jamieson, who had run a unit of the Navy art program during WW II, rounded out the program. Alfred Blaustein was the only artist to turn down the invitation.

The procedures that would remain in place for more than a decade were given a trial run in the spring of 1963. The artists received an $800 commission, which had to cover any expenses incurred while visiting a NASA facility where they could paint whatever interested them. In return, they would present their finished pieces, and all of their sketches, to the space agency. The experiment was a success, and what might have been a one-time effort to dispatch artists to witness and record the Gordon Cooper flight provided the basis for an on-going, if small-scale, program. By the end of 1970, Jim Dean and Lester Cooke had dispatched 38 artists to Mercury, Gemini and Apollo launches and to other NASA facilities.

The art program became everything that Jim Webb had hoped it would be. NASA artists produced stunning works of art that documented the agency's step-by-step progress on the way to the moon. The early fruits of the program were presented in a lavishly illustrated book, Eyewitness to Space (New York: Abrams, 1971). Works from the collection illustrated NASA publications and were the basis for educational film strips aimed at school children. In 1965 and again in 1969 the National Gallery of Art mounted two major exhibitions of work from the NASA collection. The USIA sent a selection of NASA paintings overseas, while the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service created two exhibitions of NASA art that toured the nation.

"Since we …began," Dean noted in a reflection on the tenth anniversary of the program, the art initiative had resulted in a long string of positive "press interviews and reports, congressional inquiries, columns in the Congressional Record, [and] White House reports." The NASA effort, he continued, had directly inspired other government art programs. "The Department of the Interior (at least two programs), the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Army and even the Veterans Administration have, or are starting, art programs." While he could not take all of the credit, Dean insisted that "our success has encouraged other agencies to get involved and they have succeeded, too."(5)

For all of that, he noted, it was still necessary to "defend" the role of art in the space agency. Dean, with the assistance of Lester Cooke, had been a one-man show, handling the complex logistics of the program, receiving and cataloguing works of art, hanging them himself in museums or on office walls, and struggling to find adequate storage space. In January 1976, a NASA supervisor went so far as to comment that: "Mr. Dean is far too valuable in other areas to spend his time on the relatively menial …jobs he is often burdened with in connection with the art program."(6) Dean placed a much higher value on the art collection, and immediately recommended that NASA officials either devote additional resources to the program, or get out of the art business and turn the existing collection over the National Air and Space Museum, "where it can be properly cared for."(7)

In January 1974 a new building for the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) was taking shape right across the street from NASA headquarters. Discussions regarding areas of cooperation were already underway between NASA officials and museum director Michael Collins, who had flown to the moon as a member of the Apollo 11 crew. Before the end of the year, the space agency had transferred its art collection to the NASM. Mike Collins succeeded in luring Jim Dean to the museum, as well.

The museum already maintained a small art collection, including portraits of aerospace heroes, an assortment of 18th and 19th century prints illustrating the early history of the balloon, an eclectic assortment of works portraying aspects of the history of aviation and a few recent prizes, including several Norman Rockwell paintings of NASA activity. With the acquisition of the NASA art, the museum was in possession of one of the world's great collections of art exploring aerospace themes. Jim Dean would continue to build the NASM collection as the museum's first curator of art. Following his retirement in 1980, other curators would follow in his footsteps, continuing to strengthen the role of art at the NASM. Over three decades after its arrival, however, the NASA art accession of 2,091 works still constitutes almost half of the NASM art collection.

(1) Stevenson's portrait is now in the collection of the National Air and Space Museum (1981-627)

(2) James E. Webb to Hiden Cox, March 16, 1962, memorandum in the NASA art historical collection, Aeronautics Division, National air and Space Museum. Webb's preference for a group portrait of the astronauts was apparently not heeded. In the end, Stevenson painted an individual portrait of John Glenn, which is also in the NASM collection (1963-398).

(3) Shelby Thompson, memorandum for the record, July 6, 1962, NASA art historical collection, NASA, Aeronautics Division.

(4) John Walker draft of a talk, March 5, 1965, copy in NASA Art historical collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(5) James Dean, memorandum for the record, August 6, 1973, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(6) Director of Planning and Media Development to Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(7) James Dean to the Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, copy in NASA Art history Collection, Aeronautics Division, NASM.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian Institution

July 26, 2007

Zulal at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival

Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage
Armenian American trio Zulal performed at the 2018 Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C. Camera: Hannah Luc, Kevin Patrick, Jacob Weber, Andrea Curran, Jackson Harvey, David Barnes, Bryan Wilmot Story and editing: Matthew Archibald Interview: Charlie Weber [Catalog No. CFV11059, © 2018 Smithsonian Institution]

Zora Neale Hurston's 'Barracoon' Tells the Story of the Slave Trade's Last Survivor

Smithsonian Magazine

Sitting on his porch in 1928, under the Alabama sun, snacking on peaches, Cudjo Lewis (born Oluale Kossola) recounted to his guest his life story: how he came from a place in West Africa, then traversed the Middle Passage in cruel and inhumane conditions on the famed Clotilda ship, and saw the founding of the freedman community of Africatown after five years of enslavement. After two months of listening to Kossola’s tales, his interlocutor asked to take his picture. Donning his best suit, but slipping off his shoes, Kossola told her, “I want to look lak I in Affica, cause dat where I want to be.”

His listener, companion and scribe was Zora Neale Hurston, the celebrated Harlem Renaissance author of Their Eyes Were Watching God. She poured his story, told mostly in his voice and dialect, into Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo.” After eight decades, the manuscript is finally being published next week. (The title comes from the Spanish word for an enclosure where slaves were kept before the Middle Passage journey.)

Known mostly as a novelist, Hurston also had a career as an anthropologist. She studied under the well-known Franz Boas, who helped establish Columbia University’s anthropology department, in the 1890s, and she conducted fieldwork on voodoo in Haiti and Jamaica and folktales in the American South.

Under Boas’ guidance, Hurston was part of a school of anthropological thought that was “concerned with debunking scientific racism that many anthropologists had been involved in constructing in late-19th century and in the early years of the 20th century,” explains Deborah Thomas, a professor at University of Pennsylvania and one of the organizers of a 2016 conference on Hurston’s work. “What made anthropology attractive to her was that it was a science through which she could investigate the norms of her own community and put them in relation to broader norms.”

By the time Kossola was brought to the U.S., the slave trade, though not slavery, had been outlawed in the country for some 50 years. In 1860, Alabama slaveholder Timothy Meaher chartered the Clotilda, betting—correctly—that they wouldn’t be caught or tried for breaking the law. The ship’s captain, William Foster, brought 110 West Africans to Mobile, Alabama, where he and Meaher sold some and personally enslaved the rest. To hide evidence of the trafficking, Foster burned the Clotilda, the remains of which have yet to be found. Still, “press accounts and the kidnappers' willingness to share their 'escapade' meant that the story of the Clotilda was fairly well documented in the late 19th/early 20th century,” explains Hannah Durkin, a scholar of American Studies at Newcastle University.

Almost 90 years old in 1928 when he was interviewed for Barracoon, Kossola was believed to have been the last survivor of the last slave ship. As she explained in her introduction, he is “the only man on earth who has in his heart the memory of his African home; the horrors of a slave raid; the barracoon; the Lenten tones of slavery; and who has sixty-seven years of freedom in a foreign land behind him.”

When Hurston recorded Kossola’s life for Barracoon, it was not the first time she had met him. Nor was Hurston the only or first researcher to interview Kossola. Her peer Arthur Huff Fauset had in 1925, as had writer Emma Roche a decade before that. In 1927, Boas and Carter G. Woodson sent Hurston to gather Kossola’s story, which was used for an article she published in the Journal of Negro History. Scholars have since discovered Hurston plagiarized significantly from Roche’s interviews and speculated about Hurston’s transgression, citing her frustration with her lacking material. Despite some of Hurston’s sloppy citations and some paraphrasing, the editor of the newly released book, Debora G. Plant, explains in the afterword that there is no evidence of plagiarism in Barracoon.

***

Unlike other well-known slave narratives, which often include escape or bids for self-purchase, or speak to the abolition struggle, Barracoon stands alone. “His narrative does not recount a journey forward into the American Dream,” writes Plant. “It is a kind of slave narrative in reverse, journeying backwards to barracoons, betrayal, and barbarity. And then even further back, to a period of tranquility, a time of freedom, and a sense of belonging.”

Hurston’s approach to telling Kossola’s story was to totally immerse herself in his life, whether that meant helping him clean the church where he was a sexton, driving him down to the bay so he could get crabs, or bringing him summertime fruit. She built up trust with her subject starting with the basics: his name. When Hurston arrives at his home, Kossola tears up after she uses his given name: “Oh Lor’, I know it you call my name. Nobody don’t callee me my name from cross de water but you. You always callee me Kossula, jus’ lak I in de Affica soil!” (Hurston chose to use of Kossola’s vernacular throughout the book, “a vital and authenticating feature of the narrative,” writes Plant.)

With Kossola guiding the way through his story, Hurston transcribed tales of his childhood in Dahomey (now Benin), his capture at 19, his time in a barracoon, his dehumanizing arrival, and five years of enslavement in Alabama. After emancipation, Kossola and his fellow Clotilda survivors established the community of Africatown when their return home was denied to them. Hurston chronicles his attempt to maintain a family whose members were taken from him one by one, through natural causes or violence. He tells her through tears, “Cudjo feel so lonely, he can’t help he cry sometime.”

Hurston’s perspective comes in and out of the narrative only occasionally. She uses it to set the scene for her readers and to give fuller context to the experience, as when, after her subject recounts a certain memory, he is transported. She writes, “Kossula was no longer on the porch with me. He was squatting about that fire in Dahomey. His face was twitching in abysmal pain. It was a horror mask. He had forgotten that I was there. He was thinking aloud and gazing into the dead faces in the smoke.”

Hurston “eschew[ed] a questionnaire-based interview approach,” says Durkin. Hurston was patient with her subject, on days he didn’t want to talk, she didn’t press. But she was also determined, returning to his house repeatedly to get the full story.

As Kossola tells Hurston, he shared his life with her out of a desire to be known and remembered: “Thankee Jesus! Somebody come ast about Cudjo! I want tellee somebody who I is, so maybe dey go in de Afficky soil some day and callee my name and somebody dere say, ‘Yeah, I know Kossula.’”

The process was not without its complications: As Durkin points out, Hurston’s Barracoon reporting was paid for by Charlotte Osgood Mason, a white patron of Harlem Renaissance artists. Its funding, Durkin argues, “implicated it in a history of voyeurism and cultural appropriation.” Hurston was “employed effectively as white woman’s eyes” and Mason saw her “as a collector, not an interpreter,” of the culture. Conflict between Hurston and Mason over ownership of stories, the writer’s need for funding and her desire to please her patron all complicated the anthropological work. Despite the conditions of this reporting, the manuscript is, as Durkin told me, “the most detailed account of his experiences” and “Hurston corrects some of the racist biases of earlier accounts.”

Completed in 1931, Hurston’s manuscript was never published. Viking Press expressed some interest in her proposal but demanded she change Kossola’s dialect to language, which she refused to do. Between the Great Depression’s quashing effect on the market, this early rejection, tensions with her patron, and Hurston’s interest in other projects, Barracoon was never exposed to a broad audience. In an echo of her work with Kossola, Hurston’s own life story was buried for a time, and the writer risked slipping into obscurity. In the late 1970s, writer Alice Walker spearheaded a rereading of Hurston’s work, which brought her books much deserved attention. Still dedicated to upholding and recognizing Hurston’s legacy, Walker wrote the foreword to the new book.

A man who lived across one century and two continents, Kossola’s life was marked, repeatedly and relentlessly, by loss: of his homeland, of his humanity, of his given name, of his family. For decades, his full story, from his perspective and in his voice, was also lost, but with the publication of Barracoon, it is rightfully restored.

Zhao Kangmin, the Archaeologist Who Pieced Together China’s Terracotta Warriors

Smithsonian Magazine

When fragments of China’s famed terracotta warriors were discovered by farmers in 1974, Zhao Kangmin was one of the first archaeologists on the scene. He painstakingly pieced the fragments together, spurring an excavation that would reveal thousands more clay soldiers packed into underground corridors.

As Mike Ives and Karoline Kan report for the New York Times, Zhao died on May 16 at the age of 81. The cause of death, according to his granddaughter, was a pulmonary infection.

The terracotta warriors were interred in the elaborate tomb of emperor Qin Shi Huang, who created the first unified Chinese empire in the 3rd century B.C. The clay army was intended to accompany the ruler into the afterlife. Today, the soldiers are among China’s most treasured artifacts; many can be seen in the Museum of the Terracotta Warriors and Horses, which was built around three major pits lined with clay soldiers.

A group of farmers unearthed the first signs of the relics more than four decades ago while digging a well in Shaanxi province. They contacted the authorities, who notified archaeologists in the region.

“Because we were so excited, we rode on our bicycles so fast it felt as if we were flying," Zhao, then a curator at a local museum, wrote in a 2014 article, according to Channel News Asia.

When he arrived at the site, Zhao discovered that villagers had taken some of the clay pieces home. He was nevertheless able to identify heads, torsos and limbs among the fragments, reports Sasha Ingber of NPR. The pieces were loaded into three trucks and taken to the museum where Zhao worked. He then began the laborious task of putting the fragments—some of them as small as a fingernail—back together.

The reconstructed warriors were life-sized, and rendered in remarkable detail; each boasted a unique hairstyle, outfit and expression. But Zhao did not want word of the incredible discovery to get out. It was the tail end of China’s Cultural Revolution, which sought to eradicate the “Four Olds”: traditional ideas, customs, culture and “habits of mind,” according to Encyclopedia Britannica. The movement resulted in the destruction of many archaeological sites and artifacts.

“[S]ome factions were still against restoring old things,” Zhao wrote in his essay, according to Channel News Asia. “So we decided to keep it a secret.”

A few months later, however, a journalist caught wind of the discovery. The resulting article attracted the attention of officials in Beijing, who ordered a large excavation. Archaeologists would subsequently unearth thousands of figures—among them infantrymen, officers, kneeling archers and clay chariots with horses—and identify nearly 600 sites associated with Qin Shi Huang’s grandiose tomb.

Zhao was not the first to dig up the treasured artifacts, but he would nevertheless come to refer to himself as the “first discoverer, restorer, appreciator, name-giver and excavator of the terra-cotta warriors.”

In 2003, three of the farmers who found the terracotta warrior fragments tried to obtain an official certificate from the Museum of the Terracotta Warriors and Horses identifying them as the discoverers of the precious relics, report Ives and Kan of the Times. Their efforts were not successful.

“The farmers saw the terracotta fragments, but they didn't know they were cultural relics, and they even broke them,” Zhao said in a 2009 interview with China Daily. “It was me who stopped the damage, collected the fragments and reconstructed the first terracotta warrior.”

In his old age, Zhao remained immensely proud of his role in the discovery. The China Daily article reported that even after Zhao retired from his post as a curator at the Lintong Museum in Xi’an, he would visit the museum every day to sit beside four terracotta warriors that he reconstructed as a younger man.

Zen and the Design of Homework Desks

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Second of a two-part introduction to design. Students use what they've learned about Roman design as they set about designing a "home workspace" for homework. Their clients, it turns out, are themselves, but they also consider modifications they might make if, for instance, they were designing for a student with special needs.

Yusef Komunyakaa

National Portrait Gallery
Born James Willie Brown in Bogalusa, Louisiana, Yusef Komunyakaa took the ancestral name of his slave relatives in Trinidad. After serving in Vietnam, Komunyakaa went to college and started writing poetry that sought to recapitulate African American folkways and history using a modern idiom, inflected by jazz and other musical traditions. Komunyakaa has resisted being pigeonholed as a "jazz" poet or a "war" poet. In a recent interview he talked about how literature "is woven from masks. It involves a conjuring and acceptance of mystery. It’s almost like dealing with a series of overlays." Yet paradoxically, truth is revealed in the making of those overlays. A poem called "Blackbirding on the Hudson" (about the kidnapping and enslavement of black children) concludes: "I know the mockingbird stole cries out of the air / passed them down through the egg, & is now our only reliable witness." Except for the poet himself, of course.

Yuri Gagarin

National Air and Space Museum
Yuri Gagarin. Page from a spiral-bound sketchbook. A sketch of a statue of Yuri Gagarin from the perspective of looking slightly up. The artist's eye level is about at the ankles. The figure looks tall and distinguished and his left arm is bent behind his back. The dark trees in the background reach up to the statue's knees and the entire piece is shaded with even, scratchy lines.

In March 1962, James Webb, Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, suggested that artists be enlisted to document the historic effort to send the first human beings to the moon. John Walker, director of the National Gallery of Art, was among those who applauded the idea, urging that artists be encouraged "…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race."

Working together, James Dean, a young artist employed by the NASA Public Affairs office, and Dr. H. Lester Cooke, curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art, created a program that dispatched artists to NASA facilities with an invitation to paint whatever interested them. The result was an extraordinary collection of works of art proving, as one observer noted, "that America produced not only scientists and engineers capable of shaping the destiny of our age, but also artists worthy to keep them company." Transferred to the National Air and Space Museum in 1975, the NASA art collection remains one of the most important elements of what has become perhaps the world's finest collection of aerospace themed art.

The spring of 1962 was a busy time for the men and women of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. On February 20, John H. Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. For the first time since the launch of Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957, the U.S. was positioned to match and exceed Soviet achievements in space. NASA was an agency with a mission -- to meet President John F. Kennedy's challenge of sending human beings to the moon and returning them safely to earth by the end of the decade. Within a year, three more Mercury astronauts would fly into orbit. Plans were falling into place for a follow-on series of two-man Gemini missions that would set the stage for the Apollo voyages to the moon.

In early March 1962, artist Bruce Stevenson brought his large portrait of Alan Shepard, the first American to fly in space, to NASA headquarters.(1) James E. Webb, the administrator of NASA, assumed that the artist was interested in painting a similar portrait of all seven of the Mercury astronauts. Instead, Webb voiced his preference for a group portrait that would emphasize "…the team effort and the togetherness that has characterized the first group of astronauts to be trained by this nation." More important, the episode convinced the administrator that "…we should consider in a deliberate way just what NASA should do in the field of fine arts to commemorate the …historic events" of the American space program.(2)

In addition to portraits, Webb wanted to encourage artists to capture the excitement and deeper meaning of space flight. He imagined "a nighttime scene showing the great amount of activity involved in the preparation of and countdown for launching," as well as paintings that portrayed activities in space. "The important thing," he concluded, "is to develop a policy on how we intend to treat this matter now and in the next several years and then to get down to the specifics of how we intend to implement this policy…." The first step, he suggested, was to consult with experts in the field, including the director of the National Gallery of Art, and the members of the Fine Arts Commission, the arbiters of architectural and artistic taste who passed judgment on the appearance of official buildings and monuments in the nation's capital.

Webb's memo of March 16, 1962 was the birth certificate of the NASA art program. Shelby Thompson, the director of the agency's Office of Educational Programs and Services, assigned James Dean, a young artist working as a special assistant in his office, to the project. On June 19, 1962 Thompson met with the Fine Arts Commission, requesting advice as to how "…NASA should develop a basis for use of paintings and sculptures to depict significant historical events and other activities in our program."(3)

David E. Finley, the chairman and former director of the National Gallery of Art, applauded the idea, and suggested that the agency should study the experience of the U.S. Air Force, which had amassed some 800 paintings since establishing an art program in 1954. He also introduced Thompson to Hereward Lester Cooke, curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art.

An imposing bear of a man standing over six feet tall, Lester Cooke was a graduate of Yale and Oxford, with a Princeton PhD. The son of a physics professor and a veteran of the U.S. Army Air Forces, he was both fascinated by science and felt a personal connection to flight. On a professional level, Cooke had directed American participation in international art competitions and produced articles and illustrations for the National Geographic Magazine. He jumped at the chance to advise NASA on its art program.

While initially cautious with regard to the time the project might require of one of his chief curators, John Walker, director of the National Gallery, quickly became one of the most vocal supporters of the NASA art initiative. Certain that "the present space exploration effort by the United States will probably rank among the more important events in the history of mankind," Walker believed that "every possible method of documentation …be used." Artists should be expected "…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race." He urged quick action so that "the full flavor of the achievement …not be lost," and hoped that "the past held captive" in any paintings resulting from the effort "will prove to future generations that America produced not only scientists and engineers capable of shaping the destiny of our age, but also artists worthy to keep them company."(4)

Gordon Cooper, the last Mercury astronaut to fly, was scheduled to ride an Atlas rocket into orbit on May 15, 1963. That event would provide the ideal occasion for a test run of the plan Cooke and Dean evolved to launch the art program. In mid-February, Cooke provided Thompson with a list of the artists who should be invited to travel to Cape Canaveral to record their impressions of the event. Andrew Wyeth, whom the curator identified as "the top artist in the U.S. today," headed the list. When the time came, however, Andrew Wyeth did not go to the Cape for the Cooper launch, but his son Jamie would participate in the program during the Gemini and Apollo years.

The list of invited artists also included Peter Hurd, Andrew Wyeth's brother-in-law, who had served as a wartime artist with the Army Air Force; George Weymouth, whom Wyeth regarded as "the best of his pupils"; and John McCoy, another Wyeth associate. Cooke regarded the next man on the list, Robert McCall, who had been running the Air Force art program, as "America's top aero-space illustrator. Paul Calle and Robert Shore had both painted for the Air Force program. Mitchell Jamieson, who had run a unit of the Navy art program during WW II, rounded out the program. Alfred Blaustein was the only artist to turn down the invitation.

The procedures that would remain in place for more than a decade were given a trial run in the spring of 1963. The artists received an $800 commission, which had to cover any expenses incurred while visiting a NASA facility where they could paint whatever interested them. In return, they would present their finished pieces, and all of their sketches, to the space agency. The experiment was a success, and what might have been a one-time effort to dispatch artists to witness and record the Gordon Cooper flight provided the basis for an on-going, if small-scale, program. By the end of 1970, Jim Dean and Lester Cooke had dispatched 38 artists to Mercury, Gemini and Apollo launches and to other NASA facilities.

The art program became everything that Jim Webb had hoped it would be. NASA artists produced stunning works of art that documented the agency's step-by-step progress on the way to the moon. The early fruits of the program were presented in a lavishly illustrated book, Eyewitness to Space (New York: Abrams, 1971). Works from the collection illustrated NASA publications and were the basis for educational film strips aimed at school children. In 1965 and again in 1969 the National Gallery of Art mounted two major exhibitions of work from the NASA collection. The USIA sent a selection of NASA paintings overseas, while the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service created two exhibitions of NASA art that toured the nation.

"Since we …began," Dean noted in a reflection on the tenth anniversary of the program, the art initiative had resulted in a long string of positive "press interviews and reports, congressional inquiries, columns in the Congressional Record, [and] White House reports." The NASA effort, he continued, had directly inspired other government art programs. "The Department of the Interior (at least two programs), the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Army and even the Veterans Administration have, or are starting, art programs." While he could not take all of the credit, Dean insisted that "our success has encouraged other agencies to get involved and they have succeeded, too."(5)

For all of that, he noted, it was still necessary to "defend" the role of art in the space agency. Dean, with the assistance of Lester Cooke, had been a one-man show, handling the complex logistics of the program, receiving and cataloguing works of art, hanging them himself in museums or on office walls, and struggling to find adequate storage space. In January 1976, a NASA supervisor went so far as to comment that: "Mr. Dean is far too valuable in other areas to spend his time on the relatively menial …jobs he is often burdened with in connection with the art program."(6) Dean placed a much higher value on the art collection, and immediately recommended that NASA officials either devote additional resources to the program, or get out of the art business and turn the existing collection over the National Air and Space Museum, "where it can be properly cared for."(7)

In January 1974 a new building for the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) was taking shape right across the street from NASA headquarters. Discussions regarding areas of cooperation were already underway between NASA officials and museum director Michael Collins, who had flown to the moon as a member of the Apollo 11 crew. Before the end of the year, the space agency had transferred its art collection to the NASM. Mike Collins succeeded in luring Jim Dean to the museum, as well.

The museum already maintained a small art collection, including portraits of aerospace heroes, an assortment of 18th and 19th century prints illustrating the early history of the balloon, an eclectic assortment of works portraying aspects of the history of aviation and a few recent prizes, including several Norman Rockwell paintings of NASA activity. With the acquisition of the NASA art, the museum was in possession of one of the world's great collections of art exploring aerospace themes. Jim Dean would continue to build the NASM collection as the museum's first curator of art. Following his retirement in 1980, other curators would follow in his footsteps, continuing to strengthen the role of art at the NASM. Over three decades after its arrival, however, the NASA art accession of 2,091 works still constitutes almost half of the NASM art collection.

(1) Stevenson's portrait is now in the collection of the National Air and Space Museum (1981-627)

(2) James E. Webb to Hiden Cox, March 16, 1962, memorandum in the NASA art historical collection, Aeronautics Division, National air and Space Museum. Webb's preference for a group portrait of the astronauts was apparently not heeded. In the end, Stevenson painted an individual portrait of John Glenn, which is also in the NASM collection (1963-398).

(3) Shelby Thompson, memorandum for the record, July 6, 1962, NASA art historical collection, NASA, Aeronautics Division.

(4) John Walker draft of a talk, March 5, 1965, copy in NASA Art historical collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(5) James Dean, memorandum for the record, August 6, 1973, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(6) Director of Planning and Media Development to Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(7) James Dean to the Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, copy in NASA Art history Collection, Aeronautics Division, NASM.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian Institution

July 26, 2007

Your Soothing Cup of Tea May Contain Billions of Microplastics

Smithsonian Magazine

It’s fall, the weather is getting cooler, and the time is right for steaming, soothing cups of tea. But as you sip on your favorite brew, you may be unwittingly ingesting billions of microplastics, according to a new study in Environmental Science & Technology.

Many commercial teas are packaged in paper bags, but some premium brands have shifted to plastic pouches that have a silky quality, according to Emily Chung of the CBC. Nathalie Tufenkji, a professor of chemical engineering at McGill University in Montreal and co-author of the new study, recently found one of these bags inside a hot cup of tea that she had ordered from a coffee shop. She was not happy about it.

“I said, 'Oh God, I'm sure if it's plastic it's, like, breaking down into the tea,'" Tufenkji recalls in an interview with Chung.

She and her colleagues, led by McGill graduate student Laura Hernandez, decided to test the theory. They purchased four types of commercial loose leaf teas that are packaged in plastic bags, cut the bags open and removed the tea—so as to make sure that if any microplastics were found, they were coming from the bags and not the tea itself. Then the researchers dunked the tea bags in glass vials containing water heated to 95 degrees Celsius (203 degrees Fahrenheit), an average brewing temperature. Using electron microscopy, the team analyzed samples of the water and estimated that a single plastic tea bag steeped in hot water releases around 11.6 billion microplastics (which the study authors define as pieces that range from 100 nanometers to 5 millimeters in size) and 3.1 billion nanoplastics (pieces that are less than or equal to 100 nanometers in size).

“We think that it is a lot when compared to other foods that contain microplastics,” Tufenkji tells Adam Vaughan at New Scientist. “Table salt, which has a relatively high microplastic content, has been reported to contain approximately 0.005 micrograms plastic per gram salt. A cup of tea contains thousands of times greater mass of plastic, at 16 micrograms per cup.”

The researchers conducted a number of control experiments, among them testing uncut tea bags to ensure that slicing the bags open did not cause plastics to leach out. They found that “a significant number of particles are released even when the tea bags are uncut.” The team also analyzed water from tea that had been brewed with a metallic strainer and did not find any particles.

In recent years, it has become clear that microplastics are a persistent and ubiquitous presence: they’ve been found everywhere from oceans, to soils, to remote mountain airs, and to human stool. Microplastics seem to negatively impact animals; studies have shown that the particles impair reproduction and damage the digestive tracts of various species. But the risks to human health are not clear.

In August, for instance, a World Health Organization analysis of plastic in tap and bottled water found that the particles “don’t appear to pose a health risk at current levels,” but also noted that data is “extremely limited.”

As part of their study, the McGill team exposed water fleas, small aquatic organisms formally known as Daphnia magna, to various doses of microplastics and nanoplastics leached from tea bags. The little critters didn’t die, but they began to exhibit anatomical and behavioral abnormalities. They swam “crazily,” Tufenkji tells Chung, and their carapaces—or defensive shells—did not develop properly.

Again, we don’t know what this means for humans. The study authors acknowledge that the amount of plastics in a single cup of tea—around 16 micrograms—is not likely to pose any acute toxicity risks, but questions linger about the impacts of long-term exposure. “Overall, the knowledge on adverse effects of plastic particles on human health is still lacking,” the researchers write, “and there is an urgent need to investigate potential toxic mechanisms in higher vertebrates and humans.”

Your School, Your Future

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Unit of teacher-created design lessons in which students look at their role as "users" of the school environment.

Your Online Dating Profile Picture Affects Whether People Trust You

Smithsonian Magazine

When it comes to dating apps like Tinder, a profile picture is worth way more than 1,000 words. Users quickly connect with people whose photos pique their interest—but they risk being “catfished” by someone whose pic doesn't match up to the real thing. So how does an online romantic decide whom to trust? Well, it's complicated.

In a recent study of about 300 heterosexual volunteers, researchers found that men and women place very different levels of trust in an attractive profile picture. Men shown images of “beautified” women—with enhanced lighting, hair and makeup—rated them to be hotter but less trustworthy than regular pictures of the same people. However, women shown enhanced pictures of men said they seemed both more attractive and more trustworthy than their unenhanced counterparts.

“It seems that the women were placing faith in the attractiveness of the males. It's almost hopeful, as opposed to the fellas who may have taken a more kind of realistic approach,” says co-author Rory McGloin of the University of Connecticut. McGloin and colleagues Amanda Denes and Olivia Kamisher will present their findings this month at the 65th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The team decided to study the phenomenon after observing the huge impact a single photo had in apps like Tinder. The app finds potential matches near you and shows you their picture, name and age. A swipe on a picture indicates you like someone. If they swipe you back, then you're a match and can start messaging. “You look at a picture of someone and all of a sudden you're making judgments about what their personality is like, what their values are, whether or you want to go on a date with them or even maybe spend the rest of your life with them,” says McGloin. “And it's all based on one picture.”

To set up a controlled test of how people react to such photos, the group asked their volunteers to look at randomly chosen profile pictures. Some saw an enhanced picture of an opposite-sex individual, while others looked at a normal photo of the same person—participants did not compare the two versions. They were then asked to rate attractiveness on a scale of 1 to 10. The team found that both males and females rated the enhanced images as far more attractive than the normal ones. That may not be surprising, but it is telling, says McGloin.

“The fact that we had the exact same person but could manipulate their attractiveness the way we wanted to by just showing a single picture really reinforces how important that profile picture is and what it does to the entire attitude you adopt when you look at someone's profile,” he says. This kind of image manipulation may seem unfair, but most app users actually expect it. Many previous studies by other groups show that people are willing to accept a certain amount of deception in how others present themselves online and even adopt those strategies themselves.

“The people that were interviewed in these studies—and we've also seen this during our own research—basically admit, 'Yeah of course I try to make myself look good—everybody else is doing it.'”

Despite the ubiquitous knowledge that all isn't what it seems online, men and women still reacted quite differently to attractive images. When asked to rate trustworthiness on a 1-to-10 scale, men that saw an enhanced picture of a woman rated her lower than the score given to the normal photo of the exact same woman. However, women rated the enhanced men as more trustworthy than the regular men.

In addition, while males were less trusting of attractive women, good looks seemed to trump their suspicions. They still reported a higher desire to date the woman in an enhanced photo than the one in her normal picture.“ I don't know what it says about us, but it's interesting that the guys were basically acknowledging, 'Hey look, I see this picture of a really attractive woman online and I don't trust that it's actually her. But I still want to date her,"' says McGloin. "Maybe they are thinking, 'I know she probably doesn't look quite like this, but if she's close, we're good.'”

Previous work suggests that evolution focuses our attention on certain aspects of attractiveness, such as clear skin, which are tied to choosing a healthy mate. It could be that males value these attributes over trustworthiness. Another factor could be the long-studied concept that people prefer to date and mate with those who are much like themselves. Similarity has become a key strategy for far more elaborate online matching systems that collect and compare all kinds of personal information. So does a desire for sameness influence the level of trust we bestow on an attractive partner?

“Similarity is obviously a part of the puzzle of attractiveness, but is it really the piece that drives it?" says McGloin. "Or at times can we sell that idea of similarity to ourselves because we simply see a person we find attractive?” 

Youngblood and Son-Movers

National Air and Space Museum
Watercolor painting on paper. Youngblood and Son - Movers, Sept 64. A farmhouse is being moved during construction of the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center, Florida. Several loosely defined figures are standing near the house wearing yellow hard hats. A truck with a yellow cab is to the left of the house and a man is standing between the truck and the tractor. The road enters the scene on a diagonal coming from the lower right. The sky is a blotchy blend of blue and grey, and it appears to have vertical streaks through the watercolor.

In March 1962, James Webb, Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, suggested that artists be enlisted to document the historic effort to send the first human beings to the moon. John Walker, director of the National Gallery of Art, was among those who applauded the idea, urging that artists be encouraged "…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race."

Working together, James Dean, a young artist employed by the NASA Public Affairs office, and Dr. H. Lester Cooke, curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art, created a program that dispatched artists to NASA facilities with an invitation to paint whatever interested them. The result was an extraordinary collection of works of art proving, as one observer noted, "that America produced not only scientists and engineers capable of shaping the destiny of our age, but also artists worthy to keep them company." Transferred to the National Air and Space Museum in 1975, the NASA art collection remains one of the most important elements of what has become perhaps the world's finest collection of aerospace themed art.

The spring of 1962 was a busy time for the men and women of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. On February 20, John H. Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. For the first time since the launch of Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957, the U.S. was positioned to match and exceed Soviet achievements in space. NASA was an agency with a mission -- to meet President John F. Kennedy's challenge of sending human beings to the moon and returning them safely to earth by the end of the decade. Within a year, three more Mercury astronauts would fly into orbit. Plans were falling into place for a follow-on series of two-man Gemini missions that would set the stage for the Apollo voyages to the moon.

In early March 1962, artist Bruce Stevenson brought his large portrait of Alan Shepard, the first American to fly in space, to NASA headquarters.(1) James E. Webb, the administrator of NASA, assumed that the artist was interested in painting a similar portrait of all seven of the Mercury astronauts. Instead, Webb voiced his preference for a group portrait that would emphasize "…the team effort and the togetherness that has characterized the first group of astronauts to be trained by this nation." More important, the episode convinced the administrator that "…we should consider in a deliberate way just what NASA should do in the field of fine arts to commemorate the …historic events" of the American space program.(2)

In addition to portraits, Webb wanted to encourage artists to capture the excitement and deeper meaning of space flight. He imagined "a nighttime scene showing the great amount of activity involved in the preparation of and countdown for launching," as well as paintings that portrayed activities in space. "The important thing," he concluded, "is to develop a policy on how we intend to treat this matter now and in the next several years and then to get down to the specifics of how we intend to implement this policy…." The first step, he suggested, was to consult with experts in the field, including the director of the National Gallery of Art, and the members of the Fine Arts Commission, the arbiters of architectural and artistic taste who passed judgment on the appearance of official buildings and monuments in the nation's capital.

Webb's memo of March 16, 1962 was the birth certificate of the NASA art program. Shelby Thompson, the director of the agency's Office of Educational Programs and Services, assigned James Dean, a young artist working as a special assistant in his office, to the project. On June 19, 1962 Thompson met with the Fine Arts Commission, requesting advice as to how "…NASA should develop a basis for use of paintings and sculptures to depict significant historical events and other activities in our program."(3)

David E. Finley, the chairman and former director of the National Gallery of Art, applauded the idea, and suggested that the agency should study the experience of the U.S. Air Force, which had amassed some 800 paintings since establishing an art program in 1954. He also introduced Thompson to Hereward Lester Cooke, curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art.

An imposing bear of a man standing over six feet tall, Lester Cooke was a graduate of Yale and Oxford, with a Princeton PhD. The son of a physics professor and a veteran of the U.S. Army Air Forces, he was both fascinated by science and felt a personal connection to flight. On a professional level, Cooke had directed American participation in international art competitions and produced articles and illustrations for the National Geographic Magazine. He jumped at the chance to advise NASA on its art program.

While initially cautious with regard to the time the project might require of one of his chief curators, John Walker, director of the National Gallery, quickly became one of the most vocal supporters of the NASA art initiative. Certain that "the present space exploration effort by the United States will probably rank among the more important events in the history of mankind," Walker believed that "every possible method of documentation …be used." Artists should be expected "…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race." He urged quick action so that "the full flavor of the achievement …not be lost," and hoped that "the past held captive" in any paintings resulting from the effort "will prove to future generations that America produced not only scientists and engineers capable of shaping the destiny of our age, but also artists worthy to keep them company."(4)

Gordon Cooper, the last Mercury astronaut to fly, was scheduled to ride an Atlas rocket into orbit on May 15, 1963. That event would provide the ideal occasion for a test run of the plan Cooke and Dean evolved to launch the art program. In mid-February, Cooke provided Thompson with a list of the artists who should be invited to travel to Cape Canaveral to record their impressions of the event. Andrew Wyeth, whom the curator identified as "the top artist in the U.S. today," headed the list. When the time came, however, Andrew Wyeth did not go to the Cape for the Cooper launch, but his son Jamie would participate in the program during the Gemini and Apollo years.

The list of invited artists also included Peter Hurd, Andrew Wyeth's brother-in-law, who had served as a wartime artist with the Army Air Force; George Weymouth, whom Wyeth regarded as "the best of his pupils"; and John McCoy, another Wyeth associate. Cooke regarded the next man on the list, Robert McCall, who had been running the Air Force art program, as "America's top aero-space illustrator. Paul Calle and Robert Shore had both painted for the Air Force program. Mitchell Jamieson, who had run a unit of the Navy art program during WW II, rounded out the program. Alfred Blaustein was the only artist to turn down the invitation.

The procedures that would remain in place for more than a decade were given a trial run in the spring of 1963. The artists received an $800 commission, which had to cover any expenses incurred while visiting a NASA facility where they could paint whatever interested them. In return, they would present their finished pieces, and all of their sketches, to the space agency. The experiment was a success, and what might have been a one-time effort to dispatch artists to witness and record the Gordon Cooper flight provided the basis for an on-going, if small-scale, program. By the end of 1970, Jim Dean and Lester Cooke had dispatched 38 artists to Mercury, Gemini and Apollo launches and to other NASA facilities.

The art program became everything that Jim Webb had hoped it would be. NASA artists produced stunning works of art that documented the agency's step-by-step progress on the way to the moon. The early fruits of the program were presented in a lavishly illustrated book, Eyewitness to Space (New York: Abrams, 1971). Works from the collection illustrated NASA publications and were the basis for educational film strips aimed at school children. In 1965 and again in 1969 the National Gallery of Art mounted two major exhibitions of work from the NASA collection. The USIA sent a selection of NASA paintings overseas, while the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service created two exhibitions of NASA art that toured the nation.

"Since we …began," Dean noted in a reflection on the tenth anniversary of the program, the art initiative had resulted in a long string of positive "press interviews and reports, congressional inquiries, columns in the Congressional Record, [and] White House reports." The NASA effort, he continued, had directly inspired other government art programs. "The Department of the Interior (at least two programs), the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Army and even the Veterans Administration have, or are starting, art programs." While he could not take all of the credit, Dean insisted that "our success has encouraged other agencies to get involved and they have succeeded, too."(5)

For all of that, he noted, it was still necessary to "defend" the role of art in the space agency. Dean, with the assistance of Lester Cooke, had been a one-man show, handling the complex logistics of the program, receiving and cataloguing works of art, hanging them himself in museums or on office walls, and struggling to find adequate storage space. In January 1976, a NASA supervisor went so far as to comment that: "Mr. Dean is far too valuable in other areas to spend his time on the relatively menial …jobs he is often burdened with in connection with the art program."(6) Dean placed a much higher value on the art collection, and immediately recommended that NASA officials either devote additional resources to the program, or get out of the art business and turn the existing collection over the National Air and Space Museum, "where it can be properly cared for."(7)

In January 1974 a new building for the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) was taking shape right across the street from NASA headquarters. Discussions regarding areas of cooperation were already underway between NASA officials and museum director Michael Collins, who had flown to the moon as a member of the Apollo 11 crew. Before the end of the year, the space agency had transferred its art collection to the NASM. Mike Collins succeeded in luring Jim Dean to the museum, as well.

The museum already maintained a small art collection, including portraits of aerospace heroes, an assortment of 18th and 19th century prints illustrating the early history of the balloon, an eclectic assortment of works portraying aspects of the history of aviation and a few recent prizes, including several Norman Rockwell paintings of NASA activity. With the acquisition of the NASA art, the museum was in possession of one of the world's great collections of art exploring aerospace themes. Jim Dean would continue to build the NASM collection as the museum's first curator of art. Following his retirement in 1980, other curators would follow in his footsteps, continuing to strengthen the role of art at the NASM. Over three decades after its arrival, however, the NASA art accession of 2,091 works still constitutes almost half of the NASM art collection.

(1) Stevenson's portrait is now in the collection of the National Air and Space Museum (1981-627)

(2) James E. Webb to Hiden Cox, March 16, 1962, memorandum in the NASA art historical collection, Aeronautics Division, National air and Space Museum. Webb's preference for a group portrait of the astronauts was apparently not heeded. In the end, Stevenson painted an individual portrait of John Glenn, which is also in the NASM collection (1963-398).

(3) Shelby Thompson, memorandum for the record, July 6, 1962, NASA art historical collection, NASA, Aeronautics Division.

(4) John Walker draft of a talk, March 5, 1965, copy in NASA Art historical collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(5) James Dean, memorandum for the record, August 6, 1973, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(6) Director of Planning and Media Development to Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(7) James Dean to the Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, copy in NASA Art history Collection, Aeronautics Division, NASM.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian Institution

July 26, 2007

Young Picky Eaters May Be More Anxious and Depressed

Smithsonian Magazine

Parents around the world are frustrated by kids who are fussy about their food, often left bemoaning uneaten broccoli and waiting impatiently for them to grow out of it. Now, research suggests that paying closer attention to picky eating may be about more than making sure kids get enough fruits and veggies.

A Duke University study involving hundreds of young children found that even moderate picky eating often coincides with psychological health issues, including depression, anxiety, attention-deficit disorder and hyperactivity. And as the pickiness got more extreme, the associated psychological problems tended to get worse.

“We're talking about kids whose picky eating went beyond having a non-preference for certain foods like broccoli,” says co-author William Copeland, a clinical psychologist at Duke. “Their eating was so restrictive that it required their parents to make separate meals for them apart from the rest of the family.”

As they report this week in Pediatrics, the scientists conducted in-home assessments for 917 kids that were 2 to 6 years old, using the Preschool Aged Psychiatric Assessment. They also interviewed the children's caregivers to collect information on eating habits and psychiatric symptoms. The results showed that about one in five of the participants are picky eaters—often or always selective with their food. Of those, almost 18 percent were moderately picky, while about 3 percent were severely selective, meaning their pickiness limits their ability to eat with others.

The team found that kids showing both moderate and severe selective eating were significantly more likely to show symptoms of social anxiety, depression and other mental conditions. Moderately picky kids were also more likely to suffer symptoms of separation anxiety and ADHD, though those correlations weren't seen among the study's relatively small number of severely picky eaters. And while some kids do grow out of picky eating, the psychological problems among the severe picky eaters tended to grow worse. The team conducted annual follow-ups for two years with 187 of the participants, and they found that selective eaters were twice as likely to show increased symptoms of general anxiety.

“It was surprising to me that when we followed up with these kids two years down the road, we saw that these problems predicted increased levels of anxiety,” Copeland says. “It certainly isn't the case for everybody. But it does mean that selective eating isn't something that should just be disregarded. Pediatricians and parents should be paying attention over time and seeing if a child shows some type of vulnerability to these emotional problems."

Parents regularly fight their picky eaters on food, but as many will attest that conflict doesn't always result in eating. It may even compound kids' psychological issues or lead to more family strife. While it's not the parents' fault when one of their kids is a picky eater, Copeland notes, young kids are so influenced by their parents that it's necessary to look at the family mealtime dynamic as a whole when assessing problematic eating. 

“I think this absolutely could be related to certain dynamics that the kids have with their parents,” he says. “It's certainly the case that certain ways of responding with certain kids can make these things worse.”

Part of the problem is that there are many possible reasons why Junior won't eat his Brussels sprouts. Scientists have previously identified several likely triggers for picky eating, from genes to in utero exposure to reward systems in the brain. For instance, heightened senses make smell, taste or texture overwhelming for some. And bad experiences with foods—including being forced to eat food they don't like—can play a role in generating anxiety. Finding out which one is behind a child's pickiness can be key to successful intervention.

Another possible cause hinted at in the study data is a link with parents' own anxieties. “One of the things we saw in this study is that parents who have emotional problems themselves may be more likely to have kids that are picky about these things, and that's also going to affect how they respond to the kids,” Copeland notes. "So these things can be very synergistic.”

Copeland cited a common example of parents who see that a child isn't responding well to a food and then become concerned about why the kid has a poor response. “They'll ask if the child is feeling sick or the food is hurting their tummy,” he explains. “And that can send a message to the child that there is something to be worried about that can contribute to the child's refusal to have that kind of food.”

Pediatricians can help parents plan better responses to their individual picky eaters, he adds, so that these associated problems don't become more significant. This proactive approach can also help ease stress on the rest of the family—particularly on parents who are pressed to prepare alternative meals or engage in regular food fights.

“Most pediatricians would be comfortable assessing anxiety and depressive symptoms,” Copeland says. “So [picky eating is] really a trigger for them to ask more questions about those things.”

You're the Interviewer

Smithsonian Education
Smithsonian experts and curators return to Shout to update us on their latest findings, field your questions, focus on your insights, and address your concerns about environmental issues and successes. Presented by: Cheryl Arnett, Gary Krupnick, Bill McShea, Ana Maria Tinsler, Jonathan R. Thompson, Sunshine Van Bael, and others. Original Airdate: September 21, 2011 You can stay connected with the Smithsonian's upcoming online events and view a full collection of past sessions on a variety of topics.: http://www.smithsonianeducation.org/educators/events/online_events.html With support from Microsoft Partners in Learning.

You helped us reach our goal to conserve and display the Ruby Slippers!

National Museum of American History

At a little past 11:15 p.m. on Sunday, October 23, 2016, you took us somewhere over the rainbow. With over 5,300 backers, our "Keep Them Ruby" Kickstarter campaign reached its goal of raising $300,000 to support the conservation and display of Dorothy's Ruby Slippers from The Wizard of Oz. The team here at the museum is obviously thrilled with the tremendous show of support for this project, but what about museum visitors? Volunteer Larry Margasak interviewed visitors about why the nearly 80-year-old film has such staying power. 

When museum visitor Mike Peterson moved from Belvue, Kansas, to Surprise, Arizona, he took a bit of The Wizard of Oz with him. Stenciled on his kitchen wall is Dorothy Gale's famous line from the fantasy world of Oz, telling her dog Toto that she has a feeling, "we're not in Kansas anymore."

Shortly after Peterson paused at the museum's pair of Ruby Slippers, Kimberly Newkirk nostalgically gazed at the shoes in their glass display case. She felt connected to the movie's star, Judy Garland. She's from Grand Rapids, Minnesota, where Judy was born as Frances Ethel Gumm on June 10, 1922.

A girl with braids in her hair and her mom look at a camera as they photograph the Ruby Slippers on display in a case at the museum

Grandparents, parents, and children ask for the pair of sequin-covered, iridescent shoes more than any other object in the museum. When visitors were asked recently about their thoughts of the movie, they described it as magical, a wonderful fantasy, and scary. They said it represents hope, achievement, happiness, friendship, and, of course, the feeling that "There's no place like home." Older visitors remembered the first time they saw it. Children talked about how many times they've seen it.

The museum's Ruby Slippers are located at the entrance to the American Stories exhibition—but they're not the only Oz object on display. Dorothy's magic world was created with a then-novel Technicolor camera. The camera, located in the Places of Invention exhibition, doesn't answer this question: What is so enduring about Dorothy's fantasy trip to Oz? Why does the story stick with us like it does?

To answer that question, we asked the movie's passionate fans: museum visitors.

"It was a magical theme of make-believe, a romantic adventure of a fantasy land," said Peterson, 68, the visitor who has Dorothy's words stenciled on his kitchen wall. "It had good music, catchy tunes, it was something people of any age could enjoy."

A woman smiles, standing beside a case in which the Ruby Slippers are displayed.

Newkirk recalled Oz-related festivities she enjoyed as a resident of Judy Garland's hometown, including tours of the big, white house where Garland was born, a Wizard of Oz festival, and the Judy Garland Museum.

To Newkirk, 52, the movie's other famous line, "There's no place like home," has a special meaning. "She thought everything would be better if it was different, but then wanted to go home to her small town and family," Newkirk said. "It paralleled my life. I'm a small-town girl. I do relate to Judy as Dorothy."

The film's multi-generational appeal is seen at the museum every day.

Girl with blonde hair takes a photo of the Ruby Slippers in a display case. The image can be seen on the screen of her camera.

Kylie Rovnak, 13, from Sarasota, Florida, who played a Munchkin in a Wizard play, said she loved the movie because of its characters searching for what they needed most: a heart for Tin Man, a brain for Scarecrow, and courage for Lion. "One represents love, the Tin Man. Scarecrow wants to be smart. The Lion wants courage. It [the movie] shows that it's within you" to get what you most desire.

Added Parson Rose, 10, of Greensboro, North Carolina, "We all need to find something we don't have. We don't have something but we really want it. The Tin Man didn't have a heart and it made me feel sad." But to Allison Rector, 10, of Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, the film meant "happiness, because the Wicked Witch is dead."

The film's fans are all over the world. To Danielle Hodder, 28, visiting from Townsville, Australia, "It's a story of hope. It's about something that every person wants to achieve. It's about friendship. They all have to see the great Wizard."

A man in a burgundy shirt poses beside the Ruby Slippers, hands in pockets, smiling

Raymond Lapointe, of Lincoln, Rhode Island, is 61 but said, "I still remember the Wicked Witch scared the daylights out of me. I couldn't sleep."

Two women pose with big smiles near the Ruby Slippers case in the museum

At age 74, Molla Siegel, of Gaithersburg, Maryland, is joining her two grandchildren and their parents this Halloween in wearing Wizard costumes. Her six-year-old granddaughter came up with the idea of the whole family dressing up as characters in the movie. "I'm going to be the good witch," she said.

Kerry Ruiz, 59, of Chino, California, said the movie was "magical. It was love. It was strength. Dorothy was resilient." And Barbara DeAngelis, of Staten Island, New York, said the film shows "you're not far from home if you keep dreaming."

A man in a white shirt with blue stripes looks into a case. Inside the clear Plexiglass of the case, Dorothy's Ruby Slippers are on a yellow platform.

Scarecrow actor Ray Bolger once said of the movie, "The philosophy of Oz is man's search for basic human needs—a heart, brains, courage. And that, chum, will never be old hat."

And after the film became a regular on television, Tin Man actor Jack Haley described the movie's staying power this way: "The Wizard of Oz is a toy for a new group of kids every year."

Barely two weeks after opening, The Hollywood Spectator shared a perspective that endured. "The Wizard of Oz is much more than a visual treat," the publication said. "It is a really human document, one with a lesson in it, one of the few to which grandfather can take his grandchild and both of them find entertaining…it is a piece of screen entertainment which can be shown every year from now on."

Larry Margasak is a retired Washington journalist. He is a volunteer with the museum's ambassadors, who roam the building to assist visitors, and also is a volunteer researcher and writer for several divisions of the museum. His last blog post was about Hollywood during World War II.


It's not the end of the journey for Dorothy and her friends at the Smithsonian. We have big news coming down the yellow brick road on Monday! 

Graphic including one Ruby Slipper and text "keep them ruby"

Author(s): 
volunteer Larry Margasak
Posted Date: 
Sunday, October 23, 2016 - 11:00
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