Recounts the origins, fabrication, and varied meanings of Infinity, the sculpture created for the museum in 1967 by Jose de Rivera.
The list of selected staff publications may be searched by keyword or author and can be sorted by year.
Surveys the process undertaken to collect museum objects from the Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, what was collected, and the rationale behind their selection.
Chronicles the rise of the elephant ivory industry from Byzantine craft shops to 20th-century American comb, billiard
ball, and piano key factories.
State-by-state entries list and describe industrial tourism sites, industrial museums, and historic factories
throughout the fifty states.
Recounts the author's rehabilitation of the packaging collection at the Landor Museum of Packaging Antiquities in San
Uses the only surviving piano key bleach house to describe and illustrate the stages of manufacture from elephant tusks to finished piano keys, 1800–1950.
Compares the manufacturing processes of the Zildjian and Sabian cymbal factories, focusing on a family metallurgical secret dating from the 17th century.
Reviews the history of the British prison treadmill and treadwheel, and explores its uneven introduction into the early American penal system in the 1820s.
Examines the rise of early American foot-powered machinery in the woodworking and metalcutting industries, speculating
on the transferability of such innovation to the modern developing world.
Uses two sets of NMAH artifacts (coffins and ritual animal-killing knives) to compare and contrast Orthodox Jewish
approaches toward cleanliness, pain, life, and death.
Encapsulates several years of work in the Republic of Guyana studying, repairing, and recording 19th-century tower clocks and bells. Addresses Guyanese perceptions of public timekeeping and time consciousness.
The American electrical scientist and inventor Charles G. Page and the Boston maker of didactic electromagnetic instruments Daniel Davis had a close working relationship for several years, beginning apparently in 1838. Davis made, sold, and described in his catalogues Page's inventions, often before Page himself published them in the scientific press, while Page benefited from Davis's mechanical skill and workshop facilities in the construction and testing of his new instruments.
An extensive and rich collection of demonstration apparatus, stage decorations, posters, handbills, and letters, acquired by NMAH, yields a detailed picture of the life and struggles of a minimally educated, but enthusiastic and hard-working, showman who traveled about the rural villages of upstate New York in the 1840s and 1850s, lecturing on electricity, astronomy, and other subjects. The collection and what it reveals about Came is important because very little is known about such rural lecturers and what they told and showed to their audiences.
A broadside dated Providence, R.I., 1793 shows that Greenwood was giving a lecture on electricity, with demonstrations, that followed a tradition for such lectures already half a century old in America at that time.
Before the development and widespread availability of convenient light sources operated by electricity, the sun was the best illuminant for optical experiments that required strong light. To provide a stationary beam of sunlight,
physicists in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries invented a number of instruments that used clockwork mechanisms to move a mirror to compensate for the sun's apparent movement. The ingenuity and variety of principles embodied in these "heliostats" reveal how important the problem was considered to be.
Henry constructed in 1830 the strongest electromagnet in the world; the principles he discovered in the process led him on to devise an electric motor. His spectacular magnets launched his scientific career, but in the case of his motor, his reluctance to be involved in non-scientific applications of his discoveries battled in his psyche with his need for credit and recognition, leading to a curious ambivalence.
Instruments that used a spinning coil to generate an electric current by means of the earth's magnetic field, and to measure the angle of "dip" of that field, were developed soon after the discovery of electomagnetic induction, but were used for a variety of purposes and took on a multiplicity of forms. In general, the early ones were didactic and non-quantitative; later came more elaborate designs that could yield precise numerical data for geomagnetic research.
CD recording of three string orchestra works from around the turn of the twentieth century, performed by an ensemble on instruments strung with gut strings and played in a period-appropriate manner. The differences between this historically-informed approach, based in part on the recordings and scores of work of Willem Mengelberg, Mahler’s principle champion from 1904 to 1940 and modern practices, are discussed in Slowik’s accompanying essay. The disk includes brief excerpts from two historical recordings of the Adagietto (one by Mengelberg, one by Bruno Walter), and a reading of Schoenberg’s program notes for Verklärte Nacht read by Richard Hoffmann, the composer’s secretary during the last three years of his life in Los Angeles.
CD recording of four important string orchestra works from the half-century before the end of the Second World War, performed by an ensemble whose instruments are strung with gut strings, played in a period-appropriate manner. The differences between this historically informed approach and modern practices are highlighted in Slowik’s accompanying essay, which also discusses the works and provides analytical insights, illustrated in special additional tracks on the CD, into the harmonic/motivic metamorphoses referred to in the Strauss title.
CD recording of Bach’s dramatic narrative of the Passion According to St. John, played on period instruments and sung by a 12-voice chorus of soloists. The two discs can be programmed to allow listeners to compare the standard version of the work with the version Bach re-wrote for a 1725 performance. Slowik’s extensive accompanying essay has been cited as among the best of its kind for the detailed introduction it provides to the work’s history and structure.
The first period-instrument CD recording of the complete Beethoven piano trios, played by the Smithsonian Chamber Music Society’s Castle Trio. The Trio’s Grammy Award-winning pianist Lambert Orkis uses five different fortepianos, illustrating the rapid development of the instrument during Beethoven’s lifetime, including one made by Conrad Graf (maker of Beethoven’s last piano) now in the Smithsonian collection. Slowik’s accompanying essays discuss the music, the instruments, and the Castle Trio’s approach to the works, which was influenced by Beethoven pupil Carl Czerny’s treatise, "On the Proper Performance of Beethoven’s Works for the Pianoforte."
CD recording of two important works by the German Romantic violinist and composer Louis Spohr, played on eight Stradivarius instruments, including the Ole Bull and Greffuhle violins, the Axelrod viola, and the Servais and Marylebone cellos from the Smithsonian collection. Slowik’s accompanying essay discusses the works, including reflections on Brahm's debt to Spohr’s Sextet.
CD recording of the great cello quintet of Schubert, played on five Stradivarius instruments, including the Ole Bull and Greffuhle violins, the Axelrod viola, and the Servais and Marylebone cellos from the Smithsonian collection. Slowik’s cello colleague is the legendary Dutch cellist, Anner Bylsma, who is joined by his L’Archibudelli colleague violinist Vera Beths, soloists in the recording of the Schubert Rondo for solo violin and strings that rounds out this CD.
CD recording, played on eight Stradivarius instruments from the collections of the Smithsonian and the Library of Congress (including the Smithsonian’s Ole Bull and Greffuhle violins, the Axelrod viola, and the Servais and Marylebone cellos), of Felix Mendelssohn’s Octet, arguably the most important work of its kind in the string repertoire, paired with his pupil Neils Gade’s similarly scored but little-known masterpiece. John Newsom, Chief of the Music Division of the Library of Congress, where Mendelssohn’s autograph score to the Octet resides, has contributed an accompanying essay discussing the works.
CD recording of two great middle-period Haydn string quartets, played on period instruments by the Smithson String Quartet—Jaap Schroeder and Marilyn McDonald, violins; Judson Griffin, viola; and Kenneth Slowik, cello—resident artists of the Smithsonian Chamber Music Society from 1982–1991. Slowik’s accompanying essay discusses the works and their dedicatee, Johann Tost.