10 blog posts from 2016 that history buffs can't miss

2016 was a stupendous year for the museum's blog! Many thanks to the staff, volunteers, interns, and guest writers who shared their research and expertise with us on topics ranging from an epic 1888 blizzard to a British-American television series about historical time travel. But we want to offer a special thanks to YOU, reader, for making our blog part of your week and sharing these stories with your friends and colleagues.

One of your favorite topics this year was food history so I've made a separate list of the top food history posts of 2016 for you to nibble upon. (I'll publish that one soon!) Read on for some can't-miss history posts from our blog.

A handwritten note hastily scrawled on a large rectangular yellow Post-it

1. Why did the Smithsonian collect a handwritten note from September 11, 2001?
We recently collected a handwritten note from a wife to her husband on September 11, 2001. Both were Pentagon employees who survived the terrorist attack, and in an era in which cell phones were yet to be essential possessions, a system of putting a note on their car in an emergency reunited them on a tragic day. The story of this unassuming scrap of paper received over 64,480 pageviews in just a few months.

young man wearing a jacket and a kilt seated upon a desk or similar furniture

2. Finding Outlander in the Photographic History Collections
Fans of the world of Outlander, with strapping Jamie and sharp-witted sassenach Claire, loved our post of photos which included views of Scotland and fashions that traveled from the Highlands to America. We definitely "ken" why this one was such a favorite.

Tinted black and white photo featuring a bride with veil, three or four groomsmen, and three bridesmaids. They are outdoors with leafy green trees and green grass. Behind them, a woman stands with arms crossed and cars are parked.

3. Pick which photos of celebrations in African American life should go on our walls
Celebrations of all kinds are on display in this touching post, featuring special moments and traditions in American culture. Inviting the public to decide the winners, we presented a number of colorful, thoughtful, and vibrant photos from African American life for consideration. Who won? We revealed the winners here.

Color photo of a woman carefully handling a Ruby Slipper and placing it into a brace or mount for display.

4. The conservator who is saving the Ruby Slippers' sparkle

Our supremely successful Kickstarter campaign raised the necessary funds to study and conserve the famed Ruby Slippers from The Wizard of Oz so they can stay on display for generations to come. In this post, we sit down with Dawn Wallace, a member of the conservation team that will painstakingly research and work on one of the most popular objects at the museum. Want more details about why the slippers need conservation or our Kickstarter campaign? Find your answers here.

Color photo of lots of red poppies growing in front of the Washington Memorial. Blue skies and green trees surround.

5. Before Memorial Day, brush up on your language of flowers

Flowers and the military might seem like an odd pairing, but symbolism behind certain blooms has historical significance. "Floriography" (the language of flowers) was prevalent in the Victorian Era, but wearing red poppies is a tradition that has endured to contemporary times.

Black and white photo of man wearing a hat leaning against a giant bank of snow. To the right, snow-covered gate or fence and three story building.

6. The blizzard of 1888

Snowmaggedon of 2016 bogged down the mid-Atlantic states with foot after foot of snow, but imagine a storm in a time without snow plows when people had no choice but to cope. Wowed by several feet of snow? Try New York in 1888, which suffered under STORIES. History shows that nature can be a powerful and fearsome thing.

Photo two nuns walk with a line of students. The girls, at the front of the line, wear white dresses and have headbands on. The boys, in the back of the line, wear blue suits. They're on a sidewalk outside a building.

7. A uniform approach to documenting Catholic school education

Did you go to Catholic school? Did you wear a uniform? The uniforms of the early days of parochial school were not the crisp khakis, navy skirts, and white blouses we see today. While school attire may chafe at the sensibilities of individualistic youth, the history of parochial school uniforms is not at all bland.

Postcard with photo of two young children wearing ballet shoes. Little boy holds top hat in his raised hand and an over-sized coat. The little girl strikes a pose with a fancy fan and wears a full-skirted tea length dress and a hat with many bows.

8. Who takes the cake? The history of the cakewalk

A distinctly African American product, the circular group "cake walk" dance originated with enslaved people, who sometimes used the activity to mock the culture of their masters. Who got the joke and who didn't? This blog post reveals the cake walk was way more than a simple promenade dance with a pastry for a prize.

A caricature of Jefferson Davis stands bawling with text, "Jeff, on Harper's Ferry. I should think I might be let alone. Boo-oo-oh"

9. 4 fascinating examples of Civil War humor

Americans have always been able to find humor in situations that seem devoid of hope. The Civil War, one of the darkest periods in national history, still had humorous propaganda, cartoons, and art skewering Confederate leaders and military men.

A full-length photo of the sewing machine. It looks like a box with painted doors featuring images of a man and woman. The top is open to show the sewing needle.

10. Yes, Mrs. Tom Thumb had a sewing machine

Fascination with celebrities is a cornerstone of American popular culture and public life, with individuals and families becoming wealthy and famous through voracious self-promotion, scandal, and entrepreneurship. A celebrity of yesteryear called Tom Thumb had a celebrity wedding that rivaled the glitzy movie star extravaganzas we see in tabloids today. Mr. and Mrs. Thumb captured national attention because of their size as well as the Thumbs' work with P.T. Barnum.

Rebecca Seel works with the Office of Communication and Marketing as well as the New Media Department. She would love to be in a wedding where she wears "a bright pink bridesmaids dress" like the one in this blog post.