I recently joined the museum's staff as the David M. Rubenstein Curator of Philanthropy. I am thrilled to be here, and family and friends have been very happy for me. Turns out, though, a lot of folks don't know what the work of a curator is, nor have they encountered the history of philanthropy as a topic in a museum before.
Want to partake in the "Hobby of Kings?" Then consider becoming a numismatist—a person who collects and studies coins or paper money. The National Numismatic Collection (NNC) has launched a hands-on Numismatics Discovery Cart featuring an activity called Spot the Counterfeit to encourage more involvement with the hobby.
An appreciation for follicles and my love for the Byzantine Empire proved to be a pretty fun union for exploring the National Numismatic Collection's Byzantine holdings. But what about the coinage of the rest of the world?
For thousands of years, humanity has been fascinated by the allure of fantastical beasts and mythical creatures—so much so that many depictions of these unknown animals have been featured on coins and banknotes around the world, and their portraits have stood the test of time.
Political propaganda was integral to warfare in the ancient world. The method of mass-marketing the rulers who came in and out of power needed to be far-reaching and overt—something akin to the modern convenience of television, radio, even billboards. The farthest reaching artifact of antiquity was coinage.
"Spring is pre-eminently the season for ribbons," proclaimed The American Silk Journal in February 1900. As the official trade publication of the American Silk Association, the Journal encouraged the use of ribbons in clothing and accessories to supplement the industry's sales of "tying-up”" ribbons and bows. Ribbons were relatively inexpensive and could be easily changed or added to update a hat or garment.
"I'm sorry. The Ruby Slippers aren't on display right now."
It's something that we here at the museum are preparing ourselves to have to say to the many visitors who come every year seeking the famous shoes from the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. We're bracing ourselves to be the bearers of bad news, but we know that it's all for a good cause.
Embarking on a research trip is always an exciting time for a historian, but this trip is especially important to me because it's the first one I'm making as brewing historian for the Smithsonian's Brewing History Initiative. I'll be on the road in northern California conducting oral histories with brewers, touring their operations, and delving into storage rooms to identify objects for possible future collection. And you can come along with me!
Only a few days after the passing of James Cotton, one of the country's greatest blues harmonica players, we lost one of our greatest songwriters, Chuck Berry. They represent two of a small cadre of artists who in the 1950s electrified the country's musical imagination.
One of the best parts of my job as a curator at the museum is to develop exhibitions. To come up with an idea, collect objects, and write the script in order to tell a story that is important not only to me but to the donors, museum staff, and the public is one of the most rewarding aspects of museum work. I am happy to have helped create a new exhibition on adaptive sports titled Everyone Plays!