Money and the military: How numismatics aided and affected war efforts

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.

For your Easter bonnet: Silk ribbons

"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.

While the Ruby Slippers step out, two swashbuckling props step in

"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.

Our brewing historian hits the road—and you can follow along on Twitter

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!

Pure Cotton with a Berry on Top: The Legacies of Chuck Berry and James Cotton

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.  

4 favorite pieces of adaptive winter sports gear

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!

Clifford the Big Red Dog at the Smithsonian

When Scholastic first published Clifford the Big Red Dog in 1963, the book's creator, Norman Bridwell (1928–2014), had no idea his humongous—and huggable—red hound would capture the hearts of children and grow to become a worldwide symbol of children's literacy. Following Bridwell's death, his family generously donated over 90 objects related to Clifford to the Division of Home and Community Life's Education Collection, which chronicles the history of education in the United States from the colonial era to the present day.

Block prints by African American women artists and friends: Margaret Taylor Burroughs and Elizabeth Catlett

Did you ever cut a linoleum block in art class? While rolls of linoleum were used for floor covering from the 1860s, artists only began to use the material about 1910. Pieces of linoleum, sometimes mounted on wood blocks, were quick to cut and offered a readily available material for making bold lines for prints. The material took on a useful role in art education, and many students from the 1930s to today first learned about printmaking from cutting and inking linoleum blocks, also called linocuts.

How (not) to teach with drama

For nearly a decade, the museum has used theater as a means of enlivening the visitor experience and engaging the public in dialogue on challenging topics in history.

Pi Day: An American celebration

Many Americans write dates in numerical form, with the first digits for the month, the second for the day of the month, and the third for the year. The notation 3/14/15, for example, represents March 14, 2015. When dates are written in this manner, the digits can be compared to those of the irrational number π (spelled in English "pi"), the ratio of the circumference to the diameter of a circle. This number is roughly 3, more precisely 3.14, and more precisely still 3.1415.