Black Wall Street on film: A story of revival and renewal

The Reverend Harold Mose Anderson was always fascinated by the movies. Anderson saved his money and bought a home movie camera from a catalog. Once he had it, he was seldom without it as he wandered the streets of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Much like a seasoned reporter, wherever he went, he always took time to load up the camera and check his film and equipment. He never knew when he might get a good shot of his community in action.

Over There: A Buffalo Soldier in World War I

Offered in celebration of Black History Month and in recognition of the 100th anniversary of America's participation in World War I, the Buffalo Soldier objects in the Division of Armed Forces History serve as a fascinating intersection of African American and World War I history.

This Galentine's Day blog post is for you. You poetic, noble land-mermaid.

On February 13, women everywhere (we hope!) will be gathering together to celebrate Galentine's Day. First introduced in 2010 by character Leslie Knope on the TV show Parks and Recreation, Galentine's Day is about "ladies celebrating ladies," be they friends, co-workers, family members, or personal heroes. What began as a fictional holiday for women to honor other women has merged into real life as more women learn about and celebrate this happy day. In honor of Galentine's Day we have chosen some of our favorite gal pals in our collections.

Help us transcribe Phyllis Diller's jokes—and enjoy some laughs along the way!

Phyllis Diller kept all of her jokes meticulously organized in her "gag file," a large card catalog with 51 drawers standing over 4 feet tall. We're giving you a chance to peek inside Diller's gag file before anyone else, to help us transcribe these pieces of American history.

A curator goes to the movies: The stuff of "Hidden Figures"

Over the past few months, I’ve read Margot Lee Shetterly’s book Hidden Figures and seen the movie with the same title. These works tell stories about the African American women who worked as human computers at Langley Field, a center for research in aeronautics and later aerospace near Hampton, Virginia. They suggest much about the place of women and African Americans in the mid-20th-century United States, the history of aeronautics and space flight, and changes in American culture—be it transportation, homes, religious organizations, or fashion.

Three questions for a brewing historian

Last summer, the National Museum of American History announced that we were hiring a brewing historian to join the team working on the American Brewing History Initiative. With its promises of research, documentation, and travel about the history of one of America's favorite beverages, the job quickly became the most sought-after Smithsonian position in America.

Macabre school supplies: 19th century dissection sets

A 19th-century medical student brought to school a number of things, including scientific texts and a hope to one day relieve the suffering of others. The student's most important school supply, however, was a dissecting set. The era's medical curricula emphasized the importance of human dissection in the training of America's young physicians because it allowed doctors to approach the body with greater scientific understanding. With a small wooden box of ivory-handled tools, an aspiring physician hoped to learn the essence of the human body beyond what text alone could teach.

Top 5 best beards of Byzantium

I have never seen my father's chin. The man has worn a beard since well before I was born, and my brother quickly followed in his tradition. The patrilineal beard is nothing new, however. It is exemplified in much of the Byzantine selection of the National Numismatic Collection. Beards of Byzantium are represented so fantastically in the empire's coinage that they become inseparable from the iconography of the coins—in other words, the beards make the emperor.

Why does the Smithsonian have objects from a fake presidency on "The West Wing?"

As the fanfare leading up to the 2017 inauguration swirls around the Smithsonian and Washington, D.C., at large, I cannot help but think about watching events such as these portrayed on television and in movies. Depictions of the presidency and the White House in popular culture are strong influences on the way Americans imagine their government. Such scenes also reflect the views of Americans across time. While The West Wing portrayed Washington, D.C., as a complicated but generally impactful place to work, other elements of popular culture depict a very different White House.

At our "Draper Spark!Lab" the sound of homemade banjos beckons

Around age eight I decided I wanted to play the violin. Fortunately, my parents had the access and money to buy a new instrument for me. But that luxury is not something everybody gets to enjoy. People don't always have access to or are able to afford store-bought instruments, so sometimes they invented their own out of everyday materials. Today, we invite kids of all ages to channel this same inventive spirit in the Draper Spark!Lab.