Secretary Joseph Henry Theater Program

April 25, 2012

More than 166 years after the advent of his tenure, the Smithsonian Institution’s first Secretary Joseph Henry is back on the National Mall, greeting visitors to the National Museum of American History. The museum is featuring an interactive Joseph Henry theater program for the public, five days a week, through Sept. 30. This program aims to introduce the first Secretary to visitors through conversations about science and the Smithsonian, as well as through personal interactions with the man acknowledged as the inventor of the electric motor and the father of daily weather forecasts.

Renowned for his sense of innovation and exploration, Henry was chosen as the Institution’s first secretary because of his distinguished reputation as a professor and scientist. Played by actor Dwane Starlin, Henry helps to tell the story of the Smithsonian’s vast legacy as a research institution. The character’s speeches are based upon Henry’s original writings.

“This program allows us to foster conversation about important issues regarding science, history and education that are still very relevant today,” said the museum’s Interim Director Marc Pachter.

Most visitors encounter Henry as a statue in front of the Smithsonian Castle building, so the theater program helps to breathe new life into the historic figure. Starlin, appropriately dressed in 19th century fashion, greets visitors to the museum most days at noon and 2:30 p.m. and invites them to participate in the interactive program, “Joseph Henry’s Weather Service,” in which Henry gathers weather data from participants to accurately predict the forecast in Washington, D.C., for that day. This summer, museum visitors can play 19th century croquet with Henry on the Mall and take part in an additional program based on the Secretary’s pioneering research in electromagnetism. Visitors may currently view the original 1831 Henry “Yale” Magnet at the entrance to the “Lighting a Revolution” exhibit.

To learn about the museum’s other theater programs, visit the calendar and events page. Funding for the Joseph Henry theater program is made possible through the generous support of Goldman Sachs Gives and the Lounsbery Foundation.

The National Museum of American History collects, preserves and displays American heritage in the areas of social, political, cultural, scientific and military history. To learn more about the museum, visit For Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000, (202) 633-5285 (TTY).