Posts Tagged ‘smithsonian’

American History Museum Announces Extended Holiday Hours

Are you, like me, going to be kicking around DC over the next couple of holiday-filled weeks and looking for something to do?  Well, the Smithsonian is here for you, my friend!  You can take the opportunity to visit Tai Shan before he has to go, or the new(-ish) Sant Ocean Hall.  Best of all, the National Museum of American History will be offering extended holiday hours this year.

  • Dec. 26-30 and Jan. 2, close at 7:30 p.m.; Dec. 31 and Jan. 1, close at 5:30 p.m

America’s favorite collection of free museums will be closed on Christmas Day, but is open the other 364 days of the year.

Star Spangled Banner_Moving Light Table courtesy flickr user catface3

Star Spangled Banner_Moving Light Table courtesy flickr user catface3

Hope Diamond Gets A Facelift

A girls best friend?

A girl's best friend? (wikimedia)

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, as you probably know, is the home of the infamous Hope Diamond.  This huge, beautiful  blue diamond came into the museum’s possession in 1958, after it was donated by Harry Winston, Inc.  It’s famous for its size (45.52 carats), its color (“fancy dark grayish-blue”), and its “curse”.

But now, the Smithsonian wants to jazz things up a bit.  They are planning to put the diamond in a brand-new setting, one of three possibilities designed by the aforementioned Winston jewellers.  Which one?  Well, that depends on you!  You can vote for your favorite of the three settings,  on the Smithsonian Channel website.

The good news is, that while the winning setting is being made, the diamond will be shown on its own, outside of any setting.  According to the museum, it’s never been publicly shown that way before.  Cool!

The bad news is, we’ve only got three settings to choose from, and to my eye none of them are really a “Dynasty was cancelled in 1989, so vote for this elegant new classic” version.  What do you think, DC?  Am I too conservative?

So, click on over and vote for your favorite, before the deadline on Monday, September 7!  Then plan your visits to the museum to see the Hope Diamond has been up till now, as it is by itself, and as it will be, in its new setting.  (I hear there are cool dinosaurs and some recent ocean-related thingy over there, too.)

Daily DC Item: Celebs Return To DC For Night At The Museum

If you are already down from the celebrity high that was caused with the past weekend’s White House Correspondent’s Dinner, then you can get another celeb fix tonight.

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, will be premiering at (where else) the Air and Space museum tonight and if you take a look at the cast, you know there will be an A-list on the red carpet.

The Going Out Gurus suggest waiting on the Jefferson Drive side of the museum if you want to gawk, scream, and beg for autographs. Guru Jen Chaney says don’t expect arrivals til 6:30 but you’ll want to get there by at least 5 if you want the chance to say hi to Amy Adams, or maybe you’ll get lucky and Ricky Gervais will accidentally sneeze on you.


Smithsonian Offers Extended Summer Hours

SS-20 on display at NASM*

SS-20 at NASM*

The three most popular museums on the Mall are now open from 10:00 AM through 7:30 PM daily (except when there’s a special event scheduled).  Hours apply at the National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of American History, and the National Museum of Natural History until Labor day!  If you, like me, have still not been to visit the newfangled Star-Spangled Banner exhibit, or the Einstein Planetarium, or the new Ocean Hall, because you’re just too tired after a hard week’s work to fight the crowds on the weekend – now is your chance!

I have taken full advantage of the later hours (11:30 AM – 7:00 PM daily) at the National Portrait Gallery/American Art Museum on 8th Street.  It’s thisclose to my Metro stop, Gallery Place, so I visit quite often in the winter when I commute on the bus and train.  In the summer, I bike commute, and my ride takes me down the Mall past the three biggies each workday.  Now, when I’m overcome by the urge to visit the SS20 missile at the Air and Space Museum, I’ll be able to stop in on the way home.

So, DC, take advantage of your free museums, and if you’ve got any touristy visitors coming this summer, be sure to let them know!

*photo by flickr user ptufts, used under a Creative Commons license

Preview: American History Museum

In three days the National Museum of American History reopens to the general public. I was fortunate to tour the renovated building yesterday.

The first thing I notice as I step through the Mall entrance of the American History Museum is how light it is. A skylight brightens the three story atrium and the artifacts, like a home computer circa 1985, that line the walls in 10 ft. cases. A grand staircase constructed of metal and glass connects the first and second floors.

As I walk into the Selin Welcome Center, videos preview some of the events and special exhibits on the four flat screens as helpful volunteers provide maps and membership information.


Mark your calendar: American History Museum Reopens November 21

Each time I volunteer at the Smithsonian, someone will inevitably ask, “Where are Dorothy’s slippers?” and “Where can I see the first ladies’ gowns?”. On November 21, the Smithsonian Institution will kick off a three-day festival to celebrate the reopening of the National Museum of American History.

The first 1,814 visitors through the museum doors will receive a special gift in honor of 1814, the year of the Battle of Baltimore when the Star-Spangled Banner waving at “dawn’s early light” inspired Francis Scott Key. The old favorites like the American Presidency, Julia Child’s kitchen, Muhammad Ali’s boxing gloves, and America on the move will return on display with a new state-of-the-art gallery for the Star-Spangled Banner.

The museum closed in 2006 for an extensive $85 million renovation. The new interior features a skylit atrium and a grand staircase of metal and glass that connects the first and second floors. Artifact walls on the first and second floors will showcase some of the 3 million objects in the museum’s permanent collection.

So don’t miss the official ribbon cutting and plan to drop by between 10:00 am – 7:30 pm for the festivities.

TONIGHT: Bringing the Sea to Life

Image courtesy Zandra Rhodes

Image courtesy Zandra Rhodes

Zandra Rhodes, a British fashion designer, presents “Designing an Ocean-Themed Opera: The Pearl Fisheries” tonight in the Baird Auditorium of the Museum of Natural History at 6:45 pm. This free illustrated lecture will delve into her inspiration for the production of Georges Bizet’s exotic opera. She will talk about the sets and costumes as well as the challenges of bringing the sea to stage.

A book signing will follow the lecture. Copies of “Zandra Rhodes and the Art of Textiles” will be available for purchase in the museum book store.

6:45 p.m. – lecture
7:45 p.m. – book-signing

Free and open to the public.

National Museum of Natural History
Baird Auditorium, ground level
10th and Constitution, NW
Washington, DC 20036

Made in Hong Kong

Freer Gallery of Art Originally uploaded by ultra-K

One of the things I love most about living in DC is the film festivals.

If you’re in the mood for a little Chinese before the Olympics kick off, head over to the 13th Annual Made in Hong Kong Film Festival at the Freer Gallery. Tonight’s film, “The Postmodern Life of My Aunt,” will screen in the Meyer Auditorium at 7 pm.

If you miss this showing, the movie repeats on Sunday,  August 3 at 2:00 pm.

Tickets are free, but seating is limited. Up to two tickets per person are distributed one hour before show time.

Anthropologist Explains Crystal Skull Mystery

museum of natural historyFor those of you looking for answers, tomorrow afternoon Jane MacLaren Walsh will be available to talk about the Natural History Museum’s crystal skull on temporary display in the “Science in the News” case.

At noon, the documentary “Legend of the Crystal Skulls” will screen in the Baird Auditorium on the ground level of the museum. When the lights come up, Walsh will be available for what should be a very interestinga session of questions and answers

While the event is free, seating is first come, first serve.

The crystal skull is on display in the ground level of the Natural History Museum through September 1st. The museum is open until 7:30 pm daily thru the Labor Day weekend.

Mysterious Crystal Skull Revealed

Crystal SkullIn 1992, a mysterious package was delivered to the National Museum of Natural History containing an unsigned letter and an enormous, milky crystal skull.

On display for the first time, the 31 pound Smithsonian skull dwarfs the crystal skulls on view at the British Museum in London and the Musee du Quai Branly in Paris.

Is this one of the legendary 13 Aztec skulls? Does a mystical healing energy emanate from this crystal object? Does it come from Atlantis?

Smithsonian anthropologist Jane McLaren Walsh thinks not. She began her investigation soon after the milky quartz skull arrived at the Smithsonian. She identified modern stone-carving tool marks and determined that the skull couldn’t have been carved before the mid-19th century. Instead, she believes the skull was manufactured in Mexico around 1960.

Is this really a story of New Age hype? Or could there be some truth to the skull’s mystique?

The crystal skull is on display in the ground level of the Natural History Museum through September 1st. The museum is open until 7:30 pm daily thru the Labor Day weekend. Why not head over there after work and check it out for yourself.

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