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Smithsonian Traveling Exhibits
Washington, DC
We're the largest traveling exhibition service in the world!
Interests: Everything! Art, history, science, natural history, cultural studies, American history and world history.
Recent Activity
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Yesterday, I wandered down to the inaugural events at the Smithsonian's annual Folklife Festival, greeted by lively crowds and nearly 100 drummers, all dressed in brilliant white shirts. The musicians sat tall on their box-shaped drums, legs spread across the sides in order to slap the meaty front panel of the instruments. I later learned that these wooden drums are called cajóns and were of African origin. It's believed that this style of percussion instrument arrived in Peru with enslaved peoples from West and Central Africa as early as the 16th century. Generations later, the cajón is a staple in... Continue reading
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By Guest author JOHN P. EVANS III FEDERALSBURG, MD. -- When the Smithsonian exhibition Hometown Teams: How Sports Shape America came to Federalsburg, Maryland, for seven weeks during April and May, the local historical society’s heritage museum took it as an opportunity to promote its own sports history, asking the town’s residents to come forward with their own momentos and memories of how sports had shaped the town of just over 2,000 people on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Through the efforts of the Maryland Humanities Council, the Federalsburg Area Heritage Museum was one of only five locales in Maryland selected to... Continue reading
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Lights, Camera, Action! Thanks to a grant from the Smithsonian Institution, more than 250 5th graders from Belton Elementary, Honea Path Elementary and Wright Elementary schools in South Carolina have become documentary filmmakers as part of the Museum on Main Street exhibition Hometown Teams: How Sports Shape America. These students have been hard at work researching the history of local sports, diving into the collection of The Belton Area Museum Association for photographs and historic documents related to, among other topics, water sports at Broadway Lake, integration of local sports teams, Mill Baseball teams, and high school state championships. Local... Continue reading
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We're giving folks direct access to curators around the Smithsonian and beyond on our Twitter channel @sitesExhibits. Log in on these dates to talk to experts on traveling exhibition content. June 4: Kate Fox talks about Patios and Pools in conjunction with upcoming opening of the exhibition at the Tampa Bay History Center and National Garden Week (June 7-13). Cynthia Brown, horticulturalist with Smithosonian Gardens, will be on hand as well to answer questions about plantings. July 1: Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation's Dr. Masum Momaya talks about the traveling exhibition, now on view at the Morris Museum... Continue reading
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In the immortal words of the 1995 jam by Montell Jordan, "This is How Do It," or if you prefer a more up-to-date musical reference, let's channel Katy Perry's 2014 "This is How We Do." In any case, this is how we do Earth Day at SITES. First, there's Green Revolution, our eco-zibit that encourages visitors to think about energy consumption, conservation, and greening up their own lives. The great thing about this exhibition is that it actually practices what it preaches. All of the content affiliated with this traveling show is transmitted digitally--no trucks, no panels, no plastic packing.... Continue reading
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In honor of the first annual National Math Festival 2015 and math nuts everywhere, we decided to test YOU with the kinds of problems that our team of museum experts frequently encounter. (Yes, people in museums DO math!) The question is . . . can YOU get the right answers to these museum math scenarios? Challenge 1: Cheryl and Ruth (our registrars) are making plans with an art shipper to move artifacts in our traveling exhibition "He-man and the Masters of the Universe" (not real). There are 10 venues on the tour. The first eight venues are approximately 610 miles... Continue reading
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It's finally spring--time to ponder the sites and sounds of rebirth. From April 2-5, the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History is exploring facts about the different eggs in nature and egg-related objects in the museum's collection. Yes, it's officially #Eggcellent. From our end, we thought we'd throw in a bit of information about the animals that feature prominently in our traveling exhibitions. First, let's talk about ANTS! The queen starts by laying eggs, sometimes tens of thousands of them a day. After several weeks, the eggs become larvae which are tended and nurtured by the home colony. The worm-like... Continue reading
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Most of us didn't really know what to expect. We only knew we were tasked with putting together a monster--not your average museum assignment. I was lucky enough to be in the weeds as the Smithsonian's facilities team, SITES former project director Jennifer Bine, and our registrars, Cheryl Washer, Ruth Trevarrow, Viki Possoff, and Juana Shadid assembled the 48-foot Titanoboa at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. Even before the crew heaved Titanoboa out of those crates, I was quietly amazed by the texture and coloration of the serpent's scales--so supple that they seemed to glisten with rain forest... Continue reading
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We all have stories about travel, trips, migration, and movement. No matter what our backgrounds, each of us has a powerful journey story deep in our personal history. It may be a story of a family uprooting itself in order to stay together, or sons and daughters moving to another land, or a distant, unknown ancestor. Americans have always been intensely mobile, and we still are. Farmers, mechanics, entrepreneurs, immigrants, and slaves--all on the move--have built American society over four centuries. Travel over roads, rails, rivers, and trails has shaped the American cultural and economic landscape. These are the tales... Continue reading
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Yes, we're right there with you. Cabin fever has set in, and we're all looking forward to the first signs of spring--still fairly far off for most of us! Never fear, museums make great cold-weather destinations! But, if you can't get out of the driveway or down the sidewalk, there are MANY "museum-y" activities accessible via the keyboard. Believe it or not, museums DO digital pretty well. Check out these great ideas for keeping your brain active this season and fighting cabin fever! Plan to visit a SITES or MoMS exhibition: http://www.sites.si.edu/visit/index2.htm Listen to Stories from Main Street or add... Continue reading
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It was 1970 when Andrea Stevens became a staffer at the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service. "I was really fortunate (as most Baby Boomers have been) to have joined SITES at the right time," she mused. "These were the early museum days when no one had a specialty and anyone could learn one. I was hired as the registrar, right out of college, based on my typing and telephone skills. We had a copy machine that 'burned' a single page at a time in a plastic carrier, rotary telephones, a telegram printer, and selectric typewriters with carbon paper sets." Hit... Continue reading
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So we've fabricated the exhibition. Rebel, Jedi, Princess, Queen: Star WarsTM and the Power of Costume is ready for galactic launch at the EMP Museum in Seattle on January 31, 2015. But for months, we'd been wondering how to corral and steer our conversations about the exhibition on social media. And, so the quest to invent the perfect hashtag for this exhibition was born. Queue the team meeting. "How about #inagalaxySEWfaraway or #darthcool?" one staffer declared. "What about #jedicool or #padmescloset?" another mused. Round and round we went, but each hashtag lacked that Star Wars je ne sais quoi, not... Continue reading
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Yale University’s Peabody Museum of Natural History opened the SITES exhibition Farmers, Builders, Warriors: The Hidden Life of Ants with gusto and creativity this fall. A family festival featured scavenger hunts, puppet shows, hat-making, ant-featured games, and snacks of ants and crickets, both raw and chocolate-coated. Visitors also played with a robotic ant that Yale engineering undergraduates created to help children learn how ants use chemical communication — and not eyesight — to navigate their environments. The museum has developed an hour-long program for local students to teach basic topics in evolutionary biology, such as adaptations and social behavior of... Continue reading
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We all know the classic rhyme "In fourteen hundred ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue." But for many of us, our knowledge of Columbus falters after that. Here are a few facts to build your Columbus acumen. 1. Columbus made four trips to the Americas. 2. Money was tight. Columbus had to "shop around" for someone to finance his grand expedition to find the "Orient." Before landing a backer in Queen Isabella of Castile, he made requests to King John II of Portugal and Henry II of England. 3. It's likely that Columbus first landed on Watling Island in the... Continue reading
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SITES’ Museum on Main Street (MoMS) program is turning 20! It’s hard to believe that it’s been two decades since the Smithsonian and state humanities councils joined forces to create exhibitions specifically designed to serve the needs of small and rural museums and cultural organizations. After 20 years of grand openings, incredible local exhibitions, challenging discussions on timely topics, tens of thousands of student visits, and more volunteer hours that we can count, MoMS remains committed to its core purpose—helping museums in small communities focus attention on their local history and culture. MoMS does this by combining Smithsonian exhibitions with... Continue reading
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Learn from the masters. That's what artists do. Young or old, seasoned creators or complete beginners, people look to past masterpieces to understand and often replicate the style of great works of art. That's the scenario that played out at the Georgia Museum of Art as they wrapped up their showing of Women, Art, and Social Change: The Newcomb Pottery Enterprise. More than 180 works--ranging from pottery to jewelry to textiles and made by a new class of emerging female artisans in the post-Civil War South--are included in the Smithsonian's traveling exhibition. One of those works became the inspiration for... Continue reading
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Recently, we received a question on Twitter about our processes for insuring the safety of objects as they prepare for shipment. The answer to that is multifacted, but one thing we do is to have expert registrars travel with some of our exhibitions, helping to install or pack up each artifact, panel, and label. Here's a sort of "day in the life" of our registrars Josie and Cheryl as they arrive to crate up Smithsonian traveling exhibitions. Day 1: Deinstalltion of Women, Art, and Social Change: The Newcomb Pottery Enterprise. Packed the large framed works; put text panels in trays... Continue reading
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Every year, when the majority of our summer interns go back to the classroom or jump head first into the real-world, we repeat the same mantra. "Interns rock." They just do. How else could museums accomplish mind-blowing cultural feats? Answer: Not without them. The work of dedicated volunteers and interns--who invest months of their lives into singular, "accomplishable" tasks--is critical. Whether it's clearing image rights, collaborating with partner museums, or developing thoughtful research, the work that comes from our interns is top notch. Here's a shout out to our summer class of 2014, cast as the superheroes they are! Gwen... Continue reading
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In celebration of our upcoming traveling exhibition What's Up, Doc? The Animation Art of Chuck Jones, we're exploring what makes Jones' cartoons so engaging and so darn funny. Aside from the amazing animation, precision timing, and incredible musical scores, the unresolved conflicts between eternally dueling antagonists are at the core of the comic experience, right? In other words, Bugs Bunny is always outwitting his opponents, which include Elmer Fudd, Daffy Duck, and Yosemite Sam. And the hungry cat Sylvester is never able to catch the elusive Tweety Bird. Then, there's Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote (poor fellow). In 1949,... Continue reading
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He looks spry enough, but your old friend Bugs Bunny is over the hill. The beloved cartoon rabbit, made famous by artist and animator Chuck Jones, is in his seventies! We set out to discover what this iconic character's "bunnyhood" was like: 1938: Warner Bros. director Ben “Bugs” Hardaway created a rabbit character for the film Porky’s Hare Hunt. 1939: For Bugs’s next appearance, in Hare-um Scare-um, character designer Charles Thorson made a model sheet and referred to the rabbit as “Bug’s Bunny.” This bunny was screwball, antic, and cute. Two of Chuck Jones’s early cartoons, Prest-O Change-O and Elmer’s... Continue reading
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From current political leaders and entertainers to the popularity of hot yoga and curry food trucks, the Indian American influence on our country can be seen everywhere. Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation, developed in created in collaboration with the Smithsonian's Asian Pacific American Center, explores the surprisingly long history of Indian immigration to the U.S. and the community's political, professional, and cultural contributions to our society. From struggles for civil rights to today's leaders in medicine, science and technology, Beyond Bollywood documents the heritage, diverse contributions and daily experiences of Indian immigrants and their descendants. Featuring a traveling... Continue reading
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In the first exhibition of its kind, the Smithsonian celebrates Asian Pacific American history across a multitude of incredibly diverse cultures, and explores how Asian Pacific Americans (APAs) have shaped and been shaped by the course of our nation’s history. I Want the Wide American Earth, created by SITES and the Smithsonian's Asian Pacific Amerian Center, is as much a chronicle of the struggles of APAs as it is a story of their resilience and achievement. The exhibition carries the narrative to the present day and celebrates APA individuals and communities that continue to flourish and contribute to every arena... Continue reading
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Each year the Institute for Museum and Library Service bestows the National Medal, the nation’s highest honor for museums and libraries, to a select group of organizations for outstanding service to their communities. You can see the full list of finalists here, but we especially wanted to commend the past and current SITES exhibitors listed below. Collectively, they have hosted a dozen SITES exhibits since 2001. (The Mattatuck Museum in Waterbury, Conn. hosts its first exhibit from SITES’ Museum on Main Street program this summer, June 21 – August 3, 2014.) Mattatuck Museum, Waterbury, Connecticut Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, Chicago... Continue reading
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Since Titanoboa: Monster Snake slithered into the Elephant Hall at the University of Nebraska State Museum-Lincoln in February, the stunning 48-foot long scale replica of the prehistoric predator has fascinated visitors and delighted the museum staff with monster loads of media coverage and record-breaking attendance numbers. Over 1,200 people viewed the exhibit on opening day alone. The next day brought a line out the door and around the building for those attending the “Sunday with a Scientist-Titanoboa” program led by Dr. Jason Head, Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology and part of the team that made the once-in-a-lifetime discovery of Titanoboa cerrejonesis.... Continue reading
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One of the most common questions we’re asked by a new host venue is “How do I get started?” Whether you are a first-time SITES exhibitor, or it’s been a while since you’ve hosted one of our shows, here are a few tips to make the process a lot easier: Book early. Most exhibitors book at least 1-2 years in advance; for art exhibits, at least 2- 3 years in advance. Stay ahead of the game and secure the show you want (for the time period you want it) by visiting our website often, signing up for our monthly E-newsletter... Continue reading