Smithsonian

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When Scientists Get Accidentally Artsy

A new exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History lies right at the intersection of art and science, showcasing the inherent beauty of skeletons — that is, fish skeletons.

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Someone Left A Noose Inside The African American History Museum In DC
"It's clearly a message to the museum," a Smithsonian spokesperson said.
By David Mack

Visitors were removed from a section of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC, on Wednesday after a noose was found on the floor of one of the rooms, Smithsonian officials said.

It’s the second time this week a noose has been discovered on the grounds of a Smithsonian museum.

The rope was found Wednesday by a tourist inside one of the museum’s three history galleries, the Era of Segregation 1786-1968, Smithsonian spokeswoman Linda St. Thomas told BuzzFeed News.

“It was rather a small rope thing and not something that would set off the magnetometers,” she said.

“Park Police removed it and we reopened the gallery about an hour later,” she said.

Smithsonian Secretary David Skorton informed staffers of the discovery via email on Wednesday afternoon, calling it “deeply disturbing news.” A copy of the email was obtained by BuzzFeed News.

“The Smithsonian family stands together in condemning this act of hatred and intolerance, especially repugnant in a museum that affirms and celebrates the American values of inclusion and diversity. We will not be intimidated,” he wrote.

Nooses are often used to intimidate African Americans, evoking an era of lynching and subjugation.

smithsoniannmnh When calcium leached out from this scallop some 40 million years ago, it formed a halo that solidified the sediment around it. Unearthed in Washington state, the specimen now resides in our research collections. Happy #FossilFridayfrom our Department of Paleobiology and @SIxDIGI, who are well on their way to digitizing #1MillionFossils!

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     Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia, offers the unique sight of a complete Mercury spacecraft. Many of these spacecraft are available for viewing all over the United States, but this one is special because it did not fly.

     During the course of a Mercury flight, several parts of the spacecraft are jettisoned and not recovered, including the retro package. This piece of equipment is visible here in my photos as the striped metal object strapped to the bottom of the heat shield. This small cluster of solid rocket motors was responsible for the safe return of the astronaut from space, making just enough thrust to change the shape of the orbit so that it would meet the atmosphere and use aerobraking for a ballistic reentry.

     If this package had not fired properly, the astronaut would be faced with the dire situation of being stuck in orbit. Fortunately, this never happened in real life, but it was captured in the fanciful novel “Marooned” by Martin Cardin, in which a NASA astronaut was stranded on orbit after his retro rockets failed. When the book was released in 1964, it was so influential that it actually changed procedures for Mercury’s follow on program Project Gemini, adding more redundancy to the spacecraft’s reentry flight profile.

     Alan Shepard, the first American in space and later Apollo 14 moonwalker, didn’t fail to notice that there was a leftover spacecraft at the end of the Mercury program. He lobbied for a second Mercury flight in this ship, speaking personally to both NASA Administrator James Webb and President John Kennedy about this flight. He told them his idea of an “open ended” mission in which they would keep him in orbit indefinitely until there was a malfunction or consumables began to run out. Webb stated (and Kennedy agreed) that it was more important to shelve the Mercury spacecraft in order to jump start the more capable Gemini Program. Thus, we now have this whole Mercury on display for future generations to appreciate.

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smithsonianzoo 🐣Our kiwi chick at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute is 2 weeks old! She is eating a mixture of meat, fruit and vegetables. Kiwi chick look like adults when they hatch, but are not fully grown until they are about 18 months old. 

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Hello, all my lovely followers! Long time no see! Sorry for the prolonged lack of original posts, but I’ve been crazy busy at my new job as Library Technician at Smithsonian Libraries (@smithsonianlibraries)! I’m working primarily at the Cullman Library in the Natural History Museum, which houses the Smithsonian’s special collections relating to natural history, although I’ve also spent some time at the Dibner Library, which is home to special collections relating to the physical sciences.

Although I’ve only been there for two months, I’ve had the opportunity to do and see some amazing things! From a shelving unit for miniature books to a well-loved 13th century Armenian manuscript (MSS 1675B), the Libraries are truly full of wonders great and small. One of my favorites is the volvelle, or rotating calculator, found in a 16th century alchemical manuscript (MSS 867B)– I just love it when books are interactive! Expect more from that one in the future.

Happy Black History Month!

See the work of Horace Pippin on view in Masterworks from the Hirshhorn Collection

Serving in an African American regiment during World War I in France, self-taught artist Horace Pippin received a wound that partially paralyzed his right arm. Thereafter, Pippin used painting  as a physical therapy, and in 1931 was able to complete his first oil painting. Although his earliest works are somber depictions of his wartime experiences, his later scenes are hopeful and imbued with religious faith. “Holy Mountain III” (1945) is based on the biblical passage Isaiah 11:6-9, a prophecy that describes a peaceful world in which predatory animals live in harmony with their prey. A dense forest is suggested behind the flowered field, in which small, shadowy figures threaten to disturb the utopia.