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The Syrian city of Aleppo has sadly received a lot of coverage recently due to the widespread destruction from years of civil war. In spite of this, the city is still one of the great architectural treasures of the Middle East, which has drawn travelers and scholars for centuries.

When museum founder Charles Lang Freer visited Aleppo in 1908, he was delighted, writing on June 19 to his business partner Frank Hecker, “Aleppo is a charming surprise – a beautiful ancient city, and in every way more attractive than I had fancied.” Among the hundreds of photographs he collected of Asia and the Middle East are twelve lovely views in and around Aleppo.

Likewise, the German scholar Ernst Herzfeld traveled many times to Aleppo during his decades of research and exploration in the Middle East. The extraordinary number of drawings, photographs, and research notes in the Herzfeld collection is an important repository for the study of the city’s architectural heritage, so imperiled by recent conflicts.

In support of the people of Aleppo, this month we have combined selections from these two collections into a slide show, currently on display in the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

You Saved Me - Part 1

Request from @fandom-rpblogHey can I make a request? Can you write one in where after the events of winter soldier, (ignoring civil war as I haven’t seen it yet), Bucky has been re-introduced to the world and is recovering slowly and he and reader are sort of a thing as she was the one who found him after the events of winter soldier and she find out she is pregnant and fluff, and stuff. Please.

Note: Okay, so, as you can tell from the title this is going to be a series. Probably only about three parts though; this is because I couldn’t stop typing when I wrote out their initial meeting and there’s only so long a post can be! :) This is almost an introduction just so you know how they met before we go further into it. It was a great request so wanted to do it justice….which I felt could be done more by making it a series. Hope you enjoy! <3 Going to put bits of their past in each part too to flesh their relationship out more. 

Bucky Barnes x Reader

Words: 2027

Warnings: Violence and swearing.

Disclaimer: None of the GIFs used are mine. All credit goes to their creators <3

TWO YEARS AGO.

For the third time that week you found yourself walking through the doors to The Smithsonian; you didn’t know why you were visiting once again because nothing had changed since the last time you graced the halls of this place but ever since your first visit here as a child you found that you could escape in here, forget about the worries that always seemed to creep up into your life, instead you could immerse yourself in the history of other people and simply…..forget.

The Captain America exhibit was the newest addition to the institute and, personally, one of your favourites. It wasn’t every day that you were able to see into the personal life of someone that saved thousands of lives and given that he had saved yours during the attack on New York you felt like you liked to see just what it was that had made him such a brave and courageous individual.

Some bits made you laugh, others brought a tear to your eyes, but most of all you simply found yourself smiling from ear to ear at the fact that an ordinary kid from Brooklyn had become a treasured superhero. Seemed anything really was possible.

Keep reading

Remembering Morris Louis, born on this day in 1912!  

Louis was a central figure of the Washington Color School, a group of abstract painters that emerged in Washington, DC, in the late 1950s. Inspired by the techniques of Helen Frankenthaler, who used thinned pigments to “stain” her paintings, Louis devised a process of pouring diluted paint over the surfaces of unprimed and unstretched canvases. “Point of Tranquility,” from Louis’s Floral series, features flows of paint spreading outward from a dense center. The intense, sensual colors suggest dynamic processes of movement and growth.

Wildlife Wednesday: It’s Salamander Season!

Spring is almost here, and that means amphibians like these spotted salamanders are coming out to migrate to their vernal pools! During breeding season, a female spotted salamander can lay 200 eggs a year. The vast majority don’t survive to leave the pond as adults. But those that do manage to climb out can live 20 years in the wild. Besides the cuteness factor, there’s at least one more reason to love salamanders: They also eat mosquitoes. (Photo: Karen McDonald)

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Bao Bao (宝宝) 2016-11-14 by kuromimi64
Via Flickr:
Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington DC, USA

July 11, 1962, Telstar 1 is launched aboard a Thor-Delta rocket at Cape Canaveral. The first live television broadcasts, faxes, and phone calls were delivered through this satellite, ushering in an era of instantaneous data transmissions from all over the world. 

Telstar 1 and it’s nearly identical twin, Telstar 2, were developed in a multinational partnership between NASA, Bell, AT&T, National PTT and GPO (of France and the UK respectively). Telstar weighed 170 pounds, with a diameter of 35 inches, and was covered in solar panels to provide electricity. The size and design of the satellite was limited by the capabilities of the Thor-Delta. The instrumentation carried were simple transponders, requiring massive earth-based receivers to transmit the signals relayed by the satellites.

Telstar 1 would successfully prove telecommunications through satellites before experiencing failure in February 1963, due to increased radiation exposure caused by Cold War nuclear tests at high-altitudes, causing damage to the delicate transistors aboard the craft. Telstar 2 would launch in May of 1963. Subsequent Telstars would be launched in the 1980s and 90s, with the latest, Telstar 19V, scheduled to launch in 2018 on a SpaceX Falcon 9. These newer Telstar satellites are similar to the twins Telstar 1 and 2 in name only.

While not as sexy as the Mercury 7, or as memorable as Sputnik, Telstar 1 and 2 are seminal to the history of modern telecommunications, proving the concept of the communications satellites, without which, life as we are accustomed would not be possible. While non-functioning, both Telstar 1 and 2 continue to orbit the earth. A backup craft to Telstar 1 and 2 is on display at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum in Washington DC. 

Also in 1962, The Tornados release an instrumental song that becomes the first UK single to reach #1 on the charts in the US. 

The Microscopic Creature That Lives in a Glass House

Ever wonder what it’s like to live in a glass house? Striatella unipunctata, a tropical diatom often found on coral reefs, spends its entire life like this. Because their cell walls are made of silica, the main component of glass, diatoms are often called “algae that live in glass houses.” Though since the silica also contains water, “algae that live in opal houses” might be closer to the truth! (Photo: SERC Phytoplankton Lab)