museum center


Chicago Cultural Center Entry by Lauri Novak


     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.

thisismyjimmypage  asked:

Unfortunately, I missed my opportunity to ask you a question when you did "answer time" a while back. I'm an aspiring archivist interested in medieval Europe, so you're like rock stars to me! Ultimately, I want to live (er, I mean work) at the MET Cloisters. I was wondering if you could explain how you planned your educations? (Your undergrad majors, masters' programs, internships, etc.) And is it possible to succeed in your profession if one is very, very bad with foreign languages? Thanks!

Thank you for your question! 

Bryan Keene, curator of manuscripts, did a different Q&A with us that is posted on our blog. Take a look! He answers a few questions related to curating as a job, and the path to become a curator. 

“Curatorial work requires many skills, including a background in art history (the broader the better, but also with an area of focus), languages (the more the better), and even digital savvy. There’s no one path: Some have PhDs, some don’t. Some work across materials/media, others focus on a single type of object. More and more, global or cross-cultural and material studies are important, as are expanding our knowledge about an object’s use or historical approaches to race, gender, sexuality, and other topics that are relevant today.”


While bears may be the world’s most iconic hibernators, they don’t all hibernate the same way. Even members of the same species, like black bears, differ in their approaches to overwintering, depending on where they live.

In eastern North America, food sources like nuts and berries stay available longer, so black bears in places like New York and New Jersey don’t start hibernating until November or December. But in the southwestern United States, where food sources get scarce earlier, bears can spend as long as six or seven months a year—more than half their lives!—in hibernation.

Before they settle in for a long winter rest, black bears spend the summer and fall in a state known as hyperphagia, chowing down on just about anything they can get their paws on.

“During this period, a bear will eat and eat and eat, all day long,” says Rae Wynn Grant, Doris Duke Conservation Fellow in the Museum’s Center for Biodiversity and Conservation and an educator in the Science Research Mentoring Program.

Read more on the blog.

Tarquin the Elder Consulting Attius Navius
Sebastiano Ricci (Italian; 1659–1734)
ca. 1690
Oil on canvas
J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, Los Angeles, California

Tarquin was also making preparations for surrounding the City with a stone wall when his designs were interrupted by a war with the Sabines. So sudden was the outbreak that the enemy were crossing the Anio before a Roman army could meet and stop them. There was great alarm in Rome. The first battle was indecisive, and there was great slaughter on both sides. The enemies’ return to their camp allowed time for the Romans to make preparations for a fresh campaign. Tarquin thought his army was weakest in cavalry and decided to double the centuries, which Romulus had formed, of the Ramnes, Titienses, and Luceres, and to distinguish them by his own name. Now as Romulus had acted under the sanction of the auspices, Attus Navius, a celebrated augur at that time, insisted that no change could be made, nothing new introduced, unless the birds gave a favourable omen. The king’s anger was roused, and in mockery of the augur’s skill he is reported to have said, “Come, you diviner, find out by your augury whether what I am now contemplating can be done.” Attus, after consulting the omens, declared that it could. “Well,” the king replied, “I had it in my mind that you should cut a whetstone with a razor. Take these, and perform the feat which your birds portend can be done.” It is said that without the slightest hesitation he cut it through.

(Livy, History of Rome, Book 1, Chapter 36. Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts. New York, 1912)


Poet, author and icon Gertrude Stein was born on this day in 1874. 

Stein loved to sit for the artists she knew – a few years ago, there were two concurrent exhibitions of those images at museums in San Francisco, and our own Laura Sydell went to see them – you can find her story here.

– Petra

Top image: Man Ray/Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery/Contemporary Jewish Museum

Center left: Felix Edouart Vallotton/Courtesy of The Baltimore Museum of Art/Contemporary Jewish Museum

Center right: Man Ray/Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery/Contemporary Jewish Museum

Bottom: George Platt Lynes/Baltimore Museum of Art/Contemporary Jewish Museum

The American Museum of Natural History is open today during regular hours, from 10 am to 5:45 pm. However, due to inclement weather, some parts of the Museum may remain closed throughout the day, and all education programs have been canceled. Visitors are asked to enter the Museum via the Rose Center entrance on 81st Street. For more information or to plan your visit, go to or call 212-769-5200.


Arusha Cultural Center - Arusha, Tanzania

This modern gem was envisioned and designed by the Director of Cultural Affairs of the Center, Saifuddin Khanbhai. The distinct architecture of the main building is designed to resemble the Uhuru Peak of Kilimanjaro. The center highlights Tanzania’s 120+ tribes both past and present, various wildlife, and rare gems unique to the area.

Archaeologists and Metal Detectorists Find Common Ground

NEW LONDON, Conn. — Keith Wille was metal detecting in the woods of Connecticut a few years ago when he found a triangle of brass about two-and-a-half inches long with a small hole in the middle. He thought little of the find at first, and threw it in his scrap pile. Mr. Wille, 29, is a manager at a survival training company, but spends most of his spare time metal detecting.

In September, Mr. Wille drove from his home here to the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center with several boxes of objects — the highlights of his recent collecting. The museum — a vast, glassy structure that looks like an airport terminal, complete with a 185-foot-tall traffic-control-style tower — is a testament to the years when the Foxwoods Resort Casino made the Pequots the wealthiest tribe in the nation. Although those fortunes have declined, the Pequots are still financing projects by the archaeologist Kevin McBride, who works full time on what Lori A. Potter, a spokeswoman for the Mashantucket Pequot Nation, called “history that’s written by the conquered and not by the conqueror.” Read more.