Highlights from the Summer All-Staff meeting, July 12, 2012

Watch the webcast of the July 12 All-Staff meeting on Prism. 

Welcome aboard!
John Gray is the new Elizabeth MacMillan Director of the National Museum of American History, effective July 23. In his previous position as the founding president of the Autry National Center of the American West, John unified three different organizations in Los Angeles and Denver to enlarge and diversify the museum’s mission.

Familiar faces, new positions
Nancy Bechtol was named the Director of the Office of Facilities
Engineering and Operations. As Director of the Office of Facilities
Management and Reliability, Nancy led a staff of 950 to provide first-rate facilities care throughout the Smithsonian. Nancy has also been instrumental in helping the Smithsonian to become more sustainable.

Annual Report
The 2011 Annual Report is available online. The theme of this year’s report is “Come Closer.”

Smithsonian by the numbers
To date, the Smithsonian has had nearly 18 million visits in fiscal year 2012. That’s an increase of 1.5 percent over last year. Over Memorial Day weekend, attendance at Smithsonian museums was more than 530,000. This is up 10.4% over last year.

Math Beats Muppets! The final visitor count for MathAlive! (at in the International Gallery of the Ripley Center) was 344,877, with an average per day of 4,010. That beats the previous record held by the Jim Henson Muppets exhibition, which had a total of 325,543, with an average per day of 3,785. Both exhibitions were open for the same
number of days—86.

Space Shutle Discovery soared over the heads of thousands of excited spectators on the National Mall as it made its way to its new home at the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. Discovery will serve as the museum’s new centerpiece of interactive learning.

The staff picnic was a rousing success, with more than 7,500 meal tickets distributed—the largest number ever. The music was terrific; sustainability efforts included extensive recycling and composting, and there were even Segway tours for the first time at the picnic!

When Duty and Time Permit, an exhibition at the National Museum of Natural History, opens on July 14. It details the role of the Smithsonian in the Pacific during World War II, when our experts worked closely with Naval Medical Research Units to identify disease-carrying insects and the animals they lived on, such as birds, rats, and bats.

Smithsonian Regent Roger Sant and his wife Vicki donated $10 million to endow the director’s position at the National Museum of Natural History and support the museum’s research and public-engagement initiatives.

40 under 40: Craft Futures, opening July 20 at the Renwick Gallery, features 40 artists born since 1972, the year the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s contemporary craft and decorative arts program was established. All artworks in the exhibition were created since Sept. 11, 2001. These artists are united by their philosophies on how to live better in modern society with an emphasis on sustainability, valuing the handmade, and what it means to live in a state of persistent conflict and unease.

The 46th annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival was kicked off in fine, funky fashion on June 27 by George Clinton and the P-Funk All-Stars, who headlined our free Bring Back the Funk concert. New Orleans band Dumpstaphunk, fronted by Ivan Neville, and bassist Meshell Ndegeocello and her band rounded out the show. This year’s Folklife Festival featured the kinds of diverse exhibitions that always bring visitors from far and wide:

Campus and Community celebrated 150th anniversary of the establishment of the land-grant universities and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The program examined how public and land-grant universities and the USDA partner with  communities to research agriculture and food, health care, sustainable living, urban and rural revitalization, and education.
This year’s Festival featured demonstrations, discussions, and hands-on activities, everything from a robotics competition and sustainable-home exhibition to gardening classes and community song-and-dance performances.

Creativity and Crisis: Unfolding The AIDS Memorial Quilt commemorated the 25th aniversary of the AIDS Memorial Quilt. This thought-provoking program explored the ways in which community crafts and performances have allowed communities to tell the stories about loved ones lost to HIV and AIDS over the past 30 years.

Citified: Arts and Creativity East of the Anacostia River, presented in collaboration with the Anacostia Community Museum, celebrated the creativity, identity, and community that permeates southeast Washington, D.C., neighborhoods.

Titanoboa: Monster Snake, the full-scale replica of a 2,500-pound, 48-foot-long prehistoric snake, slithered into the National Museum of Natural History on March 30. In conjunction with a Smithsonian Channel documentary, the display conveys the story of this Paleocene monster for which fossils were found in Colombia by a group of scientists, including Carlos Jaramillo from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. The exhibition will run through Jan. 6, 2013.

The Smithsonian celebrated 100 years of Girl Scouting with the “Girl Scouts Rock the Mall” centennial party featuring exhibitions, discussions, games, apps, activities, and more. More than 100 people throughout the Smithsonian worked on this event, and units created more than 35 programs for the 250,000 Scouts who took part in the celebration.

The Museum Conservation Institute sponsored Age of Plastic, a Grand Challenges Award project collaboration between the Consortium for Understanding the American Experience and the Consortium for World Cultures. This dynamic symposium of historians, scientists, artists, and designers explored the material, cultural, and environmental phenomenon of the ubiquitous material we call plastic.

The National Museum of American History marked the 11th annual Jazz Appreciation Month in April with a month-long celebration of jazz in venues across the D.C. metropolitan area.

The Art of Video Games at the Smithsonian American Art Museum has been a smash hit, and attendance continues to soar.

On Friday, March 23,  the Giant Magellan Telescope project team began leveling the mountain-top site at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile, preparing the foundation for the telescope and its support facilities.

Two events explored one of the most influential people of our time: The Patents and Trademarks of Steve Jobs: Art and Technology that Changed the World in the Concourse Gallery of the Ripley Center runs until July 8. To complement that exhibition Secretary Clough and author Walter Isaacson had a conversation about Jobs, his legacy, and Isaacson’s best-selling biography, Steve Jobs, June 6 at a Smithsonian Associates event.

Two exhibitions opened recently at the National Portrait Gallery: on June 14, 1812: A Nation Emerges, and on June 26, One Life: Amelia Earhart.

On May 24, the National Museum of American History recognized the contributions of former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to American democracy and diplomacy during a naturalization ceremony. Secretary Albright also donated several items that commemorated her career at the State Department. The ceremony was also an opportunity to unveil Preparing for the Oath, a new website designed in cooperation with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which allows aspiring citizens to prepare for the civics portion of the citizenship test.

We welcomed Her Excellency, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, a 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner, to the National Museum of African Art in June.

The Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum began construction of the William H. Gross Stamp Gallery in June. When completed, the street-level gallery will be the world’s premier museum gallery dedicated to philately.

Kathy Brader and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute were both recognized with Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Avian Scientific Advisory Group Plume Awards for their work to preserve avian species in the wild.

Melinda Zeder, Senior Research Scientist and Curator of Old World Archaeology in the Department of Anthropology of the National Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C., was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in May 2012.

The Washington Building Congress recognized the Arts and Industries scaffolding through their Craftsmanship Awards program. This project received the Star Award Winner for Technical Excellence.

Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole was presented with one of the Sackler Center First Awards for Feminism. She gave the University of Maryland’s David C. Driskell Distinguished Lecture in recognition of her work in the service of the arts. She also received an award from Links Inc. for long-standing contributions and dedication to strengthening the global community.

The Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service newsletter, Siteline (Fall 2011 edition), was awarded second prize for graphic design excellence in the 2012 American Association of Museums Publications Design Competition.

Lisa Vann, Visual Information Specialist at the National Museum of African Art, won third place for her work on “Artists in Dialogue 2” in this year’s Washington Book Publishers book show.

The Smithsonian American Art Museum’s “Artful Connections,” a real-time video conference program, was voted a  “Teachers’ Favorite 2012” by the Berrien Regional Education Service Agency, which services 26,000 students in Berrien County, Mich.

The Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe at the National Museum of the American Indian became the first museum restaurant in Washington, D.C., to earn a “Rammy” award from the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington. The Mitsitam Cafe earned the title “Casual Restaurant of the Year,” at the 30th annual Rammy Gala on Sunday, June 24.

The Smithsonian was honored with a regional Emmy for the forthcoming Smithsonian Libraries video developed by the Lockheed Martin Creative & Strategic Services team in collaboration with Smithsonian Libraries.

The Smithsonian’s Archives of American Gardens, which is managed by Smithsonian Gardens, recently received the American Public Gardens Association Award for Program Excellence.

Nancy Gwinn, Director of Smithsonian Libraries, and Martin Kalfatovic, Associate Director for digital services at Smithsonian Libraries, have been appointed to new positions within the global Biodiversity Heritage Library. Nancy was elected chair of the Biodiversity Heritage Library Steering Committee for a two-year term at its annual meeting in Cambridge, Mass.

The Smithsonian received a 2012 Corporate Health Achievement Award from the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. The award recognized the Institution for its health, safety, and environmental programs that seek to
maintain and optimize a productive, motivated, and creative workforce.


Posted: 12 July 2012
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