Highlights from the Fall All-Staff Meeting

Fall meeting

Watch the webcast of the meeting here.


The U.S. Committee of the North American Bird Conservation Initiative, a 23-member partnership of government agencies and non-government organizations—including the Smithsonian—have come together to publish The State of the Birds 2014, the most comprehensive review of long-term trend data for U.S. birds ever conducted. The report finds bird populations declining across several key habitats, and it includes a “watch list” of species in need of immediate conservation help. The report also reveals that in areas where a strong conservation investment has been made, bird populations are recovering. The full report can be found here.

On Sept. 19, the Smithsonian will open the doors of its greenest building to date: the Charles McC. Mathias Laboratory on the campus of the Environmental Research Center. Designed to be the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design platinum building in the Institution, the Mathias Laboratory will emit 37 percent less CO2 than a comparable lab that does not meet LEED-certification standards.

The Smithsonian and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office began a five-year collaboration to develop programs and exhibitions related to American innovation. The USPTO will provide funding annually for public programs and exhibitions focusing on innovation and new technological developments from businesses, universities, and the government. The collaboration will begin this year with a weekend festival at the Air and Space Museum Nov. 1–2.

The Smithsonian celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15–Oct. 15) through a series of vibrant performances, lectures, family activities, and exhibitions at museums around the Institution.

Readers can discover giant deadly hornets, gorgeous fluttering butterflies, stealthy crawling stink bugs and more mesmerizing insects in Expedition: Insects, an iBooks textbook written, illustrated and animated by the Smithsonian Science Education Center. The book was released Sept. 4 and can be downloaded free for iPads or Macs from Apple’s iBooks Store. It includes interactive images, videos and sound, animated maps, and a sketchbook for kids.


The 48th annual Folklife Festival brought the diverse and rich cultures of China and Kenya to the National Mall this summer. The Festival also featured a special concert to celebrate the legacy of the late folk singer Pete Seeger (1919–2014).

The American History Museum celebrated the 200th anniversary of the Star-Spangled Banner by inviting visitors to “Raise It Up!” and join in the “Anthem for America” concert on the National Mall on Flag Day, June 14. The free event featured musical performances, poetry, remarks, and a massive group sing-a-long of “The Star-Spangled Banner” in which thousands of people took part in person and millions more participated online.

The National Zoo’s three new female Asian elephants—Kamala, Swarna, and Maharani—made their public debut in one of the outdoor yards on Elephant Trails June 23. The elephants are on loan from the Calgary Zoo in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
On June 3, the African Art Museum threw a gala celebration to mark the 50th anniversary of this landmark museum.

The Smithsonian and the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory formalized a new partnership June 12 to support collaborative research programs and science education efforts. This is the first partnership between the Smithsonian and the Laboratory.

The Smithsonian and the Penn Cultural Heritage Center (part of the University of Pennsylvania Museum), in cooperation with the Syrian Interim Government’s Heritage Task Force, held a three-day training program, “Emergency Care for Syrian Museum Collections,” to help museum curators, heritage experts, and civilians protect cultural heritage amid Syria’s four-year civil war.

The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the SVF Foundation announced the launch of the “Smithsonian & SVF Biodiversity Preservation Project” to strengthen rare and endangered livestock breed conservation through the preservation and study of frozen germplasm (semen and embryos), cell lines, and other biomaterials from rare heritage breeds of food and fiber livestock. As part of the collaboration, a bio-repository and cryo-preservation laboratory will be constructed at SCBI, creating a world-class biodiversity preservation program.

“Salvatore Scarpitta: Traveler,” debuted at the Hirshhorn Museum July 17. The exhibition, the first solo presentation of Scarpitta’s art at an American museum on the East Coast, runs through Jan. 11, 2015.

The Smithsonian launched its Transcription Center website to the public. The website is designed to leverage the power of crowds to help the Smithsonian unlock the content inside thousands of digitized images of documents, such as handwritten Civil War journals, personal letters from famous artists, 100-year-old botany specimen labels, and examples of early American currency.

The National Zoo and the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China celebrated giant panda cub Bao Bao’s first birthday Aug. 23, with a Zhuazhou (dra-JO) ceremony. During a traditional Zhuazhou ceremony, symbolic objects are placed in front of a baby. The item that the baby reaches for first foretells something about his or her future. Bao Bao chose peaches, which means she will have a long life. Bao Bao’s birth one year ago was a significant conservation success for the National Zoo and its Conservation Biology Institute, which has been studying giant pandas for 42 years.

The Smithsonian awarded fellowships to 12 visual artists and one artists’ collaborative as part of the 2014 Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship program. International art curators, scholars, and former SARF fellows nominated the artists, and awardees were selected by a panel of Smithsonian art experts. The fellowship recipients are Vivian Beer, Annet Couwenberg, Ken Gonzalez-Day, LaMont Hamilton, Muriel Hasbun, Shana Lutker, Esperanza Mayobre, Kenjiro Okazaki, Amy O’Neill, Damián Ortega, Jaime Permuth, Praneet Soi, and the team of Edward Morris, Susannah Sayler, and Christina Seely.

The Portrait Gallery commissioned a grand landscape portrait from Cuban American urban artist Jorge Rodríguez-Gerada, to be placed temporarily on the National Mall in October. For the work titled “Out of Many, One”—the English translation of “E pluribus unum”— Rodríguez-Gerada will use several images of people photographed in Washington, D.C., to create a composite portrait from 2,000 tons of sand, 800 tons of soil, 10,000 wooden pegs, and miles of string.

folklife highlights


Welcome to our newest affiliate museums: the Sam and Alfreda Maloof Foundation for Arts and Crafts (Alta Loma, Calif.), the Museum of the African Diaspora (San Francisco), and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, State of Mississippi (Jackson, Miss.).

Posted: 16 September 2014
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