ICYMI: Highlights from the week that was Oct. 16 – Oct. 22, 2016

It was a week for old bones, old shoes, killer cats and bye-bye Bao Bao. Plus bumper stickers, eugenics and performance art.

For news about the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, please search A People’s Journey, A Nation’s Story.


What Margaret Sanger Really Said About Eugenics and Race

Time, Oct. 14

Studio portrait of Sanger

Margaret Higgins Sanger (1879 – 1966) Photograph by Ira L. Hill, 1917, National Portrait Gallery

It was 100 years ago—on Oct. 16, 1916—that Margaret Sanger opened the first birth-control clinic in the United States. An advocate for women’s reproductive rights who was also a vocal eugenics enthusiast, Margaret Sanger leaves a complicated legacy — and one that conservatives have periodically leveraged into sweeping attacks on the organization she helped found: Planned Parenthood. Read more from Jennifer Latson for Time.

Mr. Kjartansson Goes to Washington: Ragnar on His New Survey at the Hirshhorn Museum

ArtNews, Oct. 14

WOman in gold dress holds a guitar atop adais covered with gold foil

Ragnar Kjartansson, Woman in E, 2016, installation view. (Photo via ARTNEWS)

Melissa Chiu first encountered the work of Ragnar Kjartansson at the Venice Biennale in 2009. Kjartansson was representing his homeland, Iceland, by staging a performance for the entirety of the exhibition, six months, in which he inhabited a crumbling palazzo on the Grand Canal, smoking cigarettes, drinking beer, and painting portraits of a friend. Cigarette butts, beer bottles, and painted canvases piled up on the ground, the filth getting worse and worse as the performance went on.

“It did feel a little bit like a frat house—the cigarettes, the beer,” said Chiu, the director of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. “And now, years later, we’re doing a show with Ragnar.” Read more from Nate Freeman for ArtNews

Bumper stickers: A vehicle for political expression

CBS Sunday Morning, Oct. 16

Car with Trump, sports bumper stickers

Because automobiles are extensions of their owners’ personalities, cars and politics were made for each another. (Photo via CBS News)

It’s been said that Americans consider their cars extensions of their personalities, so it does seem that cars and politics were made for one another.

“As early as there were cars, there were ways of decorating your car to support your candidate,” said Harry Rubenstein, who heads the Division of Political History at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. Read more from Marth Teichner and watch the interview on CBS Sunday Morning.

DNA testing links 300-year-old remains of a baby to a Colonial Md. governor

The Washington Post, Oct. 16

Owsley stands looking at bones spread on table

Douglas Owsley views the bones of Anne Calvert, wife of Colonial governor Philip Calvert. In the background on the other exam table are the remains of what is now known to be his son. (Photo by Michael S. Williamson / The Washington Post)

The surviving pieces of the baby’s skull are paper thin in places. There are holes in the cranium. And the infant has the classic “rosary bead” rib deformities of the ancient childhood disease rickets.

Some of the bones with the tiny skeleton on the Smithsonian lab table also show evidence of anemia. And the infant probably had scurvy, from a lack of vitamin C.

Much is known about the 6-month-old who died in Maryland 300 years ago and was buried in a small lead-covered coffin. Yet there is no record of the child’s death — or birth. No one knew for certain who the infant was. No one knew if the baby was a boy or girl. Read more from Michael Ruane for The Washington Post.

Smithsonian launches Kickstarter campaign for Dorothy’s ruby slippers

The Washington Post, Oct. 17

ruby slippers

The Smithsonian is asking the public to fund the conservation of the ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in “The Wizard of Oz” (Photo courtesy the National Museum of American History)

Dorothy’s ruby slippers from “The Wizard of Oz” are beloved by the visitors to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, and museum officials are hoping their popularity will fuel a fundraising campaign to repair and preserve them.

Smithsonian officials launched a Kickstarter campaign of $300,000 to repair and conserve the slippers that were crafted almost 80 years ago. The effort, #KeepThemRuby, will study and repair the leather, sequined and glass-beaded slippers, made by the MGM Studio prop department. Curators and conservators want to understand how best to display them in a new exhibition, tentatively titled “On With the Show,” expected to open in 2018. Read more from Peggy McGlone for the Washington Post.

A wildlife rehab center confirms that cats are killers

The Washington Post, Oct. 18

Cat with mouse in its mouth

A Virginia study showed that cats killed not just mice but more than 80 native species. (iStock photo)

When the Wildlife Center of Virginia, a hospital for native wild animals, took a close look at a decade’s worth of admissions records, it found the unsurprising culprits behind many of the thousands of injuries and deaths: cats.

More startling was the sheer number of native species — more than 80 — that felines had preyed upon and killed.

“It goes beyond the common perception that outdoor, free-roaming cats just attack mice and rats,” said David McRuer, the director of veterinary services at the center and the lead author of a note on the records that was published last week in the Journal of Wildlife Management. Read more from Joshua Learn for The Washington Post. 

5 Things to Know about the Smithsonian’s ruby slippers

Associated Press, Oct. 18

AP photo of ruby slippers

This Nov. 9, 2001, file photo shows the sequin-covered ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in “The Wizard of Oz” at the offices of Profiles in History in Calabasas, Calif. Smithsonian Museum officials started a Kickstarter fundraising drive Monday, Oct. 17, 2016, to repair the iconic slippers from 1939’s “The Wizard of Oz” and create a new state-of-the-art display case for them at the National Museum of American History. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon, File)

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History has launched a crowd-funding campaign on Kickstarter to preserve the ruby slippers from the 1939 movie “The Wizard of Oz.” The museum hopes to raise $300,000 in a month. Here are five things to know about the famous relic: Read more from Ben Nuckols for the Associated Press.

England paved the way for our postal service — and the proof is on display

The Washington Post, Oct. 19

Royal proclamation on Royal Mail

Until King Charles I’s 1635 decree made England’s Royal Mail public, the service was available only to the royal family and high-ranking officials. (Alan Holyoake)

The next time you find yourself at the post office, thank (or blame) Charles I of England.

Although the monarch was somewhat of a selfish tyrant, before his spats with Parliament led to the English Civil War in 1642, he signed a decree that opened up the Royal Mail for public use, making it the world’s first public mail service. That decree, together with examples of the first postage stamp and prepaid envelope, will be on display starting Friday at the National Postal Museum. Read more from Elena Goukassian for The Washington Post.

Bye-Bye, Bao Bao: Popular Giant Panda Heads To China This Winter

NPR, Oct. 20

Bao Bao sitting on a rock eating bamboo

Bao Bao has been living separately from her mother, Mei Xiang, since March 2015. (Photo by Connor Padraic Mallon/The Smithsonian’s National Zoo)

Giant panda Bao Bao, born at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., in August 2013, will be heading to China this winter.

Bao Bao’s parents, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, are on loan from China, and the agreement calls for any pandas born to the breeding pair to be sent to the Chinese breeding program before they turn 4. Read more from Camila Domonoske for National Public Radio.


Posted: 28 October 2016
About the Author:

Alex di Giovanni has been editing The Torch since August 2006. Prior to joining the Smithsonian, she worked as a writer and editor for the National Geographic Society, Plexus Scientific, The Nature Conservancy, The National Foreign Language Center and St. Martin’s Press, among others. She has the best job in the world.