ICYMI: Highlights from the week that was April 30 – May 6

No one can keep up with everything, so let us do it for you. We’ll gather the top Smithsonian stories from across the country and around the world each week so you’ll never be at a loss for conversation around the water cooler.

Lots of good news this week: Funding for the arts is safe for the time being, there’s no let up in the crowds at the African American museum and Bao Bao is adjusting to her new home in China.

Clip art banner with ICYMI in black speech bibble

An Extinct Species of Antelope, the Oryx, Returns to the Wild

They’ve already had their first wild offspring

Slate, May 1

The scimitar-horned oryx, a species of antelope, has been extinct in the wild for years. But an international team of scientists is trying to change that by releasing a group of the creatures, previously living in zoos, back into their native habitat in Chad.

As we see in this video from the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, these curvy-horned fellows seem excited to be back: Don’t miss the moments they’re released from boxes and go running into nature like racehorses galloping out of the gate. The animals are on their way to repopulating: There have already been two offspring born in the wild.

Pandas, Pangolins, and China’s Fitful Attempts at Wildlife Conservation

The New Yorker, April 30

Close up of Bao Bao

Bao Bao, who was recently moved from Washington, D.C., to China, initially struggled with the local human dialect and her new diet.

In late February, a three-and-a-half-year-old cub clambered into a crate marked “Contents one panda” to begin a sixteen-hour, one-way flight to China. Bao Bao was born at the National Zoo, in Washington, D.C., and this was her first trip overseas. Her parents have lived in the American capital since 2000, but they, like all giant pandas, remain the property of the Chinese state, which lends the animals to foreign zoos for around a million dollars per year. Any products of overseas panda unions also belong to the Chinese motherland. Read more from Hannah Beech for The New Yorker.

African-American history museum tickets selling out in minutes. More on sale Wednesday.

The Chicago Tribune via Associated Press, May 1

People standing in line

Visitors have their ticket scanned as they wait in line outside the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Cultural on the National Mall in Washington, Monday, May 1, 2017. The hottest ticket in Washington right now is for the new museum, where thousands of tickets are snapped up each month within minutes of being released, a full seven months after the museum opened.
(Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP)

The hottest ticket in Washington, D.C., right now? It’s for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, where thousands of tickets are snapped up each month within minutes of being released, a full seven months after the museum opened.

The 750 passes released each day at 6:30 a.m. are gone within 15 to 30 minutes. When 105,000 tickets were released April 3 for visits in July, they were all claimed in just over two hours.

The next batch of reserve-ahead tickets will be released Wednesday at 9 a.m. and a similar demand is expected. “We thought the numbers would abate but they have not,” said the museum’s deputy director, Kinshasha Holman Conwill. Read more from Beth J. Harpaz for the Associated Press.

Bipartisan Bill Would Boost NEA and NEH Budgets by $1.9 Million Each

President Trump is expected to sign the legislation, which gives financial boosts to the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities through the end of the current fiscal year.

Hyperallergic, May 1

Protester holding sign saying the Earth without art is just eh

A protester at the April 3 Rally to Save the Arts at New York City Hall (photo by Claire Voon/Hyperallergic)

An omnibus spending bill released early this morning by both houses of the US Congress includes increased funding for the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities (NEA and NEH), as well as for the Smithsonian Institution. According to Bloomberg, President Trump is expected to sign the legislation, which would fund the federal government through September 30, 2017, the end of the current fiscal year (FY). Read more from Jillian Steinhauer for Hyperallergic.

National Museum of African American History and Culture Opens “More Than a Picture” Special Exhibit May 5

WNBC-4, May 2

“More Than a Picture: Selections From the Photography Collection at the National Museum of African American History and Culture” will open May 5 as the first temporary exhibit at the newest Smithsonian museum. It will feature more than 150 photographs and other objects that show powerful images of defining moments in African-American history and culture.

Photos featured in this special exhibit at the NMAAHC will include portraits of notable African-Americans in history, such as Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Du Buois and Queen Latifah. Images from the civil rights movement, Hurricane Katrina, and the civil unrest in Ferguson and Baltimore will also be on display. Read more from Julie Gallagher for NBC 4 and watch the full report.

Looking at JFK’s dynasty on what would have been his 100th birthday

The Today Show, May 3

Screenshot showing Kennedy looking pensively out of window

The Kennedy family gathered at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, where a new exhibit celebrates the life of President John F. Kennedy, who would have turned 100 on May 29. NBC special correspondent Tom Brokaw, who was a featured speaker at the event, looks back at the legacy of JFK and his dynasty. Watch the complete report from Tom Brokaw.

Was the Amazon once an ocean?

Science, May 3

Vie w of river from canoe's prow

The area where Peru’s Manú River flows today may have once been covered by a shallow sea. (Photo by Jason Houston)

The Amazon rainforest is a treasure trove of biodiversity, containing 10% of the planet’s species in its 6.7 million square kilometers. How it got to be that way has been fiercely disputed for decades. Now, a new study suggests that a large section of the forest was twice flooded by the Caribbean Sea more than 10 million years ago, creating a short-lived inland sea that jump-started the evolution of new species. But the new evidence still hasn’t convinced scientists on the other side of the debate.

“It’s hard to imagine a process that would cover such a large forest with an ocean,” says lead author Carlos Jaramillo, a paleontologist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama City who has been in both camps. Read more from Lizzie Wade for Science.

20,000-year-old artifacts, 21st century technology

Museums are turning to virtual reality, apps, and interactive experiences to keep tech-savvy visitors engaged

The Verge, May 6

photo of woman taking picture of shark exhibit with her phone

American Museum of Natural History

I’m standing in the admissions line at a museum in New York when I overhear a surprising claim: “It’s like going to the dentist,” a man declares. “I’d rather go the dentist than go to a museum.”

“We can go somewhere else if you want,” his partner offers.

“No, it’s fine.” He pauses. “I strongly believe that people aren’t interested in museums. They just go because it’s a ‘must.’”

This man isn’t alone in his skepticism. Recent reports from the National Endowment for the Arts recorded an 8 percent drop in the number of US adults who visited art museums in the past two decades, as well as a particularly sharp decline in museum-going rates among millennials in their 20s and 30s. In response to the findings, Sunil Iyengar, director of research and analysis at the NEA, told Pacific Standard in 2015 that “there’s no tidy answer as to why this is happening,” but added that “there’s a lot of competition for leisure activities.” Read more from Nikki Erlick for The Verge

Cooper Hewitt Names Its 2017 National Design Award Winners

The annual prizes recognize excellence and innovation in American design

Architectural Digest, May 5

Composite photo of various design projects

Projects by the 2017 Cooper Hewitt Design Award winners.
Photo: Courtesy of Cooper Hewitt

If the design world had an Olympics, it might look something like the Cooper Hewitt National Design Awards, whose 2017 winners were announced this morning. Given annually to top talents in 11 distinct categories spanning from Interaction to Architecture to Interiors, the awards recognize the peak of innovation in these fields.

Taking home the coveted Lifetime Achievement honor was industrial designer Hartmut Esslinger for his groundbreaking application of human-centered design to software and hardware production. Esslinger’s work, most famously under the firm frog (which he founded in Germany in 1969 and brought to the U.S. in 1982), has transformed the way companies like Sony, Apple, and Louis Vuitton use technology and develop products for consumers. Read more from Carrie Hojnicki for Architectural Digest.

Posted: 8 May 2017
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.