ICYMI: Highlights from the week that was July 23 – July 29, 2017

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.

It was a quiet week in Lake Smithsonian, so we took a deep breath and pondered some big ideas about art and beauty, life and memory, and whether we’d rather eat or go to the movies (and why we can’t do both simultaneously.)


Clip art banner with ICYMI in black speech bibble

Natural History Museum to demolish Imax theater to expand restaurant

The Washington Post, July 24

Audience wearing 3D glasses

The Imax movie theater at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History. (Smithsonian photo)

The Imax movie theater in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History will close Sept. 30 to make room for an expanded cafeteria and exhibition space.

Museum officials say the Johnson Imax Theater, a 500-seat venue that opened in 1999, is usually filled to only about 20 percent capacity, while the nearby restaurant, one of the smallest of the Smithsonian cafeterias, is frequently overcrowded. Officials hope to complete the renovation in time for the reopening of the Fossil Halls in 2019. Read more from Peggy McGlone for The Washington Post. 

Jim Vance’s Final Story: Inside the NMAAHC With its Founder

NBC-4 Washington, July 24

Screenshot of news item featuring Jim Vance

Jim Vance had one more story to tell. Just a few months ago, Vance came into the newsroom and said he wanted to interview Lonnie Bunch, the founding director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. The museum had been open for six months at the time; Vance had recently run into Bunch and knew he had a fascinating story. It was a great interview. And it was his last interview. Watch the complete story from NBC4.

Mean Streets, Kind Cameras

The New York Times, July 26

Photo of little girl in rubble-strewn vacant lot

Perla de Leon’s “My Playground” (1980) is in the show “Down These Mean Streets,” at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington. Credit Perla de Leon, Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Question for the day posed by a timely exhibition: Would someone who lived in a so-called inner city picture it differently than an outsider would?

“Down These Mean Streets: Community and Place in Urban Photography,” at the Smithsonian American Art Museum here, an exhibition organized by E. Carmen Ramos, the museum’s deputy chief curator and curator of Latino art, presents 93 photos by 10 Latino photographers, all well established but many not as widely known as they should be. Read more from Vicki Goldberg for The New York Times

Why the radio is one of history’s most important inventions

CNN, July 27

white radio with chrome dials

E15WE Radio (1953) by Crosley Radio Corporation. This Crosley radio mightl look retro now, but at the time it was the height of chic, taking influence from the automobiled

While in recent years it may have become less popular than television or the internet, it could be argued that the radio was the first electronic gadget to play a prominent part in people’s lives.

Radio is where the world first heard Britain declare war on Germany, where Orson Welles accidentally fooled the public into believing a real alien invasion was under way in his “War Of The Worlds” serial and where young people first heard Billy Haley’s “Rock Around The Clock,” spreading popular music around the world. Read more from Clive Martin for CNN.

Smithsonian to host Asian American Literature Festival in Washington DC

The festival is expected to be a melting pot of culture and literature

The American Bazaar (via AP), July 27

Asian American Literature Festival logo

Smithsonian Asia Pacific American Center has announced that it will host Smithsonian Asian American Literature Festival in Washington, DC, later this month to celebrate the literary legacy of Asian American writers.

The festival, which was first hosted in 2004, is expected to be a melting pot of culture and literature where Asian origin writers will celebrate their creation under one roof. Read more from The American Bazaar.

Artists in the age of Trump

The Washington Post Magazine, July 27

composite photo

Left, writer Junot Diaz, who won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.” (Nina Subin); Above center, artist and activist Yoko Ono (Photo by Juergen Frank/Corbis via Getty Images); Below center, singer and former “America’s Git Talent” contestant Jackie Evancho, who performed at Donald Trump’s inauguration. (Herald Julian); Right, Grammy-winning rock artists Lucinda Williams. (David McClister)

If art is a societal mirror, what does it look like in these politically tumultuous times? We recently asked a number of artists to reflect on this topic. For some, this moment is a call to action; for others, a time of anxiety; and for others still, circumstances don’t matter because, to them, art is art. Their responses have been edited and condensed. Read more from Lavanya Ramanathan for the Washington Post Magazine.

Ai Weiwei succumbs to the tyranny of fun

The Washington Post, July 27

dancers on stage

View of Hansel & Gretel at Park Avenue Armory (Photo by James Ewing)

technology that powers our favorite toys is the same technology that threatens our civilization. The little thumb sensor that unlocks your iPhone knows your fingerprint and could easily be used to create a vast international biometrics database. Cheap drones that are fun at backyard barbecues are cousin to the terrifying death-from-the-sky machines that allow imperial powers to project violence throughout the world. Send away for a DNA analysis to find out from what continent your ancestors came, and you have handed over an astonishing amount of personal data to complete strangers. And then there’s the Internet, delivering the entire spectrum of consumer delights from pizza to porn, while inflaming the worst of human nature and inviting us to loathe on a global scale with the immediacy, intensity and intimacy of a backcountry blood feud. Read more from Phillip Kennicott for the Washington Post.

Houston Health Museum links up with Smithsonian in unique partnership

Houston Culture Map, July 28

Skorton shaking hands with mayor of Houston

Health Museum president and CEO Melanie Johnson celebrates the Smithsonian affiliation with Smithsonian Secretary David Skorton.

The John P. McGovern Museum of Health and Medical Science Museum has become the first health museum in the nation to gain an affiliation with the Smithsonian Institution. As officials gathered at the museum to celebrate the partnership on Thursday, Mayor Sylvester Turner couldn’t resist a proud pun.

“This is a healthy breakthrough for the city of Houston,” he told the crowd of dignitaries to much applause. Read more from Sydney Arceneaux for Houston Culture Map.




Posted: 1 August 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.