The Challenge of Shelving Books

April 10-16 is National Library Week! In honor of the event, we invite you to explore some of the tools of the trade, circa 1894. Running out of space for your books? More books than space to shelve them? In the late nineteenth century, the Yost Circular Case Co. had just the thing for you. A revolving circular bookcase which allowed for the storage of more books in less space! This circa more »

Unearthing History: Mary Anning’s Hunt for Prehistoric Ocean Giants

This post was written by L.K. Ward and was originally published on the Oceans Portal blog on March 21st, 2016. You may not have realized it, but you’ve been acquainted with Mary Anning since you were young. “She sells sea shells by the sea shore.” Remember this grade school tongue-twister? What you probably didn’t know is that this nursery rhyme is based on a real person who not only sold seaside curiosities more »

Newcomb Pottery – An Educational Experiment for Women Artists

I’ve been a fan of Newcomb pottery since I first saw an example on the Antiques Roadshow more than a decade ago. Currently I have the opportunity to see Newcomb pottery every day — three pieces are featured in an art pottery and glass exhibit at the National Museum of American History, the building where I work. Simple forms, lovely colors and nature motifs make Newcomb pottery very appealing and highly collectible. But there’s more »

Sophie Blanchard: Pioneer Aeronaut

This March, in honor of Women’s History Month we’re highlighting notable women who are represented in our collections. Sophie Blanchard was the first professional female aeronaut in history. Born March 25, 1778 near La Rochelle, France, Sophie was initiated into ballooning by her husband Jean-Pierre-François Blanchard, himself a pioneer in ballooning. Jean-Pierre along with his co-aeronaut Dr. John Jeffries, were the first to cross the English Channel by balloon in 1785.

Experiencing “The Ultimate Safari”

In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting a book written and illustrated by female artists, The Ultimate Safari. The book is currently featured in our exhibition, Artists’ Books and Africa, which is open until September 2016 and is located in the National Museum of African Art. The short story “The Ultimate Safari,” by Nadine Gordimer, was originally published in 1991 in Jump and Other Short Stories (London: Bloomsbury).[1]  This new edition of more »

Unveiling the Early 20th Century Bride

This post was written by Emily Daniel and Rebecca Durgin, graduate students in the Smithsonian-Mason History of Decorative Arts Masters Program. Emily and Rebecca are also Graduate Research Assistants at the National Museum of American History Library. After the apparent last snow of the season (hopefully!), Spring is finally coming to Washington, D.C. Brides-to-be always flock to the District this time of year with the promise of cherry blossom engagement photos. In more »

Greek Wild Flowers: Dialogues and Diplomats on the Parthenon and the Athenian Acropolis in the nineteenth century

This post was written by Dr. Alexander Nagel, Research Associate with the National Museum of Natural History’s Department of Anthropology.   In the fall semester of 2015, I was teaching a course on *Classical Heritage in Washington: Encounters in the Museum* for students from the University of Maryland. Every Friday afternoon around 2pm, students would meet with colleagues and curators, archivists and archaeologists, diplomats and thinkers who work on aspects of heritage more »

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