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Author: Richard Naples

Richard works in the Digital Services Division of the Smithsonian Libraries and helps to manage data for Research Online, the bibliography and repository for scholarly output at the Smithsonian Institution.

Native American Heritage Month: Penn Treaty Wampum Belts

Penn's Treaty Wampum Belt
“Penn wampum belt” from The Penn wampum belts (1925).

November is Native American Heritage Month. The Smithsonian Libraries has many intriguing resources about Native American history, especially in the Vine Deloria, Jr. Library, National Museum of the American Indian. I was recently reminded of this as I came across The Penn Wampum Belts by Frank Gouldsmith Speck (1925).

For Camping Month: How to Share a Tent with a Smithsonian Secretary

"Mrs. Walcott sketching a wild flower in water colors on a frosty morning in camp."
“Mrs. Walcott sketching a wild flower in water colors on a frosty morning in camp.”

What are your plans for National Camping Month? Thinking of bringing along a sketchbook? You’d be in good company.

Mary Vaux Walcott (1860-1940) was undoubtedly a pro at camping. The naturalist and botanical illustrator spent the summers of her youth in the Canadian Rockies with her well-to-do family, where she became an active mountain climber, outdoorswooman, photographer, and started her first forays into botanical illustration. It was later in life, in her mid fifties, when she married the then current Secretary of the Smithsonian, Charles Doolittle Walcott, against the objections of her father.

Designing Women: The Hewitt Sisters and The Remaking of a Modern Museum (Part 2)

This is a two-part series on the Hewitt sisters. Read part one.

By 1897, Sarah and Eleanor had collected enough to formally open their museum on the fourth floor of the Cooper Union. In the tradition of their grandfather, the Hewitt sisters wanted to actualize a museum and library that were not just a showcase, but also tools—places that students and designers could come to for reference and inspiration, then go out and create their own innovative objects. In the birth of the Cooper Union Museum for the Arts of Decoration, the sisters embodied the increasingly democratic attitudes that grew to dominate the 20th century. Their museum was to be open to everyone, with “no tedious restrictions and formalities,” which were often imposed by the exclusive art galleries of the era. Indeed, their museum provided a means for many women to gain economic independence through art and design.