museum


Gallery installs Eunice Kennedy Shriver portrait – BostonHerald.com

It’s a good painting – meticulousiy rendered but not overwrought. I love the fact that this is a portrait of a woman who doesn’t need to be flattered. Her face shows all the pain and joy of living 87 years. It’s wonderful to see a portrait reveal something about a person’s interests and achievements instead of just their appearance.

It’s now on view at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC (hence the shameless plug).

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Some People Would Die To Wind Up at This Museum – washingtonpost.com

Normally I would shamelessly plug my own museum (and I need to do that soon) but this one caught my eye today. It’s right in the same neighborhood and I didn’t realize that it was happening. The National Museum of Crime & Punishment opens today on 7th Street NW here in DC – just a 1/2 block from my museum. Here’s a bit from the Washington Post review in today’s paper:

You know the names: Jesse James, Al Capone, Bonnie and Clyde, John Dillinger . . .

And the men who chased them. Wild Bill Hickok. Wyatt Earp. Eliot Ness. J. Edgar Hoover.

The prisons where their kind were locked up: Rikers. Attica. Leavenworth. Alcatraz.

And the ways they died: Bullets. Ropes. Firing squad. Electric chair. Gas chamber. Lethal injection.

These are the stories at the heart of the District’s newest tourist attraction, the National Museum of Crime & Punishment, which opens today on Seventh Street NW in Gallery Place. The for-profit museum — admission is $17.95 — gives an eerie gloss to these true-life tales of cops and robbers, almost as if you’re walking through a high-toned coffee-table book.

Throughout the three-story building, the museum presents a number of interactive displays. You can learn how to crack a safe, watch clips of famous movies such as “The French Connection” and take an electronic quiz to see if the movie squared with reality. In a simulator, you can learn how to drive police vehicles. Then you can stand in a police station lineup or step into an Old West jail cell.

That’s where the simulated experience stops. There are no pretend executions.

That’s right — $17.95 per head. YIKES! I find the price just a scary as the content.

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Steichen, Sold on The Celebrity Aesthetic – washingtonpost.com

The link is for a review of our recently opened exhibition “Edward Steichen: Portraits” at the National Portrait Gallery. It’s a positive review but it seems to have a bit of an edge to it.

“Self-Portrait With Brush and Palette” is a celebrity photograph, an early one, one of the first. If you want to understand the knack of Annie Leibovitz, or the useful affections of Jeff Koons and Julian Schnabel, or how dress-up self-promotion got so deep into the art world, this 107-year-old image is a place where you might start.

It’s half artwork, half ad.

It’s great exhibition – not too large, not too small, very intimate. Here is the link to the official site for the exhibition:

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DCist: Colbert Portrait Hanging in National Portrait Gallery

The Colbert Report has been blissfully, if not nearly at full speed without its striking writers, back for a little more than a week now on Comedy Central. For three nights straight they’ve been running a series showing Stephen traipsing all over Washington with a portrait of himself strapped to his back, trying to convince one of the Smithsonian museums to actually hang it up. Without dwelling on how we managed to miss out on catching this spectacle up close and personal, the real news is that as of last night, Stephen Colbert was successful in his quest. The National Portrait Gallery confirmed this morning that Colbert’s portrait is in fact now hanging above the bathroom on the 2nd floor, just outside of the America‚Äôs Presidents exhibit.

The portrait will be hanging in the museum, which is open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., for the next six weeks.

It’s true – Stephen Colbert was at the National Portrait Gallery. While I didn’t see the filming, I did get to typeset the label for the digital image on canvas. Just one little bit of “behind-the-scenes” info: the hacky sack wasn’t his – he borrowed it from one of the art handlers (and graciously autographed it for him, too).

Does getting on the Colbert Report make us a little more hip? Not really, but it’s great to see more people in the gallery.

Here are some other links to sites commenting on the Colbert portrait:

Associated Press
Washington Post Reliable Source
Washington Examiner
Philadelphia Inquirer
MSNBC
NBC 4 news

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Facing Down The Status Quo – washingtonpost.com

The National Museum of African American History and Culture is slowly lifting the curtain on how it will approach the multitude of stories about African Americans. The museum is years away from opening on the Mall. Today its first exhibition opens at its Smithsonian sister the National Portrait Gallery, whose rich materials it scoured to present images from the past 151 years.

“Let Your Motto Be Resistance: African American Portraits,” surveys 100 photographs, from a 1856 ambrotype, an early technique of photography, of Douglass to a 2004 snapshot of musician and composer Wynton Marsalis with a microphone in front of him, not a trumpet.

The faces are powerful and gorgeous. Their poses telegraph dignity and warmth. Their stories tell how they made steps forward as individuals to forge an image of a resilient, talented people.

We received a great review from the Washington Post for the exhibition that opened last Friday.

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Museum Math: Their Number Is Multiplying – washingtonpost.com

The Washington Post ran a special section on museums in today’s (Sunday) paper. The National Portrait Gallery got a lovely plug about the reopening of our courtyard with it’s new roof (see artist’s conception drawing above). I had completely forgotten that it’s supposed to open next month. (How did I miss that one? Oh right – I’m completely over worked these days.) I have been watching the progress from the windows of the galleries. The two below are from official pictures of a ficus tree being lowered into the courtyard through the last remaining opening.


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Smithsonian Institution Archives

“On 10 August 1846, the United
States Congress passed the legislation (9 Stat. 102) founding the
Smithsonian Institution as an establishment dedicated to the “increase
and diffusion of knowledge,” and President James K. Polk signed it into
law the same day. This legislation was the culmination of over a decade
of debate within the Congress and among the general public over an
unusual bequest. When the English chemist and mineralogist, James
Smithson, died in 1829, he left a will stating that if his nephew and
sole heir died without heirs, his estate should go to the United States
to found in Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution,
an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men.

Page 1 of act organizing the Smithsonian InstitutionBy a vote of 26 to 13, the U.S. Senate passes the act organizing the Smithsonian Institution which is signed into law by President James K. Polk. Among its provisions, the Organic Act specifies: a Board of Regents, Chancellor, and Secretary; a “suitable” building with rooms for the “reception and arrangement” of objects of natural history, a chemical laboratory, a library, a gallery of art, and lecture rooms; the transfer to the Institution of all objects of art, natural history, etc., belonging to the United States in Washington; and the deposit in the Smithsonian of one copy of all publications copyrighted under the acts of Congress. The act stipulates that the original legacy of $515,169, plus interest accrued at the rate of 6% on loan to the U.S. Treasury, amounting to $242,129, shall be maintained as a trust fund, and all expenditures and appropriations must come from interest accrued in this fund.

I’m very proud that I work for the Smithsonian Institution. Despite the recent press about the former secretary, Larry Small, I hope the public realizes that the Smithsonian is a great place to visit, to work at and support financially (hint, hint).

Here are a few numbers about the world’s largest museum complex:

Museums 19

Affiliate Museums 144

Research Centers 9

Visitors (2006)
SI Museums 23.2 million
National Zoo 2.6 million
Affiliate museums 20.6 million
Traveling exhibitions 4.5 million
Website visitors 150.0 million

Collections
Objects, artworks and specimens more than 136 million

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