Photo courtesy of Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History
For this week’s Smithsonian Snapshot, we take a look at the sport of boxing. Worn in his first historic bout with German boxer Max Schmeling in 1936, Joe Louis’ boxing gloves represent a very special chapter in American sports and social history.
While the 1936 match was a heartbreaking loss for Louis, the two boxers met again in 1938 in Yankee Stadium. After that match, Louis was declared the victor in what is considered one of the greatest sporting moments of the 20th century. The historic win cemented Louis’ place in the country’s collective memory, seen as a symbolic contest of American ideals versus those of the Nazis. By easily defeating Schmeling in the first round, Louis became a national hero.
This object is one of more than 1,000 artifacts, works of art and specimens that are on view at Smithsonian Affiliates across the country, and one of 137 million in the Smithsonian’s collection. It is on public display at the Senator John Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh through October 2011 in the exhibition “America’s Best Weekly: A Century of the Pittsburgh Courier.”
The holidays are a time of excess, from decorations and food to parades and retail displays. We splurge on gifts, we make rich feasts for friends and family; we gather close to the people we love, seeking comfort in midwinter. The Smithsonian invited Santa & Mrs. Clause and Twinkle the Elf to the National Museum of American History to open a new small exhibit on the Holidays. Focused on Parades of all seasons, from Tournament of Roses through to Macy’s Thanksgiving, and the retail window displays of department stores (something of a relic to those of us under 40) all across the US, the new exhibit has photos and artifacts from holiday celebrations across the country.
The exhibit is fairly small, just a couple rooms, but what’s contained therein will snap you right out of your Fall Funk and propel you right into Holiday prep. On Wednesday, I was grumpy as hell, seeing the Wal-mart Christmas ads on television already, but last night, that disappointment was absent. Was it the joy in the kids’ eyes, watching Mrs. Claus read a story? Maybe it melted my grinchy heart. Holidays on Display runs for a whole year, on the Third floor, on the West side of the museum.
There’s a companion volume of the same name put out by the museum that has some fascinating history that’s DC-specific, including whole sections on the displays at Woodward & Lothrop, which were deeply memorable. Look for an interview with Mr. Bird in the coming weeks.
Red Sox President Larry Lucchino was joined by Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield at the National Museum of American History this morning, where the Red Sox donated artifacts to the Museum. They donated a Base from the 2004 World Series, and a Game-worn Jon Lester Jersey from the 2007 World Series. The artifacts will be on display on the 3rd floor of NMAH through this weekend, and will be part of a permanent exhibition to be named later.
Right next to the exhibit on the first floor dedicated to America’s transportation systems is the National Museum of American History‘s latest exhibit: On the Water. As much as transportation over land has changed the United States, the maritime elements of our economy has done the same. Divided into seven slices of time, some of which overlap, the exhibit focuses on the coastal and riverfront parts of the United States from 1450 through to the present. Read on for a preview.
The National Museum of American History has a beautiful new exhibit ready just in time for the Memorial Day holiday weekend. “On The Water” is an exhibit surrounding the American Maritime culture, dating back to the first explorations of the Americas, through to modern day. We’ll have a big feature on the exhibit this weekend, but the festivities start up tomorrow first thing. They’ll be opening at 11, and going til 4, with special music from the Washington Revels, as well as an opportunity to sail a small boat near the Smithsonian.
Get on out, see the cool museum, or wait until tomorrow and the whole big photo gallery will make it clear why!
Above, some fuzzy cellphone camera video of my walk around the newly reopened Smithsonian National Museum of American History. A lot of the museum off to the sides has stayed mostly the same, but the change to the central chamber is startling. Alas, the old-fashioned ice cream parlor is gone, as well as the Information Age Exhibit with its Stephen Hansen carousel.
It was sad to me, back in 2006, when the National Museum of American History (NMAH) closed its doors. My wife and I, when first we met, had a very delightful time wandering its halls when she had first come down from Pittsburgh. It’s a special place, for us. I knew that they were working to make it a brighter, more modern place, having not undergone significant renewal since its opening in 1964. It was due for a renovation. Tomorrow morning, at 9am, the ribbon will be cut, and the NMAH will again be open to the public, a combination of new and old, of historic talismans and of high technology.
Yesterday, at the re-dedication of the museum, there was no shortage of fanfare and pomp. The Army District of Washington’s fife and drum corps was present, a brass quintet from the Army Band played, and one of their vocalists sang the national anthem. The President gave a short speech on the importance of the Smithsonian, and what their collection represents in terms of national ideals. President Bush and the First Lady have arranged for the handwritten White House copy of the Gettysburg Address to be on display with the Museum until early January, and you can stand just inches from the famous text, handwritten by President Lincoln. Around the corner is the book in which that speech appeared, as it was part of a fundraising effort in 1864 for the Union Army. Also included was the original copy of the Star Spangled Banner, in Francis Scott Key’s own hand. Continue reading →