Eat Like Me, History, The Daily Feed

Smithsonian Snapshot: The Ubiquitous Lunch Box

Lunch Box collection; Image courtesy Smithsonian National Museum of American History

Beginning in the 1950s, television transformed the lunch box from an ordinary food conveyor into a storyteller. The screen-like sides of the lunch box offered kids a new form of self-expression. Since then, the lunch containers carted to and from offices and school classrooms have reflected American culture. Certainly, no meal received more cultural “attention” than lunch.

Box makers paid for the right to use TV shows to promote lunch box sales. The studios used boxes to gain market exposure. And children acquired a new statement of their power and influence in the emerging world of mass-marketed consumer goods.

This selection of boxes and their drink containers from the collections of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History explores that colorful heritage. And to spice up what may be a loooong day at the office, share with us what your favorite lunch box was while growing up!

History, The Daily Feed

Smithsonian Snapshot: Lexington Racehorse

Lexington Racehorse, 1878; Photo courtesy of the International Museum of the Horse

This week’s Smithsonian Snapshot looks at the skeleton of Lexington, the “Official Horse of Bluegrass Country.” Known as one of the greatest racehorses of his day and sire to more winning horses than any other American thoroughbred before or since, Lexington (1850-1875) is a symbol of the town of Lexington, KY.

Originally exhibited in the Osteology Hall at the National Museum of Natural History, Lexington was moved to the National Museum of American History in 1999 to be included in the exhibition “On Time.” His skeleton provided context to the story of the first mass-produced stopwatch that split time into fractions of seconds, allegedly developed to time Lexington’s feats on the racetrack.

In 2010 a team of conservators and specialists at NMNH prepared to return Lexington’s skeleton to his birthplace. They cleaned the bones, made minor repairs, and prepared the skeleton for travel to the International Museum of the Horse, where the skeleton had been approved for loan just in time for the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky—the first time these games had ever been held outside Europe.

The Daily Feed

Smithsonian Snapshot: Strawberry Dart Frog

Photo courtesy Smithsonian Institution

Vibrant but toxic, poison arrow frogs range from less than 1 inch to 2.5 inches in body length. Poison arrow frogs live in the rainforests of Central and South America and on a few Hawaiian Islands.

It is said that poison arrow frogs, also called poison dart frogs, received their name because some Amerindian tribes used their skin secretions to poison their darts. Arrow frogs are not poisonous in captivity. Scientists believe that these frogs gain their poison from specific insects they eat in the wild.

Strawberry dart frogs are one of more than 100 species of poison dart frog. The strawberry dart frog’s reproductive process starts in thick foliage close to the ground, where the female lays about six eggs—each no bigger than a pea—in a moist place after mating. For about the next 10 days, the frogs protect and water the clutch by urinating on it. Continue reading

The District, The Mall

National Museum of American History Reopens Tomorrow

Star Spangled Sculpture 2
Star Spangled Sculpture by tbridge

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