Lectures & Seminars



Programs listed below are in chronological order.

Looking West: Ataturk and the Creation of Modern Turkey

Tuesday, March 31, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

In this evening seminar, learn the fascinating story of Kemal Ataturk, Turkey’s first president, who changed the face of the Ottoman Empire following World War I. Relying on a theme of governance by science and reason rather than by dogma and religion, he dragged a predominately illiterate and lethargic society into the 20th century.

Irving Berlin, The Last of the Troubadours

Tuesday, March 31, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

American music specialist Robert Wyatt takes you through the extraordinary life and  musical achievements of legendary songwriter Irving Berlin.

Roosevelt and Stalin: Portrait of a Partnership

Tuesday, April 7, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

Author Susan Butler tells the story of how the leaders of the capitalist and Communist worlds joined forces to defeat Hitler, and illuminates the unlikely but real alliance the two men forged.

Tim Gunn: How To Navigate Your Personal Runway

Wednesday, April 8, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

The beloved fashion guru from Project Runway (and D.C. native), talks about his career, what he’s learned about mentorship, and holding your own in a tough business—and in life.

Chicken: Dressed with Taste
A Dinner with Food Writer Diana Henry

Thursday, April 9, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

London-based cookbook author Diana Henry sees chicken as one of the most lovable, versatile, and available dishes around. Hear why when she sits down to talk food and home cooking with Bonnie S. Benwick, deputy food editor of the Washington Post. Then sit down to a dinner with a menu designed by Henry that features her favorite takes on the bird.

Walt Whitman in Washington

Thursday, April 9, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

The years from 1863 to 1873 were a tumultuous period for the city of Washington and a pivotal time for Walt Whitman’s career and private life. Local historian Garrett Peck examines the intersection of the changes that decade brought to the capital and the poet.

Azar Nafisi: 2015 Benjamin Franklin Creativity Laureate Presentation

Friday, April 10, 2015 at 7 p.m.

The Iranian novelist best known for Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books receives the 2015 Benjamin Franklin Creativity Laureate Award in honor of her achievements in literature.

Cracking the Runic Code

Saturday, April 11, 2015 at 9:30 a.m.

Scandinavian language professor Henrik Williams sheds light on early Runic inscriptions, providing glimpses of the Viking culture as it was nearly two thousand years ago.

Vivaldi in Venice

Saturday, April 11, 2015 at 9:30 a.m.

Musicologist Daniel Freeman traces Vivaldi’s life in the city of his birth, illuminating sites that were important in the composer’s personal life and that helped inspire much of his music.

Images of Infinite Worlds

Saturday, April 11, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

Photographer Michael Soluri taught a crew of astronauts to capture their 2009 mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope in vivid images. He brings his own memorable photographs of the people and the places of the space program to an evening in which he’s joined by four NASA pros who played key roles in the final service mission to the Hubble.

Fruit of the Ancient Vine

Monday, April 13, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

What would guests in Pompeii have sipped at a dinner party? Get a taste for yourself at a fascinating evening with Piero Mastroberardino, whose family winery in Italy still cultivates the grape varieties that were used in creating the ancient elixir of the gods.

800 Years of Magna Carta

Tuesday, April 14, 2015 at 7 p.m.

Historian Jennifer Paxton traces the transformation of Magna Carta from a list of concessions granted by an unpopular medieval king into a blueprint for good government that influenced the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights.

The McMillan Plan: 1902 to 2015 and Beyond

Wednesday, April 15, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

The McMillan Plan, an ambitious and influential early 20th-century urban planning agenda, shaped the National Mall and central Washington as we know today. Architectural curator Martin Moeller reviews its history, implementation, and impact. Participants can purchase an added bus tour that explores the neoclassical architecture of Washington’s “monumental core” on April 18.

Magic That Adds Up: Mathemagician Colm Mulcahy

Saturday, April 18, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

Ready to discover some surprising insights into mathematical principles? They’re all in the cards when educator-showman Colm Mulcahy dazzles with sleight of hand that brings math’s foundations to life.

William Butler Yeats: Western Ireland’s Poet Extraordinaire

Tuesday, April 21, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

Through a lecture and readings, Christopher Griffin, who taught Irish literature at George Washington University, considers the meaning of Yeats’s poetry and his abiding love of his native land.

Polar Extremes: A Geologist’s Guide

Tuesday, April 21, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

Jim Zimbelman of the Air and Space Museum looks at the Arctic and Antarctic with a focus on the regions’ histories, climate, geology, and geography—and how each pole’s weather serves as an early preview of global climate change.

The Story of Steuben Glass: Creating an American Luxury Brand

Wednesday, April 22, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

Kelly Conway, curator of American Glass at the Corning Museum of Glass, traces how technology, design, marketing, and shifting cultural aspirations came together to make Steuben Glass a name synonymous with modern elegance, superior quality, and glamour.

Smithsonian NewsFlash

Thursday, April 23, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

Join us in a new innovative series that will look behind headlines and amplify sound bites. The newsworthy topic and featured spearker(s) will be announced the Monday before the program's date.

The Philosophy of Thomas Aquinas

Saturday, April 25, 2015 at 9:30 a.m.

Catholic University professor Gregory T. Doolan spends a day examining the historical significance of Aquinas, whose thinking presents one of the most comprehensive philosophical systems in the history of Western civilization. 

Mindfulness as a Path to Happiness and Peace

Saturday, April 25, 2015 at 10 a.m.

Instructor Hugh Byrne explores how mindfulness meditation practices offer a simple and natural way to access a core of inner calm. The session is designed for both veterans and newcomers to the techniques of awareness.

An Evening in Thailand: A Private Dinner at Soi 38

Tuesday, April 28, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

Meet the husband-and-wife team behind the downtown DC spot that has generated lots of buzz since it opened last spring. They’ve planned a special dinner with a menu designed around the tastes of authentic dishes you’d find in a Thai street market.

Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and the American West

Thursday, April 30, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

In the first of several programs on great trailblazers, Landon Jones, editor of The Essential Lewis and Clark, traces the triumphs and hardships of the most momentous of American expeditions.

Great Houses of Scotland and Their Treasures

Saturday, May 2, 2015 at 9:30 a.m.

The architecture and interiors of Scotland’s finest historic houses uniquely reflect the country’s heritage and culture. Spend a day guided by Lorella Brocklesby of New York University as she explores more than 400 years of splendor, from fortified 16th-century tower houses to baroque palaces to exuberant revival styles of the Victorian period. (World Art History Certificate elective)

Visionaries, Eccentrics and Restless Spirits: The Other Great Artists of the Italian Renaissance

Saturday, May 2, 2015 at 9:30 a.m.

Art historian Aneta Georgievska-Shine explores the contributions of several lesser-known painters who created some of the period’s most fascinating, intriguing, and still-insufficiently understood works of art. (World History Certificate elective)

USS Monitor: Symbol, Landmark, and Sanctuary

Sunday, May 3, 2015 at 10 a.m.

The ironclad USS Monitor changed the course of the Civil War and naval combat forever. Historians and scientists, part of an ongoing conservation and research project at the Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, examine the historic warship’s significance from a variety of perspectives.

De-Extinction: A Mammoth Undertaking: Can Ancient DNA Re-create Lost Species?

Monday, May 4, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

The scientific tools to return lost species like the woolly mammoth to life are within reach. Beth Shapiro, an evolutionary biologist and pioneer in ancient DNA research, discusses de-extinction's potential practical benefits and its ethical challenges

A Frank View of Life in Politics and the Real World: Barney Frank Speaks His Mind

Tuesday, May 5, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

The former legislator shares his unvarnished thoughts on Congress, the closed-door workings of the Hill, and how private and public life intersected in his political career. 

Mark Furstenberg: The Neighborhood Bread Baker

Wednesday, May 6, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

The man behind Marvelous Market, the Breadline, and now Bread Furst revolutionized Washington’s taste for bread. Hear Furstenberg talk about his crispy, crunchy, golden-crusted passion, and sample some of his favorite loaves.

Brad Garrett: Laughing at Middle Age

Wednesday, May 6, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

The actor best known for Everybody Loves Raymond discusses his new book, a collection of comedic and personal essays on the gaffes, challenges, and joys of life’s second half.

The Lusitania: 100 Years Later

Thursday, May 7, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

A new documentary from the Smithsonian Channel looks at the maritime tragedy in which nearly 2,000 lives were lost and that set the United States on the path to enter World War I. Join British historian Diana Preston, whose book Lusitania: An Epic Tragedy provided material for the documentary, for a discussion of the Lusitania’s legacy.

Holmes Maintenance: Mike Holmes on Keeping Your House in Shape

Thursday, May 7, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

Contractor and television personality Mike Holmes is the go-to guy for practical guidance when it comes to your home, and he’s collected plenty of tips in his newest book, The Holmes Manual.

5-Star Design: Patrick O’Connell of the Inn at Little Washington

Thursday, May 7, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

The chef and proprietor of the celebrated restaurant and hotel reveals how architectural ingenuity and opulent interior design transformed a former garage into a luxurious country destination.

Historian John Ferling on the American Revolution

Thursday, May 7, 2015 at 7 p.m.

The noted specialist on early America examines the colonies’ defiant insurgency for independence that had to be won in a difficult and uncertain war against a superpower.

What’s So Funny About Comedy?

Friday, May 8, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

Whether the joke is by Aristophanes or Woody Allen, we know when something tickles our funny bone. Television and film writer (and recovered stand-up comic) David Misch offers an appropriately irreverent history of comedy as he explores why it does.

The Ashcan School of Painting

Wednesday, May 13, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

Art critic Judy Pomeranz examines how a group of painters created powerful and personal works that revealed unvarnished truths about urban life in the early 20th century. (World Art History Certificate elective)

The German Expressionists

Thursday, May 14, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

Examine the works of the early-20th-century artists who forged a boldly innovative and highly personal style of painting rooted in their emotions—and that reflected the rapidly changing world around them. (World Art History Certificate elective)

Our Appetite for The Hunger Games

Thursday, May 14, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

Stef Woods of American University, who developed a course on The Hunger Games, discusses why the boundary-breaking success of Suzanne Collins’ trilogy offers plenty of food for thought.

Mario Livio on the Search for Life

Saturday, May 16, 2015 at 9:30 a.m.

Can ours be the only planet among the countless galaxies that can sustain life? The noted astrophysicist explores what we know now—and might learn in the near future—in the search for extraterrestrial life.

Fighting Slavery: Nat Turner to Abraham Lincoln

Saturday, May 16, 2015 at 10 a.m.

Richard Bell of the University of Maryland, College Park, examines the turbulent years between 1829 and 1865, when Americans both enslaved and free built an abolition movement designed to bring slavery to its knees.

How To Read a Work of Art: The Observant Eye

Saturday, May 16, 2015 at 10 a.m.

Art critic Judy Pomeranz introduces the formal principles of art and other tools to help develop your visual vocabulary and deepen your understanding and appreciation of the works you view. (World Art History Certificate elective)

Nora Pouillon: My Organic Life

Monday, May 18, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

The pioneer and champion of organic, environmentally conscious cuisine since Restaurant Nora opened in 1979 reviews a culinary career that changed our relationship with what we eat.

Cokie Roberts on the Women of Civil War Washington

Tuesday, May 19, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

When the Union dissolved, Washington, D.C. was transformed—and that change profoundly affected the city’s women. Cokie Roberts discusses their experiences, influence, and contributions during this momentous period in her new book, Capital Dames.

Bewitched by the Music of Rodgers and Hart

Wednesday, May 20, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

The smooth and smart Rodgers and Hart filled the 1920s and ’30s with songs that sparkled with wit, sophistication, and an engaging sense of joie de vivre. American music specialist Robert Wyatt recalls the songs and show.

Smithsonian NewsFlash

Thursday, May 21, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

Join us in a new innovative series that will look behind headlines and amplify sound bites. The newsworthy topic and featured spearker(s) will be announced the Monday before the program's date.

Behind the Science with Joe Palca: Insights from Scientific Innovators

Tuesday, May 26, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

NPR’s Joe Palca returns to the Smithsonian to sit down with stellar scientists for some engaging and entertaining conversations about the exciting work they do and how it connects to our lives. Tonight's program features Anthony Fauci and global health. Part of a 5-Session Lecture Series.

Birchbark, Brush, and Brick: The Cultural Life of Medieval Novgorod

Wednesday, May 27, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

The mud of Novgorod preserved more than a thousand birchbark scrolls whose messages provide a vivid picture of the everyday lives led by the residents of this once-powerful center of ancient Rus. Harvard’s Michael F. Flier puts the people and their remarkable city into cultural and historical context.

Scott and Amundsen: The Race to the South Pole

Thursday, May 28, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

Author and curator Ross MacPhee of the American Museum of Natural History looks at the rival expeditions led by a pair of “ideal antagonists” that resulted in grand heroism, bitter tragedy, and myths that have lingered for generations.

A Culinary Tour of Mexico with Pati Jinich

Thursday, May 28, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

Join the chef and author as she focuses on food traditions that reflect the spirit and culture of her native country’s diverse regions. Then sample some of those distinctive tastes in three regional variations on the tamale.

A Day at the Prado

Saturday, May 30, 2015 at 9:30 a.m.

Art historian Nancy G. Heller explores some of the Prado’s most important treasures, placing them in their aesthetic and sociopolitical contexts. The day includes a Spanish-themed lunch. (World Art History Certificate elective)

How To Plan a Murder in Washington, D.C.: It’s a Literary Crime!

Thursday, June 4, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

Here’s one mystery that many writers fail to solve: coming up with the correct procedural and atmospheric details when DC is a setting for crime stories. Meet one local who knows her stuff when it comes to tales about crime, Allison Leotta, a former federal prosecutor.

Jeff Shaara on Sherman’s March to the Sea

Thursday, June 4, 2015 at 7 p.m.

The best-selling author examines key actions and decisions of commanders on both sides of Sherman's legendary campaign, a sweep across Georgia that led to the final stroke of the Civil War.

The Phoenicians and Their Colonies

Saturday, June 6, 2015 at 9:30 a.m.

Archaeologist Robert Stieglitz explores the history and cultural heritage of the civilization that brought urban life and literacy to the ancient western Mediterranean.

Drama Most Splendid: Baroque Art and Architecture from Bernini to Rembrandt

Saturday, June 6, 2015 at 9:30 a.m.

Art historian Karin Alexis places baroque art in its artistic and historical contexts, tracing its evolution and examining its richness and breadth through masterworks in many forms. (World Art History Certificate elective)

Smithsonian NewsFlash

Thursday, June 25, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

Join us in a new innovative series that will look behind headlines and amplify sound bites. The newsworthy topic and featured spearker(s) will be announced the Monday before the program's date.

Back to the top