Lectures & Seminars

Month

  

Programs listed below are in chronological order.



The Spell of Vermeer

Saturday, February 13, 2016 at 9:30 a.m.

Vermeer’s art draws us into a world where the everyday is transformed into the timeless. Art historian Aneta Georgievska-Shine delves into the artistry behind that power. (World Art History Certificate elective)

The Law of War

Tuesday, February 16, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

For all it lawlessness, war has been marked for centuries by gallantries, customs, and rites. But as the nature of war and how it is conducted evolves, how does the law of war apply to modern conflicts—including those that may be devoid of human combatants? Judge Evan J. Wallach examines the new legal standards that have been shaped in the post-9/11 world.

DC’s Historic Sites: Welcome to Southeast

Wednesday, February 17, 2016 at 12 p.m.

A new lunchtime lecture series on Washington’s four quadrants kicks off with a focus on Southeast, one of the first areas of the federal city to develop thanks to the twin economic engines of the Capitol and the Navy Yard. Enjoy learning about several notable sites on both banks of the Anacostia. This lecture features the Frederick Douglass Home.

Wall Writers: Graffiti’s Genesis

Wednesday, February 17, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

It took only about 5 years for the spray-painted art that exploded onto city walls in the late 1960s to move into galleries. Director Roger Gastman explores graffiti’s cultural invasion of the mainstream—and the art world—in a new documentary narrated by John Waters.

A Day at the Louvre

Saturday, February 20, 2016 at 9:30 a.m.

The Louvre defines Paris and the history of art—and as a museum and a landmark is constantly re-defining itself. Art historian Nancy G. Heller opens its treasures in an essential day for art lovers that also includes a French-themed lunch. (World Art History Certificate elective)

Pirates and Philistines: The Raids of the Sea Peoples

Saturday, February 20, 2016 at 9:30 a.m.

Piracy flourished in the Aegean world during the 14th century B.C., as the raiders called the Sea Peoples caused widespread upheavals and brought an end to the region’s Bronze-Age empires over the course of two centuries. Archaeologist Robert Stieglitz examines this turbulent era and how several of the pirate tribes established new homelands in Canaan.

Digital Detectives Reveal Medicine’s Roots

Tuesday, February 23, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

Michael B. Toth, a technology specialist who works in the preservation of cultural objects, tells the fascinating story of how he and associates digitally reunited a seminal translation of an early medical text by Galen from libraries around the globe—and what they discovered beneath the manuscript’s layers.

DC’s Historic Sites: Welcome to Southeast

Wednesday, February 24, 2016 at 12 p.m.

A new lunchtime lecture series on Washington’s four quadrants kicks off with a focus on Southeast, one of the first areas of the federal city to develop thanks to the twin economic engines of the Capitol and the Navy Yard. Enjoy learning about several notable sites on both banks of the Anacostia. This lecture features the Navy Yard.

Vinegar: A New Vintage

Thursday, February 25, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

Take a leap beyond balsamic with innovative vinegar-maker Daniel Liberson of Virginia’s Lindera Farms, who takes a look at the new directions taken by today’s vinegars—many of which are crafted with some deliciously unconventional ingredients.

The Riddle of Umami: In Search of the Fifth Taste

Monday, February 29, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

We still can’t quite pin it down with an exact definition, but we definitely know it when we taste it. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist John McQuaid explores the history, biology, and culinary art of the unique sensation of umami.

DC’s Historic Sites: Welcome to Southeast

Wednesday, March 2, 2016 at 12 p.m.

A new lunchtime lecture series on Washington’s four quadrants kicks off with a focus on Southeast, one of the first areas of the federal city to develop thanks to the twin economic engines of the Capitol and the Navy Yard. Enjoy learning about several notable sites on both banks of the Anacostia. This lecture features the Congressional Cemetery.

Four Masters and Their Art

Saturday, March 5, 2016 at 9:30 a.m.

Masaccio, Velazquez, Manet, and Picasso each changed the way art was made and appreciated. Artist and art historian Joseph Cassar leads an exploration of their careers and their bold and revolutionary works. (World Art History Certificate elective)

The Era of European Dictators

Saturday, March 5, 2016 at 9:30 a.m.

Why did Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, and Franco find their nations such ripe targets for their political ambitions? Marcus Jones, history professor at the U.S. Naval Academy, explores why and how political, economic, and historical events in the aftermath of WWI led to some of the worst dictatorships in European history.

The Real Science (and Scientist) Behind The X-Files

Sunday, March 6, 2016 at 5 p.m.

Meet University of Maryland virologist Anne Simon, the expert advisor who made sure that the popular series—and its upcoming reprise—was rooted in scientific fact, no matter how paranormally puzzling Mulder and Scully found the cases.

Behind the Science with Joe Palca: Insights from Scientific Innovators

Monday, March 7, 2016 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 Keisha Findley and the Human Microbiome. Part of a 5-Session Lecture Series.

DC’s Historic Sites: Welcome to Southeast

Wednesday, March 9, 2016 at 12 p.m.

A new lunchtime lecture series on Washington’s four quadrants kicks off with a focus on Southeast, one of the first areas of the federal city to develop thanks to the twin economic engines of the Capitol and the Navy Yard. Enjoy learning about several notable sites on both banks of the Anacostia. This lecture features St. Elizabeths Hospital.

Cities of the Bible

Wednesday, March 9, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

Classicist Robert Cargill weaves together biblical archaeology and history as he surveys cities in the Holy Land and beyond—including Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Babylon, Athens, and Rome—to reveal how their stories shed new light on the Bible.

Saints in America: Centuries of Faith

Thursday, March 10, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

Rev. Michael Witczak of Catholic University explores the phenomenon and process of sainthood—including several individuals with local-area ties moving toward canonization.

Skyfaring: A Journey with a Pilot

Thursday, March 10, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

Professional pilot and author Mark Vanhoenacker reminds us that air travel remains one of the most remarkable feats of the modern world. He fuses science, physics, geography, and personal insights as he takes a new look at the experience passengers and pilots share as they’re suspended between take-off and landing.

The Fabric of Venice

Saturday, March 12, 2016 at 9:30 a.m.

What is the reason for Venice’s endless fascination for artists of all kinds? Eric Denker of the National Gallery of Art surveys the city’s defining urban elements—from bridges and canals to squares and churches—to discover the source of Venice’s spell over the creative imagination. (World Art History Certificate elective)

Putting on the Ring: Wagner’s Monumental Cycle Comes to Washington National Opera

Saturday, March 12, 2016 at 9:30 a.m.

Washington National Opera’s director Francesca Zambello, music director Philippe Auguin, and designers and leading singers join opera expert Fred Plotkin for a day-long exploration of how the company will tackle the musical, dramatic, and technical challenges of bringing Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen to the Kennedy Center this season.

The Purple Crayon and the Red Scare: More Than a Children’s Story

Tuesday, March 15, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

Between them, illustrator Crockett Johnson (best known for Harold and the Purple Crayon), and writer Ruth Krauss were involved in some of the most beloved and influential children’s books of the 1950s and 60s. The couple’s involvement in leftist politics, though, garnered them a less appreciative audience: the FBI. Their biographer Philip Nel tells a fascinating tale of the intersection of art, publishing, and ideology during the Cold War.

The Hebrides: Scotland’s Enduring Islands

Tuesday, March 15, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

Explore the Hebridean islands off the west coast of Scotland with Smithsonian Journeys expert Cassandra Potts Hannahs. Learn about the fascinating history and culture of Scotland’s stunning rugged island archipelago, and also the many sites and events that can be visited and enjoyed today.

Why James Madison Changed His Mind: The Birth of the Bill of Rights

Wednesday, March 16, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

James Madison was among the framers of the Constitution who blocked the inclusion of a bill of rights in that historic document. Two years later, he became the chief proponent of the concept. On the anniversary of Madison’s 265th birthday, Constitutional scholar Linda R. Monk examines the story behind his greatest legislative achievement.

The Army Corps of Engineers: Building Managers for the Capital City

Thursday, March 17, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

Beginning in the early 19th century through the 1930s, the Army Corps of Engineers was an essential force in shaping the urban landscape of Washington. Architectural historian Pamela Scott surveys the often-overlooked but significant work of these military engineers, whose projects—including the Washington Monument, Library of Congress, and Arlington Memorial Bridge—are part of the fabric of the city we know today.

Art Deco: Vibrant, Eclectic, and Dynamic

Saturday, March 19, 2016 at 9:30 a.m.

The up-to-the minute energy of the Jazz Age found its perfect embodiment in Art Deco. Art historian Bonita Billman surveys the eclectic influences and wide range of creators whose work shaped the style that reflected modern living in machine age. (World Art History Certificate elective)

Chewing the Fat: Should We or Shouldn’t We?: Fat, Good Health Choices, and You

Saturday, March 19, 2016 at 10 a.m.

In an engaging and informative discussion, Tom Brenna, a professor of human nutrition and of chemistry at Cornell University, brings some order to the chaotic subject of fat choices and nutrition. He shares the latest information about fats and how you can make them part of a balanced diet.

Raoul Wallenberg: A Heroic Life

Wednesday, March 23, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

Raoul Wallenberg’s courage at the height of the Holocaust saved countless Jewish lives in Hungary, and ultimately cost him his own. Swedish author and journalist Ingrid Carlberg discusses her recent biography of Wallenberg in a conversation with Steve Roberts.

The Hollywood Musical: Four Decades of Magic! Part 1: The 1930s

Thursday, March 24, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

The country shook off the Depression blues—at least for an hour or two—thanks to Fred, Ginger, Judy, and hundreds and hundreds of tap-happy chorus girls. American music specialist Robert Wyatt kicks off a new series with a joyful look at the movies that sang, danced, and beguiled us when we needed it most.

Planning Operation Overlord: Behind the Normandy Invasion

Thursday, March 24, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

Though ultimately successful, D-Day was an almost-impossible political and logistical nightmare to conceive and execute. David Eisenhower examines the background of the daring cross-Channel invasion led by his grandfather, General Dwight D. Eisenhower.

The Myth of the Lost Cause: How Civil War-History Was Rewritten

Tuesday, March 29, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

The Southern-created “Myth of the Lost Cause” has shadowed the historical remembrance of the Civil War, the country's watershed event. Historian Ed Bonekemper critically examines the accuracy of that myth and how it has affected perceptions of slavery, states' rights, and the nature of the conflict itself.

Philip Johnson: A Life of Architectural Invention

Wednesday, March 30, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

With an aesthetic that found its reflection both in buildings of stripped-down beauty and bold idiosyncrasy, Philip Johnson made an indelible mark on the architecture of the 20th century. In a richly illustrated lecture, historian Bill Keene traces Johnson’s life and his legacy. (World Art History Certificate elective)

Visual Literacy: The Art of Seeing

Saturday, April 2, 2016 at 9:30 a.m.

Like any language, art has its own vocabulary—one in which you discover more meaning and gratification as your fluency increases. Spend a day with art historian Lisa Passaglia Bauman expanding your understanding of how art communicates, how to analyze and interpret it, and how to see in a cultural context. (World Art History Certificate elective)

Jesus Before the Gospels: How Early Christians Remembered, Changed, and Invented Stories of the Savior

Saturday, April 2, 2016 at 9:30 a.m.

How much of the portrait of Jesus that emerges in the first Gospels is based on reliable narratives and remembrances? Bart Ehrman, a leading authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the life of Jesus, looks for answers in an examination of the writings that embody early-Christian memories.

Julia Ward Howe: Beyond the Battle Hymn

Monday, April 4, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

The most famous song of the Civil War made her celebrated, but Julia Ward Howe also made her name as a pacifist, author, suffragist, world traveler, and a tireless campaigner for women’s rights and social reform. Her biographer Elaine Showalter joins NPR’s Cokie Roberts in a conversation about Howe’s remarkable self-creation that defied her era’s conventions of what a woman could be.

The House Museum as a Memory Palace: Discovering the Lesser-Known Treasures of Paris

Monday, April 4, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

Art historian Aneta Georgievska-Shine opens the doors of some of the most remarkable house museums in Paris, including Musée Jacquemart-André and the houses of Gustave Moreau and Auguste Rodin. (World Art History Certificate elective)

Stories on Stone: The Art of the Ice Age

Tuesday, April 5, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

Paleoanthropologist Ian Tattersall presents a look inside the deep limestone caves of southern France and northern Spain, locations where practitioners of a creative tradition that endured an astonishing 30,000 years produced some of the most powerful art ever made.

DC’s Historic Sites: Welcome to Northeast

Wednesday, April 6, 2016 at 12 p.m.

The new lunchtime lecture series on Washington’s four quadrants continues with a focus on Northeast, an area with connections to the railroad and public markets, as well as education, social change, a president, and a neighborhood once known as Swampoodle. This lecture features Union Station.

Weavers of the Cosmic Web

Wednesday, April 6, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

In a fascinating talk, cosmologist J. Richard Gott gives an insider’s account of how a generation of theorists and observers solved the mystery of the architecture of our cosmos.

Mario Livio: Our Place in the Cosmos

Saturday, April 9, 2016 at 9:30 a.m.

In a provocative and entertaining seminar, astrophysicist Mario Livio draws on the latest astronomical and particle physics findings—from the subatomic world to the universe at large—to place the existence of intelligent life on Earth in the broadest possible context.

Behind the Science with Joe Palca: Insights from Scientific Innovators

Monday, April 11, 2016 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 Nora Volkow and the Science of Addiction. Part of a 5-Session Lecture Series.

Juleps, Smashes, and Sangarees: Cocktails of the Civil War Era

Tuesday, April 12, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

Some of our favorite American cocktails date from the Civil War period and earlier. Sip your way through the era as cocktail historian Phillip Green looks at the popular drinks of the mid-19th century.

DC’s Historic Sites: Welcome to Northeast

Wednesday, April 13, 2016 at 12 p.m.

The new lunchtime lecture series on Washington’s four quadrants continues with a focus on Northeast, an area with connections to the railroad and public markets, as well as education, social change, a president, and a neighborhood once known as Swampoodle. This lecture features Gallaudet University.

Cervantes: The Man Who Invented Fiction

Wednesday, April 13, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

Biographer William Egginton examines Cervantes's life and the world he lived in, exploring how his work—especially Don Quixote—radically changed the nature of literature.

Inside the State Department’s Diplomatic Reception Rooms

Thursday, April 14, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

Join director Marcee F. Craighill for an artistic overview of the recreated period rooms that are among Washington’s most stunning spaces. A separate tour provides a chance to examine them close-up.

Under the Weather: How Climate Works

Thursday, April 14, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

Climate change is one of the greatest issues facing human kind in the 21st century. Gain a better understanding of the global climatic system and the potential impact of climate change on our world from Douglas Herman, senior geographer at the American Indian Museum.

Superman: American Golem, The Jewish Origins of the Man of Steel

Tuesday, April 19, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

They’re an unlikely duo, but the hero of Metropolis shares some literary DNA with the legendary avenger of 16th-century Prague. Historian Ralph Nurnberger traces the connection between two super-powered figures who each were created at historical moments when Jews were shadowed by persecution.

DC’s Historic Sites: Welcome to Northeast

Wednesday, April 20, 2016 at 12 p.m.

The new lunchtime lecture series on Washington’s four quadrants continues with a focus on Northeast, an area with connections to the railroad and public markets, as well as education, social change, a president, and a neighborhood once known as Swampoodle. This lecture features Union Market.

Beyond the Jefferson Enigma

Wednesday, April 20, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

Biographers Annette Gordon-Reed and Peter S. Onuf examine Thomas Jefferson’s vision of himself, the American Revolution, Christianity, slavery, and race through the lens of what they term his “empire of imagination.”

Pati Jinich: The Tastes of Modern Mexico

Thursday, April 21, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

The cookbook author and PBS series host sits down with National Geographic food writer Mary Beth Albright to discuss her Mexican heritage and share stories of the food, people, and places behind the recipes in her newest collection, Mexican Today.

Giants of the Northern Renaissance: Van Eyck, Durer, Bosch and Bruegel

Saturday, April 23, 2016 at 9:30 a.m.

Art historian Aneta Georgievska-Shine examines the works of four masters whose distinctive styles and artistic visions created a treasury of works whose power and beauty still endures. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1 credit)

The Mindful Path To Changing Habits

Saturday, April 23, 2016 at 10 a.m.

Meditation teacher Hugh Byrne leads a day focused on honing the skills and practices of mindfulness that can spark changes in your daily life.

Mythic Women: Leading Ladies of Greek Antiquity

Tuesday, April 26, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

The women on Mount Olympus may have been goddesses, but the daily lives of ancient Greek women fell far short of that ideal.  However, their portrayals in the great tragedies and comedies—from Antigone and Electra to Medea—were nothing less than heroic. Classicist Frederick Winter presents a spirited investigation of the dramatic ladies of ancient Greece. 

DC’s Historic Sites: Welcome to Northeast

Wednesday, April 27, 2016 at 12 p.m.

The new lunchtime lecture series on Washington’s four quadrants continues with a focus on Northeast, an area with connections to the railroad and public markets, as well as education, social change, a president, and a neighborhood once known as Swampoodle. This lecture features President Lincoln's Cottage.

Celebrating the Southern Table: Dinner at Tupelo Honey Café with Food Writer Nancie McDermott

Wednesday, April 27, 2016 at 6 p.m.

Over dinner at Arlington’s Tupelo Honey Café, North Carolina-born food writer Nancie McDermott offers a food-lover’s guide to South that emphasizes the region’s rich array of regional cuisines.

The Bronte Sisters: Their Stories in Keepsakes

Friday, April 29, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

Victorian literature scholar Deborah Lutz discusses her new biography, which reveals the complicated and beguiling lives of the literary Bronte sisters: Anne, Charlotte, and Emily.

The Civil War’s Turning Points: New Perspectives, First Bull Run to Vicksburg

Saturday, April 30, 2016 at 9:30 a.m.

Historian Stephen Engle revisits five pivotal Civil War battles—First Bull Run, Shiloh Antietam, Gettysburg, and Vicksburg—to determine if their historical significance as the war’s turning points over the past 150 years still holds.

DC’s Historic Sites: Welcome to Northeast

Wednesday, May 4, 2016 at 12 p.m.

The new lunchtime lecture series on Washington’s four quadrants continues with a focus on Northeast, an area with connections to the railroad and public markets, as well as education, social change, a president, and a neighborhood once known as Swampoodle. This lecture features the Sewall-Belmont House.

Marvel Men: Directors Joe and Anthony Russo on Bringing Captain America to the Screen

Thursday, May 5, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

Joe and Anthony Russo, directors of two entries in the Captain America film franchise, discuss their experience in transporting the adventures of the iconic superhero from the page to the screen and screen clips from their newest, Captain America: Civil War.

Enduring Splendors: Four Historic English Cities

Saturday, May 7, 2016 at 9:30 a.m.

Explore four of England’s most beloved cities, from York’s bustling medieval streets and Oxford’s beautiful colleges to the splendid vistas of Cambridge and the Georgian elegance of Bath, and discover the treasures and the history that have long made these cities unforgettable.

Behind the Science with Joe Palca: Insights from Scientific Innovators

Monday, May 9, 2016 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 Kathryn Sullivan and Climate and Weather. Part of a 5-Session Lecture Series.

DC’s Historic Sites: Welcome to Northeast

Wednesday, May 11, 2016 at 12 p.m.

The new lunchtime lecture series on Washington’s four quadrants continues with a focus on Northeast, an area with connections to the railroad and public markets, as well as education, social change, a president, and a neighborhood once known as Swampoodle. This lecture features Historic Swampoodle.

Behind the Science with Joe Palca: Insights from Scientific Innovators

Monday, June 6, 2016 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 Irwin Singer and Tribology. Part of a 5-Session Lecture Series.

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