Lectures & Seminars



Programs listed below are in chronological order.

Sculpture in the Age of Impressionism: Rodin, Degas, and Rosso

Wednesday, September 9, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

David Gariff, senior lecturer at the National Gallery of Art and an adjunct professor at The Catholic University of America, explores the life and work of three seminal artists working against the 19th-century backdrop of new and changing artistic theories. (World Art History Certificate elective)

Oaxaca: Crossroads of a Continent

Thursday, September 10, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

Scholar George Scheper surveys Oaxaca’s rich cultural history over the centuries, from the domestication of maize corn more than 10,000 years ago to the emergence of Oaxaca as a contemporary arts center today.

Understanding Architecture: Structure and Symbols

Saturday, September 12, 2015 at 9:30 a.m.

In their designs and purposes, Stonehenge, a medieval cathedral, and the new One World Trade Center are worlds apart—in more ways than one. Lisa Passaglia Bauman, an assistant professor of art history at George Mason University, reveals the timeless structural language that unites these and other iconic works of architecture. (World Art History Certificate elective)

The Supreme Court: A Preview of the New Term

Tuesday, September 15, 2015 at 10 a.m.

Spend a morning getting a rare behind-the-scenes look at the Supreme Court—including the courtroom where cases are argued. Then, a panel of top legal experts previews the issues that will come before the court when the new session begins in October.

The Supreme Court: A Preview of the New Term (Afternoon Panel Only)

Tuesday, September 15, 2015 at 1:30 p.m.

Spend the afternoon with a panel of top legal experts who will preview the issues that will come before the Supreme Court when the new session begins in October.

Preserving with Mrs. Wheelbarrow: Putting Up Tomatoes

Tuesday, September 15, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

Imagine your pantry shelves filled with jars of home-made delights made from fresh seasonal produce. Cathy Barrow, author of Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry, is ready to teach you all the canning and preserving tricks you need to make that a reality. This is the third session of a 4-session program.

Blue Spy vs. Gray Spy: Secrets of Civil War Espionage

Tuesday, September 15, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

The Civil War produced innovations in snooping that would change the way intelligence was gathered. Clayton Laurie, a historian at the Central Intelligence Agency, examines how this bloody conflict became a battle of wits as well as strength as both sides used new intelligence techniques that influenced the outcomes of key battles.

Understanding Grand Strategy: National Policies, Historical Contexts

Wednesday, September 16, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

What insights into current domestic and international issues can the histories of great powers offer us? Marcus Jones, professor of history at the United States Naval Academy, discusses the concept of grand strategies in eras that span ancient Rome, the British Empire, and the Cold War.

Sake: Japanese Culture in a Cup

Thursday, September 17, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

“Sake Samurai” Timothy Sullivan leads a tasty introduction to the world of premium sake, a libation the Japanese call the drink of the gods.

Travels with Casanova: An Artistic Itinerary

Thursday, September 17, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

Art historian C. D. Dickerson highlights the sweep of Casanova’s life by setting it against the visual backdrop of his world, which extended beyond his native Venice to major cultural centers from Madrid to Moscow. How can the art of his day illuminate our understanding of this serial seducer?

A Method in the Madness: Searching for Sense in Unreason

Tuesday, September 22, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

Across the centuries, forms of mental disturbance have frightened, fascinated, and haunted us—and in many cases, sparked the creative imaginations of great artists. Author Andrew Scull traces the long and complex history of unreason and our attempts to understand it.

Rome’s Via Pia: A Hidden Gem of a Street

Thursday, September 24, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

Wander along with Rome expert George Sullivan as he leads you down one of Rome’s most beautiful streets. It’s one that bursts with the beauty of baroque churches and other architectural wonders—rather than tourists. (World Art History Certificate elective)

An Evening with Bud Selig, Baseball Commissioner Emeritus

Thursday, September 24, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

After 22 years at the helm of America’s pastime, Bud Selig has plenty of great stories to tell about baseball’s boom years—and a few about the challenges he and the sport faced. He joins a panel of sports media pros including USA Today’s Christine Brennan, Washington Post's Barry Svrluga, and attorney/sportscaster Phil Hochberg for an evening sure to hit a home run with fans.

Percy Fawcett: In Search of El Dorado

Thursday, September 24, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

In 1925 British explorer Percy Fawcett launched his final—and fatal—expedition into the depths of the Amazon to find a legendary city of gold. Writer David Grann tells the tale of that doomed adventure, and of his own journey along the explorer’s path. Part of the Uncharted Territory: Great Expeditions and the Trailblazers Who Led Them series.

Lyn Paolo on Designing Scandal: Costume Design for Capitol Intrigue

Friday, September 25, 2015 at 7 p.m.

Emmy Award-winning designer Lyn Paolo is the genius behind the hit series that generates as much buzz for Kerry Washington’s wardrobe as its twists-and-turns depiction of the DC political scene. She talks to the Washington Post’s Robin Givhan about designing Washington fashions that any Hill power broker would gladly plot to wear.

Jean Sibelius: 150 Years Young

Saturday, September 26, 2015 at 9:30 a.m.

Cellist Yvonne Caruthers offers an in-depth musician’s perspective on the life and work of the Finnish national musical hero whose compositions span genres from Christmas carols to pioneering minimalist pieces.

Grammatical Gaffes: A Linguist Looks at Some Pet Peeves

Saturday, September 26, 2015 at 10:30 a.m.

Between you and I, do people that impact you negatively literally drive you up the wall? If that sentence sets your teeth on edge, you’ve got a lot in common with linguist Anne Curzan, who casts a (figurative) critical eye on today’s most prevalent lapses in grammar in a lively and informative seminar.

Coloring Books: No Longer Just Child’s Play

Sunday, September 27, 2015 at 2 p.m.

Gorgeous coloring books designed to melt away grown-up stress have struck gold (and blue and green and magenta) on the best-seller lists. Art therapist and coloring book author Lacy Mucklow explains why so many adults are returning to a once-favorite pastime.

En Garde! The Art of Fight Choreography

Monday, September 28, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

Professional fight director Robb Hunter demonstrates how stage and screen performers get the upper hand (or knife or sword or gun) in exciting and realistic clashes that don’t actually put them in danger. Front-row seats are optional. 

Foraging Through America’s Culinary History

Tuesday, September 29, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

Libby H. O’Connell, History Channel’s chief historian, serves up a savory history of American food filled with historical nuggets, strange delicacies of yesteryear, and the familiar dishes we love in her new book The American Plate: A Culinary History in 100 Bites. Dig in!

David Eagleman on the Secrets of the Brain

Tuesday, September 29, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

The host of the upcoming six-part PBS series The Brain with David Eagleman takes us on a fascinating journey through our inner cosmos, exploring the story of how your life shapes your brain, and how your brain shapes your life.

The Joys of Traveling Alone: How to Boldly Go Solo

Tuesday, September 29, 2015 at 7 p.m.

For many vacationers, the road less traveled (and more enjoyed) is one that’s navigated alone. Travel writer Ellen Perlman extols the fun and freedom of planning an itinerary for one.

Lerner and Loewe: Musical Champagne

Wednesday, September 30, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

American music specialist Robert Wyatt raises a toast to the romance, sparkle, and wit of songs by the creators of My Fair Lady, Brigadoon, Camelot, and other classic shows.

Denmark’s Defiance: Protecting a Nation’s Jews in WWII

Thursday, October 1, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

When Denmark’s Jewish population faced arrest and deportation in 1943, their fellow citizens provided an extraordinary rebuke to Hitler by smuggling almost all of them out of the country. Ralph Nurnberger of Georgetown University tells the story of this national act of courage.

Preserving with Mrs. Wheelbarrow: Sweet, Hot, and Abundant Chiles

Tuesday, October 6, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

Imagine your pantry shelves filled with jars of home-made delights made from fresh seasonal produce. Cathy Barrow, author of Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry, is ready to teach you all the canning and preserving tricks you need to make that a reality. This is the final session of a 4-session program.

Haunted: Remembering Edgar Allan Poe

Wednesday, October 7, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

On the 166th anniversary of his death, the original “man in black” gets a literary toast from writer Daniel Stashower and actor Scott Sedar. Raise your glass along with them.

Christina Tosi: Bringing Milk Bar Life to DC

Thursday, October 8, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

Life is sweet for the founding chef behind Milk Bar, the bakery that has fans in New York City and Toronto hooked on its glorious goodies. As the latest branch prepares to conquer DC’s dessert lovers, learn how Christina Tosi created a distinctive—and decidedly upbeat—approach to baking.

Frederick Forsyth, Grandmaster of International Suspense

Thursday, October 8, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

Author Frederick Forsyth has been writing extraordinary real-world novels of intrigue, for more than 40 years. Hear him talk about the amazing experiences that have informed his life and his work.

Kris Tompkins on Building Patagonia National Park

Tuesday, October 13, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

Kris Tompkins discusses the career path that took her from CEO of Patagonia Inc. to key player in the creation of the future Patagonia National Park.

Jancis Robinson on Wine’s Intriguing New Directions

Tuesday, October 13, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

Renowned wine critic and journalist Jancis Robinson shares observations on the shape of wine to come: lighter, fresher, and more geographically focused. After a discussion of the wine world’s trends, raise a toast as you sample a selection of wines.

Murals: What the Walls Say

Saturday, October 17, 2015 at 9:30 a.m.

From the caves of Lascaux to the Peacock Room, medieval castles to Rockefeller Center, artists of all kinds have found walls to be an irresistible place to tell a story. William Woodward, an artist and professor emeritus at George Washington University, guides you though the history of this ancient narrative art form. (World Art History Certificate elective)

The Baltic Riviera: Landscape and Memory

Saturday, October 17, 2015 at 9:30 a.m.

The intertwined yet distinctive cultural heritages of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania reveal themselves in dazzling medieval guild halls, towering Gothic cathedrals, Russian Orthodox churches, Baroque palaces, and extraordinary art nouveau buildings. Art historian Ursula Rehn Wolfman leads a look at the region’s history and dazzling and diverse architecture.

The Shadowy History of Film Noir

Saturday, October 17, 2015 at 5 p.m.

As the AFI Silver Theater hosts the annual Noir City festival, film scholar Eddie Mueller digs into the detectives, the dames, and the dark doings that make film noir an enduring American genre.

The Mind of a Critic: Dishing on DC’s Dining Scene

Sunday, October 18, 2015 at 6 p.m.

We’ve all followed a food critic’s advice. But what do we really know about the profession? Respected local food critics and writers Tom Sietsema (Washington Post), Jessica Sidman (Washington City Paper), and Stefanie Gans (Northern Virginia Magazine) sit down to talk about the life of a food critic and D.C.’s and Northern Virginia’s ever-evolving dining scene.

Along Central Asia’s Silk Road: Culture, Traditions, History, and Legends

Tuesday, October 20, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

Zulya Rajabova, a Silk Road educator and travel expert, serves as guide for an evening focused on the history and culture of several Central Asian nations that grew along the fabled thoroughfare.

Behavior by the Numbers: How Our Personal Data Exposes Us

Tuesday, October 20, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

As we live more of our lives online, data scientists have become the new demographers. Christian Rudder, who founded OKCupid, examines how our personal information is being used to describe who we are as individuals and a society.

Dave Broom Gets Us in the Spirit for Gin

Wednesday, October 21, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

Guiding us through the joys of gin is none other than Dave Broom, who last delighted Smithsonian audiences with his guided tasting to the world’s best whiskies. As you sip some fantastic drinks, you’ll learn to enjoy gin in ways you never thought possible.

Resolving Violent Conflicts

Wednesday, October 21, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

Why do people fight and die? Why does violence become the only solution to a problem for some groups and not for others? Two experts in conflict analysis and resolution explore what is being done to reduce and eliminate hostilities around the world in the future.

Kevin Costner Draws Us into The Explorer’s Guild: Old-Fashioned Storytelling with a New Twist

Friday, October 23, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

Hear Academy-award winning director, producer, and actor Kevin Costner talk about a new role: co-creator of The Explorer’s Guild, a new series of illustrated novels that are a throwback to the golden age of adventure stories.

The Maya: Ancient Splendors, Modern Legacies

Saturday, October 24, 2015 at 9:30 a.m.

Humanities scholar George Scheper shows how interdisciplinary study of the Maya extends beyond traditional archaeological studies to comprise political and social history, art, comparative religion, and ecology.

Understanding Contemporary Art: From Pop to Pluralism

Saturday, October 24, 2015 at 9:30 a.m.

The 1960s jolted America—and its artists—into a new era of boldness, experimentation, and often, confrontation. Art historian Nancy G. Heller looks at the roots and influences of radical American art from the last five decades. (World Art History Certificate elective)

Cold-Case Homicides: An FBI Analysis

Monday, October 26, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

If you’ve been hooked on the podcast “Serial,” you’ll want to hear what Timothy G. Keel, a major case specialist with the FBI, has to say about the complexities, challenges, and techniques connected with investigating long-unsolved murders.

An Evening of Ethiopian Cuisine

Monday, October 26, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

Explore the stunning Ethiopic restaurant in the Atlas District, which is making a name for serving delicious authentic cuisine. Learn about Ethiopian culture as you enjoy a 3-course meal and a glass of wine at this exclusive event for Smithsonian participants only.

Artists Against the Third Reich

Wednesday, October 28, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

As voices of all kinds were being silenced in 1930s Germany, Max Beckmann, Felix Nussbaum, and John Heartfield raised a powerful outcry—through their art. Erich Keel, former head of education at the Kreeger Museum, examines their heroic efforts, as well as art’s role as witness to history during Hitler’s regime. (World Art History Certificate elective)

Steve Case on Local Entrepreneurship

Thursday, October 29, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

AOL got its start in the region in 1985, and Steve Case has been part of a number of other innovative, area-based ventures ever since. Learn why he finds DC is such a great place to create businesses.

The Popes: From Peter to John XXIII

Saturday, October 31, 2015 at 9:30 a.m.

Over the course of two millennia, the unbroken line of leadership of the Roman Catholic Church runs from a humble fisherman to an influential global figure. Historian John M. Freymann the traces the papacy’s inauspicious beginning to its present, powerful form.

The Navigators: Pathfinders of the Pacific

Monday, November 2, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

How did the Polynesian voyagers of a thousand years ago cover vast ocean distances without instruments or charts? Anthropologist Sanford Low found the answers by filming the journey of a modern navigator who circled the globe guided only by waves, wind, and stars.  

Italian Cooking with Jewish Soul

Thursday, November 5, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

Fusion cuisine isn’t a modern invention. Food historian Francine Segan serves up a look at how Jewish culinary traditions entered the Italian kitchen centuries ago, particularly in the distinctive foods of Emilia-Romagna. Sample a few of those regional specialties at a reception after the program.

Henry Hudson: A Navigator’s Fate

Thursday, November 5, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

Perhaps the greatest mystery in the history of Arctic exploration is the fate of British explorer Henry Hudson. In June 1611, mutinous crew members cast him adrift in the waters of what is known today as Hudson Bay. He was never heard from again. Author and Arctic explorer Lawrence Millman shares stories that may shed new light on the explorer’s disappearance. Part of the Uncharted Territory: Great Expeditions and the Trailblazers Who Led Them series.

Mushrooms 101: A Study in Morels and More

Friday, November 6, 2015 at 6:45 p.m.

Explore the remarkable role fungi play in our planet’s ecology with mycologist, Arctic explorer, and author Lawrence Millman.

Write a Novel in a Month

Saturday, November 7, 2015 at 9:30 a.m.

What better to mark November as National Novel Writing Month than producing your own in 30 days? Kathryn Johnson of The Writer’s Center is ready to get you prepped for the literary challenge.

What Does It Mean? Stories and Symbols in Art

Saturday, November 7, 2015 at 9:30 a.m.

Stories from Greek and Roman mythology and the Bible engaged, entertained, and even shocked us for centuries. Art historian Lisa Passaglia Bauman traces these enduring stories from their ancient archetypes to contemporary interpretations. (World Art History Certificate elective)

Russia’s Recent Leaders: A Reassessment

Saturday, November 14, 2015 at 9:30 a.m.

Historian George Munro looks how the presidencies of Gorbachev, Yeltsin, and Putin defined the political culture of post-Soviet Russia and shaped the country’s changing role on the world’s stage.

Andalusia: Monuments and Memories of Islamic Spain

Saturday, November 14, 2015 at 10 a.m.

The fabled cities of Seville, Cordoba, and Granada reflect a richly diverse cultural and artistic history. Art historian Lawrence Butler traces the Muslim, Christian, and Jewish influences that created cities of distinctive and enduring beauty. (World Art History Certificate elective)

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