Lectures & Seminars



Programs listed below are in chronological order.

The Future of the City

Wednesday, June 1, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

Do cities hold the key to helping meet the social and economic challenges of contemporary life? Or do they only create those problems? Georgetown University sociologist Brian J. McCabe draws on work by urban planners, political scientists, geographers, and sociologists to consider the answers.

The Rise and Demise of the Iberian Empires

Thursday, June 2, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

Historian Charles Ingrao explores the exhilarating golden ages of discovery in Spain and Portugal, how their global empires expanded and diminished, and the challenges they faced in the process—many of which offer a caution to world powers today.

Gems All: London’s Smaller Museums

Saturday, June 4, 2016 at 9:30 a.m.

Art historian Bonita Billman explores the history, architecture, and collections of five outstanding smaller art museums in greater London and highlights their masterworks. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1 credit)

The Habsburg Legacy

Saturday, June 4, 2016 at 10 a.m.

The world is still dealing with the troublesome remains of the Habsburgs’ 400-year-old empire, whose abrupt removal from the heart of Europe drove many of the catastrophes of the 20th century. Charles Ingrao examines the challenges that have been met and those that still confront us in coming to terms with that legacy.

Art and Culture at the Turkish Embassy

Monday, June 6, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

The Embassy of the Republic of Turkey welcomes guests to hear Julian Raby, director of the Freer and Sackler Galleries, present an overview of important movements, styles, and masters of the country’s art.

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.

Civility in America: Where Did It Go? An Advice Columnists’ Roundtable with Steven Petrow, Lizzie Post, and Carolyn Hax

Tuesday, June 7, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

Can a trio of modern manners experts—and with their guidance, you—stem the tide of today’s increasingly uncivil society? Steve Petrow leads a candid (but polite) conversation with his Washington Post colleague Carolyn Hax and Lizzie Post, whose great-great grandmother was America’s first etiquette expert.

Shakespeare’s Kitchen: Peacocks and Pageantry

Wednesday, June 8, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

Music may be the food of love, but the sumptuous banquets of the Elizabethan era were well-loved by fanciers of more substantial feasts. Food historian Francine Segan serves up a rich and delicious look at the art of dining in Shakespeare’s day.

Beatrix Potter, a Natural Woman

Saturday, June 11, 2016 at 10 a.m.

Beatrix Potter biographer, Linda Lear, provides an intimate look into the life of the beloved author of Peter Rabbit, who used her talent and wealth to preserve the Lake District landscape that had inspired her art.

Inside the Arts and Industries Building

Saturday, June 11, 2016 at 10 a.m.

Exclusive Members-Only Event: Smithsonian Associates members at Resident Promoter level and above are invited to step inside the Arts and Industries Building for a special morning devoted to some of the 19th century’s most influential world’s fairs. Activities include talks by Smithsonian experts, building tours, carnival games, music, and more.

When the Cosmos Does the Wave, Sono-astronomy Happens: Physicist S. James Gates Hears Gravity Waves, At Last

Tuesday, June 14, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

History was made in deep space, billions of light years away, when two massive black holes collided. Just this February, it was confirmed that gravitational waves exist, just as Albert Einstein had predicted in 1915, in his General Theory of Relativity. Physicist S. James Gates explains how Einstein laid the groundwork for the discovery of ripples in the fabric of space time.

The Other Spain: Traveling North of Madrid

Tuesday, June 14, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

Architectural historian and travel writer Barry Goldsmith offers a guide to the often-overlooked attractions of Northern Spain, a region whose unexpected treasures range from spectacular French-inspired cathedrals to striking contemporary architecture.

How Love Won: Jim Obergefell and the Landmark Supreme Court Marriage Equality Decision

Wednesday, June 15, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

The named plaintiff in the historic case that defined marriage equality one year ago talks with NPR’s Nina Totenberg about the personal and public backdrops against which that legal struggle played out. Jim Obergefell is joined by Washington Post journalist Debbie Cenziper, co-author of his new memoir Love Wins.

The Hollywood Musical: Four Decades of Magic! Part 2: The 1940s

Thursday, June 16, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

Robert Wyatt, a specialist in American music, leads a lively look at the rich decade in which studios, stars, and memorable musicals generated patriotism and nostalgia in wartime audiences.

Frederic Chopin, Poet of the Piano

Saturday, June 18, 2016 at 9:30 a.m.

Musicologist and pianist Daniel Freeman traces Chopin’s life and major works, interweaving musical analysis with visual materials, music recordings, and live piano performance.

Eleanor of Aquitaine and Anne Boleyn: Behind the Image of Royal Wives

Saturday, June 18, 2016 at 10 a.m.

Eleanor of Aquitaine and Anne Boleyn each defied their eras’—and their husbands’—expectations of how a woman and a queen should behave. And each payed the price for it. Scholar Carol Ann Lloyd Stanger examines why their lives continue to fascinate us.

Basque Untapped: Ciders of the Basque Country

Tuesday, June 21, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

The centuries-old tradition of Basque apple cider is now gaining attention in the United States. Get a tasty introduction to this distinctive beverage from Tim Prendergast of DC’s new ANXO Cidery & Pintxos Bar and Estebe Salgado, a cider importer and Basque Country native. Presented in collaboration with the Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

Capability Brown and the English Garden

Tuesday, June 21, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

Lancelot “Capability” Brown defined the quintessential English landscape during his reign as the 18th century’s most influential garden designer. Landscape historian Mark Laird offers a guide to the artfully elegant and enduring visions of nature he crafted.

Madagascar: A Lost World, Found

Wednesday, June 22, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

Madagascar, the world’s fourth-largest island, had managed to keep its secrets for 40 million years. Among them were plants and animals that had evolved in isolation since the days of the dinosaurs. Edwin Smith, a biologist at the National Zoo, delves into some of Madagascar’s storied mysteries and explores the possibilities of the island’s future as human civilization expands across the once-isolated home of its unique plant and animal species.

Rounding Cape Horn: How Rum Fueled a Seafaring Age

Thursday, June 23, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

Maritime historian Andy Jampoler chronicles the centuries of navigation through Cape Horn’s infamous passage, and explores the role that rum played in these voyages. Afterward, whet your own whistle with rum and grog tastings provided by Lyon Distilling Company of St. Michaels, Maryland.

Robert Louis Stevenson: The Enduring Storyteller

Thursday, June 23, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

A writer of astonishing versatility, Robert Louis Stevenson’s tales of adventure and reinvention still captivate us. Stephen Arata of the University of Virginia traces how this son of a Scottish lighthouse engineer became one of the Victorian era’s most prominent literary voices.

Japanese Art Deco at Hillwood

Friday, June 24, 2016 at 9 a.m.

Meet curator Estella Chung before your private view of the stunning exhibition Deco Japan: Shaping Art and Culture, 1920–1945. Then spend time exploring the collection of Russian and French decorative arts in Hillwood’s museum and the estate’s formal gardens at the height of their spring beauty.

The Armed Pilgrimage: Understanding the Crusades

Saturday, June 25, 2016 at 9:30 a.m.

When armies of fervent European Christians first responded to the papal call to reclaim the Holy Land, they began to shape a new model of religious warfare—one that still finds echoes today. Historian Janna Bianchini re-examines common assumptions about the Crusades and their complicated legacies for the modern world.

Learn, Look, Create: Investigating the Art of Drawing

Saturday, June 25, 2016 at 10 a.m.

Spend a day with artist Joseph Cassar and explore the world of drawing through lectures, demonstrations, a museum visit, and the opportunity to step into the studio to find your own inspiration. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1 credit)

Norman Lear: A Conversation with an American Original

Saturday, June 25, 2016 at 7 p.m.

Members-Only Program: As a producer and writer, Norman Lear’s created shows whose characters and themes changed the face of American television. Join the four-time Emmy as he shares reflections on his life, career, and achievements from his groundbreaking sitcoms to his philanthropy.

Benjamin Franklin: A Man for All Time

Sunday, June 26, 2016 at 1 p.m.

Frederic Bertley of Philadelphia’s Franklin Institute examines Franklin’s life and extraordinary intellect. He also speculates on what a prolifically talented multitasker such as Ben might have achieved had we been lucky enough to welcome into the 21st century.

Biocubes: Life in One Cubic Foot

Tuesday, June 28, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

Smithsonian research zoologist Christopher Meyer examines how the small world of biocubes—hollow frames used by researchers to sample a single cubic foot of an ecosystem—can reveal amazingly complex information about relationships among species.

Churchill’s Wartime Struggle

Thursday, June 30, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

Historian John Kelly analyzes how Churchill’s leadership was put to the test in meeting the “supreme question” facing England in the first year of WWII: whether to negotiate a compromised peace with Germany.

The Creative Writer’s Toolbox

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

What happened to your great idea for a novel, memoir, or short story? Spend a day with author Kathryn Johnson of the Writer’s Center and begin to master the essential tools of the writing trade—and transform that idea into a reality.

Saying “I Do” at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue: A White House Weddings Album

Saturday, July 9, 2016 at 2 p.m.

It’s the most exclusive setting any Washington bride could ask for. Coleen Christian Burke, who writes on White House cultural history, takes a look at weddings of first family members that reflected a mix of the private, the public, and the political—as well as lots of romantic spectacle.

Standing Guard: The Terra-cotta Warriors and the Legend and Legacy of China’s First Emperor

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

Why was Qin Shi Huangdi sent into the afterlife accompanied by an army of thousands of terra-cotta troops? Historian Robert DeCaroli explores the achievements—and the downfall—of a ruler who profoundly shaped the visible expression of Chinese imperial power for centuries to come.

The Secret History of Food

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

Purple carrots? A Mafia chokehold on the asparagus market? Food historian Joel Denker is ready to spill the beans (and plenty of other vegetables) as he recounts some fascinating and flavorful backstories of everyday foods and ingredients.

The Battle of Agincourt

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

Historian Richard Abels examines how the unlikely victory of Henry V and his “band of brothers” over massive numbers of French troops influenced the king’s image as a leader, his reign, and his place in British history.

Cultural Diplomacy: The State Department’s Art in Embassies Program

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

Virginia Shore, acting director and chief curator of the Art in Embassies program, discusses the how works are selected or commissioned and how using art in diplomacy can transcend national borders and foster international connections. (World Art Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)

The Greek Experience in Asia Minor

Saturday, July 16, 2016 at 9:30 a.m.

Archaeologist Robert Stieglitz chronicles how successive Greek migrations and conquests over the centuries—and their ensuing cultural, political, and intellectual interactions—transformed Asia Minor into an integral part of the Greek world.

The Beatles: From Liverpool to Legend—A Musical Celebration

Saturday, July 16, 2016 at 9:30 a.m.

We love them, yeah, yeah, yeah! Saul Lilienstein takes a joyful and serious look at the Beatles’ music, its roots and influences, and its relationship to the period of social change that provided a backdrop to their years at the top of the charts.

The Human Superorganism

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

Is our desire to live germ-free fueling a global epidemic of chronic diseases? Are we destroying the very microorganisms we need to stay healthy? Immunotoxicologist Rodney Dietert, suggests that we start to think of ourselves as superorganisms—human ecosystems—and he outlines specific steps to take on the way back to a healthier world.

Kosher Foods, American Tastes: A Culinary Tale

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

Food historian Roger Horowitz traces how the complex and sometimes-contentious encounter between ancient religious principles and the 20th-century food industry brought kosher products into America’s supermarkets and dining rooms.

Giotto and the Dawn of the Renaissance

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

Art historian Elaine Ruffolo examines how the art of Giotto set the stage for the flowering of Renaissance painting and why it continues to hold a deep and direct connection for viewers. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)

The Old Testament as Literature

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

Biblical scholar Tod Linafelt explains why the enduring power of the Old Testament’s storytelling and poetry argues for its place not only in the synagogue or church but also among the classics of world literature.

Duke Ellington: Beyond Category

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

Loren Schoenberg of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem draws on material from the Smithsonian’s Duke Ellington Collection to present an overview of the musical master’s richly varied career. Later, Schoenberg picks up his sax to join the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra Trio in a performance of some of Ellington’s best-loved works.

A Day at the Uffizi

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

Art historian Elaine Ruffolo serves as guide for a journey through this beloved museum, covering its history, architecture, collections, and ties to both its Medici founders and the city of Florence. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1 credit)

Costume Designer Daniel Lawson on Dressing The Good Wife

Wednesday, July 27, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.

The enviably stylish power dressing on The Good Wife generates almost as much buzz among fans as the show’s storylines. The Emmy-nominated costume designer of the series reveals how he uses clothing to define character, and the real-life fashion lessons we can learn from the fictional but well-put-together staff of Lockhart/Gardner.

Clarence Darrow: Courtroom Drama

Saturday, July 30, 2016 at 9 a.m.

Complex and controversial, the towering figure of Clarence Darrow helped shape the legal landscape of early-20th-century America. Lawyer and author Jack Marshall examines his career and his legacy, and actor Paul Morella brings Darrow’s spell-binding courtroom oratory to life.

Inside the World of Diplomacy

Tuesday, August 2, 2016 at 10 a.m.

Take a rare opportunity to hear first-person stories from men and women whose careers are spent in diplomatic Washington when you spend a day at the American Foreign Service Association and the U.S. Department of State.

Back to the top