Lectures & Seminars



Programs listed below are in chronological order.

Life Out There: A Space Journey with the House Band of the Universe

Friday, July 25, 2014 at 7 p.m.

Astrobiologist David Grinspoon and Ka Chun Yu of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science team up with the House Band of the Universe for a digital voyage through the universe—set to funky jazz.

Atlantis: An Archeological Mystery

Saturday, July 26, 2014 at 9:30 a.m.

The land of Atlantis sprang not from the sea, but the imagination of Plato. Could, though, his inspiration have come from some very real lost civilizations and natural cataclysms of the ancient world? Archaeologist Robert R. Stieglitz identifies some possible answers to centuries-old speculations.

Life Out There: A Space Journey with the House Band of the Universe

Saturday, July 26, 2014 at 7 p.m.

Astrobiologist David Grinspoon and Ka Chun Yu of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science team up with the House Band of the Universe for a digital voyage through the universe—set to funky jazz.

Cultures of the Mekong

Saturday, August 2, 2014 at 10 a.m.

The Mekong weaves through 2,700 miles and thousands of years of Southeast Asian history. Robert DeCaroli, associate professor in the department of history and art history at George Mason University, explores these cultures that grew up along this massive waterway.

The World of Olive Oil

Saturday, August 2, 2014 at 10 a.m.

Spend a day exploring the golden spell of olive oil with Curtis Cord, publisher of Olive Oil Times. From a globe-totting look at how and where it’s produced (some places may surprise you) to a sampling of some of the best extra-virgin varieties, you’ll develop a delicious new appreciation for this pantry staple that’s moved into the foodie spotlight.

The Most Powerful Man in Baseball? An Evening with Superagent Scott Boras

Monday, August 4, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

Love him or hate him, there’s no denying Scott Boras has influenced sports, especially baseball. In a candid conversation, learn why some people call him the most powerful man in the game.

Colin Powell: On Life and Leadership

Monday, August 4, 2014 at 7 p.m.

Gen. Colin Powell is one of America’s most respected and admired public figures. He shares his thoughts on reaching goals and realizing dreams during a life spent in service to his country.

The Goldfish and the Minotaur: The Modernist Rivalry Between Matisse and Picasso

Tuesday, August 5, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

Art historian David Gariff explores the dialogue between a pair of titans—who, despite their personal differences, were closer in spirit than any artists of their time.

Cuba Today: History, Heritage, and Modern Life

Wednesday, August 6, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

For most Americans, one of the world’s least-known places lies just about 90 miles from Florida. Michael Atwood Mason, director of the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage and a Cuba researcher, discusses the many ways that past and present converge for residents of the island nation.

Home Makeover Magic with HGTV’s Don Hirsch

Thursday, August 7, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

“It’s your space, love where you live,” is Don Hirsch’s philosophy. He offers some practical design solutions to add a little more love to your life—and home.

Panama: Crossroads of the World

Monday, August 11, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

Biodiversity specialist Bob Szaro provides a guide to a country that strategically links two continents and whose natural beauty encompasses tropical jungles, swamps, magnificent beaches, and an incredible variety of wildlife.

Cheers to the Chief! Favorite Presidential Cocktails

Tuesday, August 12, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

Presidents may not always agree with their predecessors on policy, but many found common ground—and a respite from the burdens of power—in their enjoyment of a well-crafted cocktail. Philip Greene of the Museum of the American Cocktail serves up bi-partisan tales about preferred White House drinks, and some of the cocktails themselves for sampling.

Holy Icons of Medieval Russia: Reawakening to a Spiritual Past

Tuesday, August 12, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

Icons are an integral part of the spiritual fabric of old Russia, and they have long adorned monasteries, churches, and homes. Scott Ruby, associate curator of Russian and Eastern European art at Hillwood Museum, examines the great treasures of the medieval period and the place these icons held in private and public life.

75 Years on the Yellow Brick Road: Things You Likely Never Knew About The Wizard Of Oz

Wednesday, August 13, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

Michael Patrick Hearn, the leading authority on all things Oz, takes you behind scenes—and behind the curtain—as he looks at the creation of the most beloved Hollywood movie ever made.

How To Live To Be 100

Wednesday, August 13, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

Want to live hit that century mark? Start right now. John Whyte, an internal medicine physician, describes seven strategies you can implement today that will increase your chances of living longer.

Inside the World of Diplomacy

Thursday, August 14, 2014 at 10 a.m.

How does someone enter a career in foreign service—and what do they find there? Take a rare opportunity to get answers from men and women in diplomatic Washington as you go inside the American Foreign Service Association and the U.S. Department of State.

The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan

Thursday, August 14, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

Historian and journalist Rick Perlstein discusses his new book tracing the tumultuous political and economic times of the 1970s, which gave rise to Ronald Regan’s vision of America—and a new conservative political culture.

Global Warming We Can Live With: Chili Peppers are Hot

Sunday, August 17, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

Chili expert Robb Walsh turns up the heat in a talk and tasting that explores the science, culinary history, and global appeal that make these brightly colored fruits a mouth-tingling favorite. (Rest assured: There’ll be plenty of water.)

The Burning of Washington, 1814

Thursday, August 21, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

Some of the most dramatic and decisive events of the War of 1812 took place close to home. Local historian and author Anthony S. Pitch looks at Washington when the White House and Capitol were in flames, and Fort McHenry as it withstood the British bombardment that inspired Francis Scott Key’s poetic tribute to the Star-Spangled Banner.

Solving the Higgs Puzzle: The Evolution that Led to the Higgs Boson

Wednesday, September 3, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

Theoretical physicist Jim Gates follows the half-century quest to prove the existence of a particle that underlies the Standard Model of physics—and what its observation in 2012 means for our understanding of the universe.

A Geology-Lover’s Guide to the Mid-Atlantic

Saturday, September 6, 2014 at 10 a.m.

Lava flows in the Shenandoah? Ancient undersea avalanches in Great Falls? Some of our favorite places to explore nature in the region have a fascinating geological past. Geologist Callan Bentley provides a glimpse into the histories beneath our hiking boots.

James McNeill Whistler: Finding the Man and the Artist

Monday, September 8, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

As a figure whose creative and public lives combined achievement, controversy, and fame, James McNeill Whistler created the modern model for artist as celebrity. Biographer Daniel E. Sutherland and director Karen Thomas, whose documentary on Whistler premieres on PBS in September, examine the complex creator behind the flamboyance and flair.

The Supreme Court: A Preview of the New Term

Tuesday, September 9, 2014 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 9, 2014 at 1:30 p.m.

Smithsonian Associates Members Only: 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.

21st-Century Astronomy: Expanding the Universe and Knowledge

Tuesday, September 9, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

NASA astronomer Sten Odenwald looks at the how the frontiers in astronomy and space science are being expanded and the tools that will help us further explore and understand the cosmos.

Charters of Freedom: Debating the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution

Tuesday, September 9, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

In a lively, interactive Smithsonian Debate in which the audience plays a key role, specialists in early American history examine which seminal document more strongly shaped America’s history—and wields a more powerful influence on today’s national life.

Star Trek’s Never-ending Voyage: How TV Future Became Real-Life Present

Wednesday, September 10, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

The original Star Trek series did far more than expand the boundaries of outer space. For Margaret Weitekamp of the Air and Space Museum, the 1960s show propelled social, cultural, and technological changes in life on planet Earth.

Degas and Cassatt: An Artistic Dialogue

Thursday, September 11, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

The nearly 40-year friendship of Edgar Degas and Mary Cassatt reflects a professional and personal connection between two strong and distinct artistic sensibilities. Aneta Georgievska-Shine traces the influence that relationship had on the painters—and on impressionist art.

Moonshine Goes Modern

Thursday, September 11, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

“White lightning” is shedding its less-than-savory backwoods reputation—or at least some of it. Matt Ostrom, the creator of Discovery’s Moonshiners, Tim Smith, a Virginia maker featured on the series, and Chuck Miller of Belmont Farm Distillery in Culpeper explain why today’s adventurous drinkers are taking a shine to moonshine.

Styles of Western Architecture: From the Parthenon to the Guggenheim

Saturday, September 13, 2014 at 9:30 a.m.

Examine classical temples, Gothic cathedrals, chateaux, and skyscrapers as this illustrated seminar surveys the styles and pivotal structures that define Western architecture.

Writing Young- and New-Adult Fiction

Saturday, September 13, 2014 at 10 a.m.

Author Kathryn Johnson and a panel of five novelists provide practical guidance for writers—both aspiring and active—in this booming genre.

Traveling the Silk Road: Caravans, Commerce, and Cultures

Saturday, September 13, 2014 at 10 a.m.

With stops including Byzantium, the steppes of China’s frontier, and the Mongol empires of Eurasia, art historian Lawrence Butler follows the legendary Silk Road to illustrate cultural encounters through art, archaeology, and literature.

Michelangelo in Rome: An Architectural Journey

Monday, September 15, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

In a richly illustrated program, independent scholar and Rome enthusiast George Sullivan examines all of Michelangelo’s significant Roman architectural projects—achievements that made him both the father of the Baroque style of architecture and of modern city planning. 

Personality: The Bigger Picture

Tuesday, September 16, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

How much are we defined as individuals—for better or worse—by what we know as personality traits? Todd Kashdan, a professor of psychology at George Mason University, suggests that there are deeper and more complex aspects of identity that can help guide our approach to life.

The Battle of Cedar Creek: Crossroads in the Fight for the Shenandoah Valley

Tuesday, September 16, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

Warren Perry, a writer at the National Portrait Gallery, recounts the story of the bloody encounter in which nearly 50,000 men fought for control of the “breadbasket of the Confederacy.” He also discusses several objects in Smithsonian collections with connections to the battle.

Petra: Rose City of the Desert

Wednesday, September 17, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

Once isolated by geography and history, this ancient city is the focus of renewed interest among travelers. Jessica Pociask opens up the archaeological wonders of western Jordan’s World Heritage Site.

Dressing D.C. for the Small Screen: Costume Designers from House of Cards and The Americans

Wednesday, September 17, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

Who says our town has no style? In this conversation about fashion, Washington, and how the two intersect on a hit series, hear from costume designers Jenny Gering (The Americans) and Tom Broecker (season one of House of Cards).

Ken Follett: Looking Back at the Tumultuous 20th Century

Wednesday, September 17, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

Storyteller extraordinaire Ken Follett discusses Edge of Eternity, the final installment of his epic Century Trilogy, which follows the saga of five intertwined who loved, hated, fought, and lived large against the backdrop of churning social, political, and economic turmoil.

The Darkest Temptation: A Celebration of Chocolate

Thursday, September 18, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

Whether it’s savored from a candy box, sipped hot from a mug, or coating a single perfect strawberry (or these days, a single perfect piece of bacon), chocolate is something of which we can never get enough. Food historian and author Francine Segan gets to the delicious center of our love affair with it.

Masters of the Dutch Golden Age: Hals, Rembrandt, Steen, and Vermeer

Saturday, September 20, 2014 at 9:30 a.m.

The portraits, landscapes, and interior scenes that capture life in 17th-century Holland have a glow and intensity that instantly define a distinctive time and place. Art historian Aneta Georgievska-Shine looks at the masters behind these painterly visions.

Mozart in Vienna

Saturday, September 20, 2014 at 9:30 a.m.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s personal and musical life was inextricably bound up in the city of Vienna. Musicologist Daniel Freeman traces the creative interplay of artist and place.

World War I: The War To End All Wars

Saturday, September 20, 2014 at 10:15 a.m.

The unprecedented scale of World War I’s devastation and loss redefined the concept of “total war.” Marcus Jones, a history professor at the U.S. Naval Academy, explores the origins and the legacy of the most consequential conflict of the 20th century. 

Korean Food Heats Up

Sunday, September 21, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

Join Steve Kim, creator of KimKim Korean Hot Sauce, and chef Todd Johnson as they explore the heritage of Korean cooking and the ingredients that create its characteristic intensity. Then try your hand at some dishes to add to your at-home Korean repertoire.

The Soaring Trajectory of Sally Ride’s Life: Remembering America’s First Woman in Space

Tuesday, September 23, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

Lynn Sherr, a former ABC News reporter who covered the space program, discusses her new biography of the daring and brilliant woman who broke NASA’s “celestial ceiling.”

Swedish Art at the Ambassador’s Residence

Tuesday, September 23, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

Discover tapestries, period furniture, modern crystal, and a significant collection of Swedish art on a private visit to the home of Ambassador Bjorn Lyrvall. Karin Alexis, an art and architectural historian, sets the paintings and sculpture into an historical framework of Swedish culture.  

Thomas Jefferson’s Eloquent Legacy: Letters from Monticello

Tuesday, September 23, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

Thomas Jefferson, an inveterate correspondent, left behind roughly 18,000 letters. J. Jefferson Looney, who served as editor (and sometimes, detective) on an edition of the documents of his final years, reveals the insights into Jefferson’s brilliant mind that these materials offer.

The Wars of the Roses: Family Feud, Plantagenet Style

Thursday, September 25, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

Tudor and Renaissance scholar Carol Ann Lloyd Stanger looks the clash of the Yorks and Lancasters, exploring how family dysfunction played out on England’s national stage—and its history.

When Paris Went Dark: The City of Light Under German Occupation

Saturday, September 27, 2014 at 9:30 a.m.

Author Ronald C. Rosbottom brings to life the grim and dangerous days of wartime Paris, evoking the detail of daily life in a city under military and civilian occupation and the brave people who fought against it.

How To Downsize Your Home with Style with Designer Lauri Ward

Saturday, September 27, 2014 at 10 a.m.

Designer Lauri Ward knows that less square footage doesn’t have to lessen comfort, function, or elegance in a downsized home. She shares some great decorating strategies for getting the most out of smaller spaces.

You Said, I Said: How Conversations Work

Saturday, September 27, 2014 at 10:30 a.m.

This lively program led by linguist Anne Curzan examines the details of conversational dynamics, and is filled with great practical tips for navigating everyday exchanges at work, home, out on the town, and online.

Bob Colacello on Andy Warhol

Monday, September 29, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

Though Andy Warhol coined the phrase “famous for 15 minutes,” he’s never been out of the spotlight since he unveiled those now-iconic soup cans in the early 1960s. Biographer, pal, and confidant Bob Colacello offers a highly personal portrait of the artist as a new edition of his book, Holy Terror: Andy Warhol Close Up, makes its appearance.

Richard Nixon’s Secret White House Tapes: Echoes of a Cover-up

Tuesday, September 30, 2014 at 7 p.m.

Historian Ken Hughes, a research specialist on the White House tapes, unravels how the Watergate cover-up connects to wider revelations of secrets and lies in the Nixon administration.

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