Lectures & Seminars



Programs listed below are in chronological order.

Mapping the Middle East

Wednesday, April 16, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

Ralph Nurnberger, a professor of international relations at Georgetown University, reviews how shifting national boundaries within the Arab-Israeli world have reflected—and directly influenced—the region’s political and cultural histories.

The Nation’s T. Rex Is Coming…Look Out!

Thursday, April 17, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

He’s one of the most complete Tyrannosaurus rex skeletons ever found—and he’s headed our way from Montana. Hear the Nation's T. rex’s story as Kathy Wankel and Jack Horner talk with Matthew Carrano, curator of Dinosauria, and Kirk Johnson, director of the Natural History Museum.

1864: The Civil War's Year of Decision

Thursday, April 17, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

Three years into the Civil War, the conflict’s outcome still hung in the balance. Historian Edward Bonekemper examines a pivotal year during which the Union—and Lincoln—came very close to defeat.

Intersections: Western and Chinese Music

Thursday, April 24, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

Cellist Yvonne Caruthers and Shanghai-born composer Du Yun provide an introduction to the styles and traditions of Chinese music, enhanced by their performances of pieces both classic and contemporary.

Understanding the Human Brain: Can Neuroscience Tell Enough?

Friday, April 25, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

Do brain scans equal destiny? Psychiatrist Sally Satel and Gary Marcus, a research psychologist, discuss the controversial question of whether data gathered by neurotechnologies can provide fully accurate indicators of behaviors.

Painters in Provence: From Van Gogh to Matisse

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

Art historian Bonita Billman looks into the inspiration that places like Avignon, Arles, Aix-en-Provence, St. Remy, St. Tropez, and Nice provided for the brilliantly colored works produced by 19th and early-20th century painters.

Wrecks, Rescues, and Mysteries: Air and Sea Disasters

Saturday, April 26, 2014 at 10 a.m.

From the voyage of the HMS Bounty to the doomed flight of Alfa Foxtrot 586, author Andrew Jampoler surveys dramatic incidents of bravery, tragedy, loss, and survival that span three centuries.

Burma: The Next Vacation Hot Spot

Tuesday, April 29, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

Intrepid tourists are discovering pristine beaches, delicious food, and historic religious sites in the new must-see stop in Southeast Asia. Donald Stadtner, a specialist in Burma’s history and culture, shares his tips and picks for your own Burmese journey.

The National Parks Through a Photographer's Eyes

Wednesday, April 30, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

In recent years, Ian Shive has spent as much time in America’s National Parks as a ranger. See the stunning images this conservation photographer has created, and learn what it takes—creatively, technically, and physically—to capture the perfect shot in some of our country’s most beautiful natural settings.

Marlo Thomas on the Power of Reinvention

Thursday, May 1, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

The actress, producer, writer, and activist  talks about the importance of possibilities—and the ways that we fulfill them—as she discusses her newest book, It Ain’t Over…Till It’s Over.

Operation Neptune: Behind the D-Day Landings

Thursday, May 1, 2014 at 7 p.m.

Historian Craig L. Symonds explores the unknown side of D-Day, tracing the Olympian-scaled invasion—involving more than 5000 ships and nearly half a million personnel—from its conception in the winter of 1941 to the storming of the beaches in the summer of 1944.

What the Bones Reveal: Real-Time Crime Scene Investigation

Saturday, May 3, 2014 at 9:30 a.m.

Volumes of information can be found in a skeleton or decomposing body. There are plenty of each at the Forensic Anthropology Center at the University of Tennessee, whose director Dawnie Wolfe Steadman shares how the grim secrets unlocked by scientists aid work in law enforcement and human rights investigations.

Creating Beautiful Container Arrangements: A Smithsonian Gardens’ Guide

Saturday, May 3, 2014 at 10:30 a.m.

Two Smithsonian Gardens staff members show you how to create a verdant oasis in many types of spaces using planter boxes, wooden barrels, hanging baskets, flower pots, and other vessels of all shapes, sizes, and materials.


Wednesday, May 7, 2014 at 12 p.m.

Grab your sandwich or salad and spend the noon hour with Craig Nelson and his book The Age of Radiance: The Epic Rise and Dramatic Fall of the Atomic Era. The format is informal, the topics are timely, and there’s time to chat with the featured writer.

The Daoist Philosophy of Zhuang Zi: A Recipe for the Good Life

Wednesday, May 7, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

Charles B. Jones, associate dean for graduate studies in the School of Theology and Religious Studies at Catholic University, discusses the traditions of the Zhuangzi and its parables for living in the spirit of “the way.”

Capital Brews: The Beverage All of Washington Agrees On

Thursday, May 8, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

A new generation of local craft brewers is adding the latest chapter to Washington’s venerable history as a beer town. Bill Butcher of Port City Brewing and author and historian Garrett Peck trace the traditions of brewing in the capital city—which date to pre-Revolutionary days—and offer a taste of some of today’s most interesting D.C. brews.

Titans of Jewelry Design: The Tiffanys, Fabergé, Lalique, and Cartier

Saturday, May 10, 2014 at 10 a.m.

Art historian and jeweler Stefani Walker reviews the careers and artistic legacies of five creators whose names and workshops remain bywords for beauty, innovation, and elegance.

Architect of the Capitol: Stephen T. Ayers on Restoration and Preservation on Capitol Hill

Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

Some of Washington’s most significant landmarks are entrusted to the care of Stephen T. Ayers and the office of the Architect of the Capitol. Learn how an ambitious current project is restoring the Capitol Dome after years of damage and deterioration.

A Dip Into the Past: The History of America in Ice Cream Scoops

Wednesday, May 14, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

It’s a story of ingenuity, creativity, and resourcefulness—just like America’s—but with sprinkles on top. Collector Don Kaufman looks at the invention, perfection, and popularization of a very small piece of technology that has played a big role in our national life: the ice cream scoop.

1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed

Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

Historian Eric Cline explains how a cycle of human and natural disasters coalesced to bring the Bronze Age in the Mediterranean world to an end in a single calamitous year. 

Understanding Ballet: Classical to Contemporary

Saturday, May 17, 2014 at 10 a.m.

Join choreographer Diane Coburn Bruning as she traces the development of ballet forms and styles through performance clips of landmark works and legendary artists. Then, step into an interactive working rehearsal with dancers and musicians to get a close-up look at—and perhaps take part in—the making of a contemporary ballet.

Washington and the Art of Ancient Egypt: A Monumental Obsession

Wednesday, May 21, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

The ubiquitous Greek column may be Washington’s most familiar echo of an ancient civilization, but many corners of the city reflect a longstanding fascination with the art, artifacts, and architecture of Egypt. Alexander Nagel, a Freer Gallery curator, takes a look at our town’s aesthetic connection to the land of the pharaohs.

Sherlock Holmes Under the Magnifying Glass: A Conan Doyle Birthday Celebration

Thursday, May 22, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

Celebrate Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s 154th as writer Daniel Stashower undertakes an affectionate investigation of the legendary sleuth of Baker Street and his creator. The evening also features actor Scott Sedar reading some of Conan Doyle’s classic works.

Mathematics, Ancient Egyptian Style

Thursday, May 22, 2014 at 7 p.m.

How would you measure the height of a pyramid or the grain harvest in the valley of the Nile? David Reimer, author of the new book Count Like an Egyptian: A Hands-on Introduction to Ancient Mathematics presents a lively and entertaining tour of a vanished—but ever-present—civilization though a focus on its number system.

Alpha House: Fun with the Senate

Wednesday, May 28, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

A quartet of quirky senators share a Capitol Hill townhouse. Hilarity ensues. Go behind the scenes of the Net series Alpha House as Jonathan Alter, the executive producer and a longtime Washington journalist, and actor Clark Johnson reveal how the show’s satire is grounded in political reality.

Be a Smithsonian Biodiversity Research Volunteer

Wednesday, May 28, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

There are thousands of images of plants and animals in the Smithsonian’s collections ready to digitize as part of the boldly scaled research projects the Biodiversity Heritage Library and the Encyclopedia of Life. Learn how you can play a hands-on role in making that happen.

A Global History of Martial Arts: From Combat to Inner Consciousness

Thursday, May 29, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

Yong B. Kim, co-director the nation’s first BA program in marital arts studies, surveys these codified forms of combat and self-defense with an emphasis on their role in the cultural and philosophical life of the societies in which they developed.

The Artistry of French Glass: A Journey Through History

Saturday, May 31, 2014 at 9:30 a.m.

Jane Shadel Spilman, a former curator at the Corning Museum of Glass, presents a virtual tour of some of northeastern France’s most important glass centers, looking at the cathedrals, palaces, museums, and studios where the glassmaker’s art shines brightest.

England's Extraordinary Architecture

Saturday, May 31, 2014 at 9:30 a.m.

From soaring Gothic cathedrals to the dramatic structures that define the modern London skyline, architecture has reflected England’s cultural, social, and political history. Art historian Janetta Rebold Benton leads a journey through centuries of cathedrals, palaces, manor houses, and skyscrapers.

Louisa Lim: Remembering the Legacy of Tiananmen Square

Tuesday, June 3, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

In her new book, The People’s Republic of Amnesia: The Legacy of Tiananmen Square, Louisa Lim offers an insider’s account of this defining moment in China’s modern history. Lim reveals how the events of June 4, 1989 changed the nation, and how the nation’s government changed those events by rewriting its own history.

Proof: The Science of Booze

Wednesday, June 4, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

For his newest book, Adam Rogers traveled the globe to meet the innovative brewers, distillers, bartenders, and scientists who are uncovering booze’s deepest mysteries. Learn what he discovered as he presents a distillation of humanity’s alcoholic history—then raise a glass at a tasting.

The Hole Truth: A History of the Doughnut

Saturday, June 7, 2014 at 10 a.m.

In celebration of National Doughnut Day, food historian and writer Michael Krondl serves up an entertaining introduction to the popular pastry’s social history. End the morning on a sweet note with a tasting of varieties from local favorite Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken.

The Singing Voice: A Celebration

Saturday, June 14, 2014 at 9:30 a.m.

The human voice communicates, comforts, inspires, and exalts. Singers and music educators Karin Paludan and Doug Bowles use live performances and clips in as they lead a technical and artistic exploration of the voice in all its glory.

Europe 1900: The Golden Ages of Vienna, Paris, and London

Saturday, June 14, 2014 at 10 a.m.

The energy and excitement of a new century ushered in defining eras for Europe’s leading capitals. George Scheper explores how the alignment of creative and historical forces shaped three highly distinctive urban milieus.

A Tale of a City: A Bloomsday Celebration of James Joyce’s Dublin

Monday, June 16, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

Irish-born scholar Coilin Owens delves into Ulyssees to find its rich and fascinating perspectives on Joyce, his writing, and the city he loved.

Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity

Tuesday, June 17, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

Curator Gloria Groom of the Art Institute of Chicago presents a new perspective on the Impressionists, revealing how these early avant-garde artists embraced fashion trends as they sought to capture modern life on canvas.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014 at 12 p.m.

Grab your sandwich or salad and spend the noon hour with Rick Atkinson and his book The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945. The format is informal, the topics are timely, and there’s time to chat with the featured writer.

Travel Writer Patricia Schultz: 1,000 Places…and Beyond

Wednesday, June 18, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

For more than a decade, Patricia Schultz’s 1,000 Places To See Before You Die has been a doorway to places familiar and far-flung for intrepid vacationers. Get this ultimate travel insider’s recommendations, then begin to assemble your own itinerary.

How To Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Wednesday, June 18, 2014 at 7 p.m.

Tossing and turning? Helene Emsellem, a neurologist, sleep specialist, and director of the Center for Sleep and Wake Disorders, provides plenty of practical tips to make the most of that important third of our life we spend in dreamland—or in many cases, trying to get there.

Celebrating Sondheim!

Thursday, June 19, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

In evening enlivened by clips and rare recordings, Mark Horowitz, a senior music specialist at the Library of Congress and leading authority on Stephen Sondheim, provides insights into how the composer transformed the sound and the spirit of musical theater.

Glittering in the Sun: Sicily’s Historic Treasures

Saturday, June 21, 2014 at 10 a.m.

At the crossroads of Mediterranean empires since antiquity, Sicily boasts a rich heritage of art and architecture. Art historian Lawrence E. Butler surveys works from some of its most vibrant periods: the Greek and Roman epochs, the Norman kingdom, and the Renaissance and Baroque eras.

Sportscaster Bob Wolff: 75 Years Behind the Microphone

Monday, June 23, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

No one has more—or more fascinating—sports stories to tell than 93-year-old broadcasting legend Bob Wolff. He joins another veteran announcer, Phil Hochberg, in a conversation about his amazing career.

Paul Rhymer, Celebrity Taxidermist: Mounting Interest in a Lost Art

Tuesday, June 24, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

Paul Rhymer was a third-generation Smithsonian taxidermist, and now he’s a judge on AMC’s Immortalized. Walk with him through the Natural History Museum’s Hall of Mammals, where many of his (and his father’s and grandfather’s) stuffed creations still delight millions.

Painting as Living: The Art of Willem de Kooning

Wednesday, June 25, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

Willem de Kooning emerged from New York’s gritty and energetic art scene of the 1950s to become one of abstract expressionism’s more controversial and compelling painters. Art historian and author Judith Zilczer explores the boldness that marked his life and work.

Carla Hall’s International Flavors of Home

Sunday, June 29, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

No matter what traditions shape the home cooking you love, Carla Hall knows that comfort food serves the same purpose all over the globe: It makes us feel closer to the things and people we love. Join her as she talks about crafting an international spin on classic recipes in her newest book, Carla’s Comfort Foods: Favorite Dishes from Around the World.

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