Lectures & Seminars
Rick Steves on Thoughtful Travel: Broadening Your Global Perspective

Drawing from lessons learned while exploring the globe, travel expert Rick Steves outlines how vacationing with an open mind and curiosity can make your trip an investment in a better world. You’ll also take home the best possible souvenir: widened cultural horizons.

Date
Monday, March 27, 2017 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m.
Diane Rehm: In Conversation

Veteran broadcaster Diane Rehm, who has spent 37 years at the helm of her celebrated WAMU show, has been called “the class act of the radio talk world.” Listen in as she joins NPR’s Tom Gjelten  for a sure-to-be-fascinating interview, and learn a bit more about the person behind the voice.

Date
Tuesday, March 28, 2017 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m.
The Double Lives of Jack Barsky: The Spy Next Door

Forged identities, a smokescreen suburban life, and wives and children on two continents were all elements of Jack Barsky’s career as a KGB operative in America. Vince Houghton of the International Spy Museum interviews Barsky about his immersion in espionage, juggling allegiances, and assembling a new life after decades as spy.

Date
Wednesday, March 29, 2017 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m.
The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber

Music specialist Robert Wyatt raises the curtain on a lively evening that examines and celebrates Andrew Lloyd Webber’s mix of showmanship and superb craft, filled with clips and recordings that cover the full range of his career from his earliest hits to his most recent works.

Date
Thursday, March 30, 2017 - 6:45 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
The Doctrine of Papal Infallibility

Papal infallibility is one of the most distinctive and least understood dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church—even among its members—and a divisive point between Catholics and other Christians. John Freymann traces its origins and development, placing it in historical context and drawing out its theological implications.

Date
Thursday, March 30, 2017 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m.
Visual Literacy: The Art of Seeing

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, 1 credit)

Date
Saturday, April 1, 2017 - 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
The American Civil War and the World

Far from being a domestic conflict, the Civil War was closely watched by other countries. Paul Quigley, director of the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies, explores international perspectives on the war, ranging from ideological affinities to economic calculations to strategic considerations.

Date
Tuesday, April 4, 2017 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m.
Where the River Flows: Scientific Reflections on Earth’s Waterways

Geophysicist Sean W. Fleming examines how mathematics and physics can reveal the hidden dynamics of rivers, offering insights into the profound interrelationships that they have with landscapes, ecosystems, and societies.

Date
Wednesday, April 5, 2017 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m.
Brutalism: The Architecture We Love To Hate

The muscular, aggressive buildings associated with iconic Swiss architect Le Corbusier and his modernist colleagues came to be known as “brutalist,” a play on beton brut, or “raw concrete.” Susan Piedmont-Palladino, curator at the National Building Museum, examines the influence of brutalism on Washington’s architecture and what’s in store for the future of this style here. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)

Date
Thursday, April 6, 2017 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m.
The Rise of the Airplane: From the Wright Brothers to Lindbergh

Aviation expert Paul Glenshaw explores the scientific, cultural, and social contexts for the invention and development of the airplane and how a critical period early in the last century launched the wild ride we’ve been on ever since.

Date
Thursday, April 6, 2017 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m.
Tim Robbins

The Academy Award-winning actor and activist adds another honor to the list tonight: recipient of Smithsonian Associates’ 15th annual Benjamin Franklin Creativity Laureate Award.

Date
Friday, April 7, 2017 - 7:00 p.m. to 8:15 p.m.
Love in World Religions: Comparative Religious Experiences

What do some of the great religious traditions of the world teach us today about the nature of love, that most powerful of human emotions? In this thoughtful daylong program, comparative religion scholar Graham M. Schweig explores and compares the expressions of perfect love found in the Jewish, Christian, Islamic, Hindu, and Buddhist traditions—as well as our modern ideas and experiences.

Date
Saturday, April 8, 2017 - 9:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.
Traveling on the Danube: River of History

Over its storied history, the Danube River has played a critical role as the long-standing frontier of the Roman Empire, a highway for goods, the route of emperors and kings, and a vital source of water for 20 million people. Art historian Ursula Rehn Wolfmann travels through time to explore some of the most historic and beautiful places along its shores. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1 credit)

Date
Saturday, April 8, 2017 - 10:00 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.
Meditation: From Monastery to Mobile App

Andy Puddicombe, co-creator of the Headspace app, traces how his own experience with meditation led to a quest to blend centuries-old practices with modern science and technology. The result: more than 10 million meditating users.

Date
Tuesday, April 11, 2017 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m.
A Conversation with Alec Baldwin

Alec Baldwin has spent three decades in the spotlight, creating memorable comic and dramatic roles in films, on TV as Jack Donaghy in 30 Rock, and most recently, a certain recurring portrayal on Saturday Night Live. In a conversation, he discusses his career and life, including private facets that his new memoir, Nevertheless, makes public.

Date
Wednesday, April 12, 2017 - 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Reading the Gilded Age Authors

Works by novelists Edith Wharton, Henry James, Theodore Dreiser, and Anzia Yezierska provide literary perspectives on the changes that swept America during the Gilded Age. Lisbeth Strimple Fuisz of Georgetown University leads a reading-group series that explores their varied depictions of characters whose personal dramas play out against rapidly shifting social, cultural, and economic backdrops. This session spotlights Theodore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie (1900).

Date
Monday, April 17, 2017 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m.
Thomas Becket: A Martyr for All Seasons

Historian Jennifer Paxton explores how the Archbishop of Canterbury fell afoul of his king for both personal and political reasons, and why his violent death turned him into the most important saint in Europe.

Date
Tuesday, April 18, 2017 - 6:45 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Urban Wildlife: Balancing Coexistence and Management

Washingtonians share our city, filled with parks and abundant green spaces, with plenty of non-human fellow residents. Wildlife biologist John Hadidian examines the challenges and rewards of becoming better neighbors in nature.

Date
Wednesday, April 19, 2017 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m.
The Iconography of Easter: Visions of Renaissance Masters

Giotto, Duccio, Piero della Francesca, da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Tintoretto each found inspiration in the biblical narratives that are central to Easter. Rocky Ruggiero, a Florence-based specialist in the Early Renaissance, follows the journey of Holy Week as depicted in two centuries of art. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)

Date
Wednesday, April 19, 2017 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m.
The Handmaid’s Tale: An Exclusive Series Preview
With Margaret Atwood and Elisabeth Moss

The Handmaid’s Tale, a chilling story of life in the totalitarian dystopia of Gilead, has captured the imaginations of readers around the world since its publication in 1985. The novel is the basis for a new Hulu series, which debuts April 26.

Date
Wednesday, April 19, 2017 - 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
American Wine’s Historic Roots

Today’s most familiar wines derive from Europe’s ancient grape varieties, but America has a rich diversity of indigenous—and far lesser-known—grapes of its own. Jerry Eisterhold of Missouri’s Vox Vineyards discusses the history of American heritage grapes and what they offer to producers and wine lovers.

Date
Thursday, April 20, 2017 - 6:45 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
The Arts and Crafts Movement: Simplicity, Humanity, Beauty

From William Morris’s richly pattered designs drawn from nature to the bold beauty of Greene and Greene’s California domestic architecture, the arts and crafts movement has left a wide and enduring legacy. Art historian Bonita Billman explores the artists and ideas that led to its international flowering. (World Art History Certificate elective: Earn 1 credit)

Date
Saturday, April 22, 2017 - 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Andrew Jackson and the Rise of the Democratic Party

Historians are fascinated by Andrew Jackson, a complex man whose forceful personality (he was universally known as “Old Hickory”) influenced the political culture of his time as he dominated both the presidency and Congress for two terms (1828-36). Historian Stephen D. Engle revisits the Jackson presidency and how it relates to our current political culture.

Date
Saturday, April 22, 2017 - 9:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.
Radio Finds Its Voice

Jill Ahrold Bailey, producer of “The Big Broadcast” on WAMU 88.5, tunes into an era in which Americans became linked by a new and booming medium, as radio dramatically—and quickly—changed the entertainment, news, and political scenes.

Date
Monday, April 24, 2017 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m.
Telling Fact from Falsehood: Skills to Expose Pseudoscience

How do we know what we know? It’s hard enough parsing fact from fiction in today’s so-called post-truth environment, but how can we recognize science fact from pseudoscience? Paleontologist Thomas Holtz shares questions we need to ask to get to the truth.

Date
Tuesday, April 25, 2017 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m.
From Shtetl to Synagogue: Jewish Heritage Sites in Eastern Europe

Journalist and author Ruth Ellen Gruber redraws the map of extraordinary Jewish places in the heartland of Central and Eastern Europe and reveals the remarkable vestiges of the rich and dynamic culture that flourished for centuries.

Date
Wednesday, April 26, 2017 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m.
Jane Austen: From the Parlor to Politics

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the death of Jane Austen. The passing years have increased her novels’ appeal as Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, the Dashwood sisters, and Emma Woodhouse and Mr. Knightley continue to delight us. But the real world informed Austen’s portrayals of the elegant confines of Pemberley and the social climbing of Pulteney Street. Discover how Austen introduced the realities of Regency  England into her carefully crafted worlds.

Date
Thursday, April 27, 2017 - 6:45 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Discover Cuba: One Island, Many Worlds

After so many years, a thaw in diplomatic relations offers hope for greater opportunities for Americans to travel to Cuba and to rediscover a still-evolving island and its people. Emilio Cueto, a popular Smithsonian Journeys’ study tour leader to Cuba, takes you on a virtual journey around the amazing island in the Caribbean.

Date
Saturday, April 29, 2017 - 9:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.
Maurice Ravel in 1920s Paris

He readily comes to mind as the composer of the great orchestral work, Bolero, but Maurice Ravel was one of the great mainstays of musical life in Paris of the 1920s. His work celebrated the greatness of France’s musical past as he also drew on modern techniques of musical composition.  Explore his musical genius and virtuosity in a lively daylong program highlighted by recordings and live piano performances.

Date
Saturday, April 29, 2017 - 9:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.
Shedding Light on Dark Matter

During the past century, advances in technology have allowed for the introduction of radical ideas about the nature of the cosmos and our place in it. Theoretical astrophysicist Priya Natarajan traces the arc of the acceptance of two such ideas: that of dark matter and black holes. She also discusses her intriguing work in mapping dark matter and modeling supermassive black holes.

Date
Tuesday, May 2, 2017 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m.
“Doctor Livingstone, I presume?”: The Life and Times of an Explorer in Africa

Russell Gammon, one of Africa’s leading wilderness guides, narrates the remarkable and dramatic life story of a man born in a Glasgow slum who opened a new era of African exploration—and, ultimately, a new expansion of the British Empire.

Date
Thursday, May 4, 2017 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m.
A Day at London’s National Gallery and Tate Britain

There is a reason that London’s National Gallery and the Tate Britain are must-sees for art lovers. In them, one can explore more than five centuries of Western painting. Spend a day with art historian Bonita Billman as she examines the rich holdings of these two world-class museums. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1 credit)

Date
Saturday, May 6, 2017 - 9:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.
Exploring Balkan Food: A Private Dinner at Ambar Restaurant

Modern food of the Balkan Peninsula reflects influences from the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires, other Slavic nations, and the Mediterranean. Explore this intriguing blend as you sample the food of Serbia during a private dinner—featuring a guest from the country’s embassy—at the new Ambar restaurant in Clarendon.

Date
Sunday, May 7, 2017 - 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Mark Twain: A Celebration

It's been 106 years since the death of Samuel Langhorn Clemens, but his beloved works seems as fresh, funny, and pointed as ever. Author Daniel Stashower and actor Scott Sedar illustrate why we’re still quoting the wisdom of his words.

Date
Tuesday, May 9, 2017 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m.
A Question of Provenance: Holocaust-era Art, Research, and Restitution

Five international art historians who headed the research task force for a trove of potentially looted art discovered in 2012 unfold fascinating stories of the lives of Jewish collectors, German art dealers, and the art-world web that connected them. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)

Date
Wednesday, May 10, 2017 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m.
The Art of Visual Perception: How To Learn To Really See

Art is rich in visual information and calls for viewers to spend time looking and then processing what they think they see. Visual perception specialist Amy Herman offers a practical guide to fine-tuning your powers of observation. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)

Date
Thursday, May 11, 2017 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m.
Great River Expeditions

The mystery and adventurous allure of distant rivers held a fascination for American explorers of the 19th and early-20th centuries. Author and maritime historian Andy Jampoler recounts true stories of voyages of discovery along the Congo and Amazon and to the Dead Sea.

Date
Saturday, May 13, 2017 - 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Art-Treasure Island: Malta’s Storied History

For the Mediterranean island of Malta, there was no escaping the turbulent influences of ancient cultures. Joseph Paul Cassar, an art historian and native of Malta, offers a highlighted look at its fascinating history. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1 credit)

Date
Saturday, May 13, 2017 - 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Reading the Gilded Age Authors

Works by novelists Edith Wharton, Henry James, Theodore Dreiser, and Anzia Yezierska provide literary perspectives on the changes that swept America during the Gilded Age. Lisbeth Strimple Fuisz of Georgetown University leads a reading-group series that explores their varied depictions of characters whose personal dramas play out against rapidly shifting social, cultural, and economic backdrops. This session spotlights Anzia Yezierska’s Salome of the Tenements (1923).

Date
Monday, May 15, 2017 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m.
The WWI Navy: Second to None

For the U.S. Navy, World War I was the first significant test of its global prowess. Historian James C. Rentfrow, a faculty member at the U.S. Naval Academy, examines the growing role of the Navy in peace and war during early decades of the 20th century.

Date
Tuesday, May 16, 2017 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m.
The Manhattan Project: Visions of a Nuclear Future

The clandestine Manhattan Project was a futuristic enterprise embedded in a wartime environment—and both the war and the future influenced its evolution. Historian Martin J. Sherwin explores the history and legacy of this world-changing mission.

Date
Wednesday, May 17, 2017 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m.
Epidemics Past and Present: Causes, Responses, and the Human Impact

David Morens of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at NIH offers a survey of the most significant epidemics in human history, as well as an examination of global efforts to eradicate their contemporary counterparts.

Date
Wednesday, May 17, 2017 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m.
Jerome Kern: Godfather of American Musical Theater

Drawing on personal correspondence, film clips, and recordings of masterworks, American music specialist and pianist Robert Wyatt guides you through highlights in the life of Jerome Kern, the genius who set the cornerstone of American musical theater.

Date
Thursday, May 18, 2017 - 6:45 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Scott Turow: Testimony

The master of the legal thriller returns with Testimony, set against the backdrop of the International Criminal Court and an investigation into the baffling disappearance of an entire refugee camp during the Bosnian War. Join Scott Turow as he discusses his career and the process of researching and writing his latest novel.

Date
Thursday, May 18, 2017 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m.
Paths to God: Heresy and Belief in Christianity, Islam, and Judaism

In this thought-provoking all-day program, investigate the idea of God and the rise of heresy as an issue within Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. What are the implications for today, an era both secular and fraught with contending religious beliefs?

Date
Saturday, May 20, 2017 - 9:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.
Home Is Where the Art Is: Connecting Creativity and Place

Did the houses, gardens, and locations where Da Vinci, Van Gogh, Monet, and other leading artists lived directly influence their work? Art historian Janetta Benton surveys the private residences—and private lives—of painters, sculptors, and architects from Fra Angelico to Philip Johnson to explore this artistic connection. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1 credit)

Date
Saturday, May 20, 2017 - 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
The National Gallery of Art’s Renovated East Building

Last fall, the National Gallery of Art’s I.M. Pei-designed East Building galleries, which house the modern art collection, reopened after 3 years. From sky-lit interior tower galleries to an inviting rooftop terrace, learn about the exciting new space to view some of the best modern art anywhere. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)

Date
Monday, May 22, 2017 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m.
City of Trees

Washington’s rich botanic diversity and arboreal history is a living legacy built on the horticultural expertise and passion for trees of founders such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Local natural historian Melanie Choukas-Bradley offers an illustrated overview of many of the city’s notable green spaces and landscaped landmarks.

Date
Tuesday, May 23, 2017 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m.
The Treasures of Dresden’s Green Vault

Once, Saxon ruler Augustus the Strong had the dazzling silver and ivory artifacts and jewels housed in Dresden Castle’s Green Vault all to himself. Art historian Stefanie Walker provides a guide to this glittering collection, now displayed in a real gem of a renovated setting. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)

Date
Tuesday, May 23, 2017 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m.
Working Dogs: Saviors in the Post-9/11 World

The Penn Vet Working Dog Center in Philadelphia transforms qualified pups into highly trained bomb-sniffing, drug-interdiction, search-and-rescue, and cancer-detecting professionals. Learn about the puppies’ rigorous training, and then watch as several of the center’s graduates demonstrate their special skills.

Date
Sunday, June 4, 2017 - 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
American Eclipse: Scientific Rivals in the 19th-Century West

A rare total eclipse drew scientists from all over the country to Wyoming and Colorado in the summer of 1878. Three of them became professional competitors: astronomers James Craig Watson and Maria Mitchell, and a young Thomas Edison. Author (and eclipse chaser) David Barton tells their story.

Date
Tuesday, June 6, 2017 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m.
Alan Alda: The Science and Art of Communicating

Interviewing a wide range of guests as host of “Scientific American Frontiers” on PBS propelled Alan Alda to investigate new ways to communicate complex ideas more effectively. He digs into the heart of what it means to be a true and empathetic communicator as he shares techniques, which also draw on the actor’s arts of storytelling and improvisation, that can be incorporated into everyday communications.

Date
Thursday, June 8, 2017 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m.
Roman Holiday: A Cinematic Introduction to the City’s Architecture

In an offbeat and entertaining overview of the Eternal City, follow the cinematic adventures of Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in clips from the 1953 romantic comedy Roman Holiday. A scholar provides the architectural commentary on the locations. Hepburn and Peck provide the dazzle. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1 credit)

Date
Saturday, June 10, 2017 - 9:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.