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Biography & Autobiography Programs

Smithsonian Insider Event: Get an exclusive preview of the upcoming new CNN Original Series, “The Bush Years: Family, Duty, Power,” which explores the Bush family’s internal dynamics: the influential matriarchs, sibling ambitions, and unceasing competitive spirit that drove them to power.

Event date Thursday, February 28, 2019 - 7:30 p.m.

When test results from a genealogical website showed that novelist and memoirist Dani Shapiro’s biological father was not the man who had raised her, she confronted some of the complicated ethical and moral questions that genetic testing can raise. In a conversation with biologist Carla Easter of the National Human Genome Research Institute, Shapiro discusses how she came to reconstruct—and come to terms with—a different version of her own identity.

Event date Wednesday, March 6, 2019 - 6:45 p.m.

Historian Kevin Matthews discusses Winston Churchill’s tempestuous career as an army officer, war correspondent, member of Parliament, and minister in both Liberal and Conservative governments to reveal a man too often hidden by the post-World War II legends that surround him.

Event date Saturday, March 9, 2019 - 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Art historian Bonita Billman discusses the life and career of Edouard Manet, a premier painter of modern life and a trailblazer of the impressionist movement. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)

Event date Monday, March 11, 2019 - 6:45 p.m.

From the Capitol dome to the Smithsonian’s Arts and Industries Building, the work of architect and builder Montgomery Meigs is still part of our region’s landscape—and our daily lives. Spend a day focused on Washington history and architecture to discover the many facets and achievements of the former Civil War officer who helped define and develop an enduring vision of the capital city.

Event date Friday, March 15, 2019 - 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

The dynamic canvases of Tintoretto explode with inventive compositions, bold lighting, and expressive and audacious brushwork. As a 500th-anniversay exhibition at the National Gallery opens, art historian Lisa Passaglia Bauman celebrates an artist whose stories are told on the most dramatic of scales. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)

Event date Monday, March 18, 2019 - 6:45 p.m.

Art historian Joseph Cassar offers an in-depth look at the life and work of one of the best-loved impressionist painters, following him from the landscapes, cities, and seascapes that sparked his early works to the home and garden in Giverny that provided his inspiration for a lifetime. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1 credit)

Event date Saturday, March 23, 2019 - 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

The letters of Paul offer a myriad of insights into the foundations of Christianity. They also raise a number of still-debated questions about their author, and in some cases, their own authenticity. Margaret M. Mitchell, an authority on early Christian writings, assembles a portrait of Paul—and his lasting influence—from his epistles.

Event date Saturday, March 30, 2019 - 9:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.

Though most often defined by their positions in a marital parade full of intrigue, divorce, and death, the wives of Henry VIII deserve a closer look as individuals. Tudor and Renaissance scholar Carol Ann Lloyd Stanger brings them out of the monarch’s shadow and reveals fuller portraits of the very different women who—often briefly—took their uneasy place beside the throne.

Event date Saturday, April 6, 2019 - 9:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.

On the 500th anniversary of his death, art historian Aneta Georgievska Shine highlights some of the most remarkable aspects of the life, work, and creative thinking of perhaps the most diversely talented individual ever to have lived. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1 credit)

Event date Saturday, April 13, 2019 - 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

No composer changed the aesthetic landscape of the 19th century as thoroughly as did the influential and controversial Richard Wagner (1813–1883). Popular Smithsonian music lecturer Saul Lilienstein illuminates aspects of Wagner’s life, works, influence, and achievements.

Event date Tuesday, April 16 to May 21, 2019 – 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.

One significant aspect of Harriet Tubman’s life is less well-known than her role in the abolitionist movement: her Civil War military service as a spy for the Union Army in South Carolina. Historian Elizabeth Cobbs examines her activities behind enemy lines—including guiding an armed mission that liberated more than 700 slaves.

Event date Monday, April 22, 2019 - 6:45 p.m.

Drawing on his new memoir, the executive chef of Kith and Kin shares the remarkable story of his culinary coming-of-age: one about the intersection of food, fame, and race.

Event date Wednesday, May 1, 2019 - 6:45 p.m.

His early political career was notable for his embrace of plans to build a better world. But then things changed. Biographer John Farrell examines Richard Nixon’s personal and political journey from naval lieutenant to disgraced president.

Event date Wednesday, May 8, 2019 - 6:45 p.m.

From their first performance of “I Want To Hold Your Hand” on the Ed Sullivan show in 1964 to “Let It Be” on their final album in 1970, the songs of the Beatles defined and shaped an explosive era in musical and cultural history. Join musical raconteur Robert Wyatt on a “magical mystery tour” of the life and works of the group whose influence still echoes in pop music—and our lives.

Event date Thursday, May 9, 2019 - 6:45 p.m.