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Smithsonian Associates - Entertaining, Informative, Eclectic, Insightful

American History Programs

Lecture/Seminar

Historic Congressional Cemetery: Stories to Tell

Wednesday, July 13, 2022 - 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET

Congressional Cemetery’s grounds, stones, and people buried there all have stories to tell—the stories of American history. Learn the cemetery’s fascinating stories and unique history with the cemetery's president, Jackie Spainhour.

Lecture/Seminar

George Washington's Mount Vernon

Sunday, July 17, 2022 - 4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. ET

Historian Laura A. Macaluso traces the development of George Washington’s Mount Vernon from a traditional Virginia farmhouse to a splendid Georgian mansion. She addresses the workings of Mount Vernon both as a house and as part of an 8,000-acre plantation on which more than 300 enslaved men, women, and children lived and worked.

Lecture/Seminar

The History of Vaccines

Thursday, July 21, 2022 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

Though humanity has benefited from them for more than two centuries, the pathway to effective vaccines has been neither neat nor direct. Medical historian Howard Markel traces the history of vaccines and immunization from its late-18th-century beginnings and how it may inform long-term solutions to contemporary problems with vaccine research, production, and supplies.

Lecture/Seminar

Voices of Freedom: Poets of the Abolitionist Movement

Thursday, July 21, 2022 - 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET

By 1830, Washington, D.C. was one of the nation’s most important sites for the interstate slave trade. In response, the region’s abolitionist movement became particularly important. Join poet and author Kim Roberts as she traces the abolitionist history of the region and highlights writers whose poems were seen as unique forms of moral persuasion on the subjects of slavery and abolition.

Lecture/Seminar

Naming a Secret: The Underground Railroad

Monday, July 25, 2022 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET

How and why did the 19th-century network of clandestine routes to freedom come to be known as the Underground Railroad when in reality it was neither? Historian Richard Bell examines the term’s mysterious origins and its effectiveness in building public support for the antislavery movement and in pushing the cause of Black freedom to the center of national debate by the eve of the Civil War.

Lecture/Seminar

Follow the Music: An All-American Road Trip

Thursday, July 28, 2022 - 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET

You love the songs that are the soundtrack of your life. Join national travel journalist and broadcaster Bill Clevlen on a virtual road trip to the places where they were born and where iconic performers made history. It’s a memorable cross-country journey into the heart of American music that just might inspire your own.

Lecture/Seminar

How the Ninth Street Women Conquered the Art World

Wednesday, August 3, 2022 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET

In the 1950s, the spotlight on New York City’s abstract expressionist movement nearly always fell on male painters. But a group of female abstract expressionists called the “Ninth Street Women” were also making important contributions. Art historian Nancy G. Heller examines these women’s art and lives, their relationships with their male counterparts, and the gender-related obstacles they had to overcome to claim their place in a changing art world. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)

Lecture/Seminar

The Secret History of Home Economics

Monday, August 8, 2022 - 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET

The term home economics may conjure traumatic memories of lopsided hand-sewn pillows or sunken muffins. But according to author Danielle Dreilinger, the once-revolutionary “science of better living” that exploded job opportunities for women in the 20th century still has something to teach us today: that everyone should learn how to cook a meal, balance their bank account, and fight for a better world.

Tour

Take Me Out to the Ballgame: America’s Pastime in the Nation’s Capital

Thursday, August 11, 2022 - 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. ET

Spend a day with sports historian Fred Frommer that celebrates the glory of the game D.C. style. Warm up with visits to two Smithsonian museums featuring baseball-themed exhibitions before the big home run, a private tour of Nationals Park.

Tour

Architecture on the Nation’s Front Lawn

Friday, August 12, 2022 - 8:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. ET

The structures on the National Mall embody Washington, D.C, the Smithsonian, and America. Enjoy a morning walking tour led by lecturer Bill Keene and discover the Mall’s history, design, and architecture, from its earliest vision to the latest developments. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)

Lecture/Seminar

African-Jewish Cooking: A Cultural Crossroads with Culinary Historian Michael W. Twitty

Friday, August 12, 2022 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET

In-Person and Online Program: Culinary historian Michael W. Twitty is fascinated by the marriage of two of the most distinctive culinary cultures in the world today: the foods and traditions of the African Atlantic and the global Jewish diaspora. Join the James Beard Award–winning author as he explores the crossroads of these cuisines, as well as issues of memory and identity that grow from them.

Lecture/Seminar

Art + History: Evening Encores

Tuesday, August 16, 2022 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

If you’ve not experienced Paul Glenshaw’s dynamic series Art + History, in which he examines great works of art in their historical context, now’s your chance. In this summer series, he reprises six of his earlier daytime sessions in livestreamed evening programs. In this session, Glenshaw discusses The Gross Clinic by Thomas Eakins. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)

Lecture/Seminar

Seeking the Lost Colony of Roanoke

Thursday, August 18, 2022 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

This first attempt by the English to settle the New World ended in the disappearance of 115 people in 1587 on what is now the North Carolina coast. It still remains an unsolved mystery. Andrew Lawler, a longtime science journalist, examines both old archival material and new archaeological data to provide up-to-date insights on the Roanoke settlers.

Tour

Architecture on the Nation’s Front Lawn

Saturday, August 20, 2022 - 8:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. ET

The structures on the National Mall embody Washington, D.C, the Smithsonian, and America. Enjoy a morning walking tour led by lecturer Bill Keene and discover the Mall’s history, design, and architecture, from its earliest vision to the latest developments. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)

Lecture/Seminar

Elbert Hubbard and the Roycrofters: America’s Arts and Crafts Movement

Monday, August 22, 2022 - 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET

In the late 19th century, Elbert Hubbard, a salesman for Buffalo’s Larkin Soap Company, fused the ideals of the British Arts and Crafts movement with his strong business sense to create the artistic and philosophical community called Roycroft in East Aurora, New York. Alan Nowicki, program director at the Roycroft campus, traces its influential flourishing, its demise, and its restoration that captures its former glory.

Lecture/Seminar

The ENIAC Programmers: The Women Behind the First Modern Computer

Wednesday, August 24, 2022 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

After the end of World War II, six pioneering women were assigned to program the new Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer—for which there were no instructional codes or programming languages to guide them. They succeeded, but their story was never told to the public. Author and documentary filmmaker Kathy Kleiman brings it—and these technological revolutionaries—out of the shadows.

Lecture/Seminar

DC’s Black Broadway: Remembering U Street’s Brightest Lights

Wednesday, August 24, 2022 - 7:00 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

Long before today’s restaurants, boutiques, and luxury high-rises, Washington’s U Street was known as the city’s vibrant Black Broadway. Author Briana A. Thomas brings to life the historic U Street neighborhood’s heritage of arts, entertainment, and commerce from the early triumphs of emancipation to the recent struggles of gentrification.

Lecture/Seminar

Indigenous Civilizations of the Southwest: Transitions and Innovations

Thursday, August 25, 2022 - 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET

Recent discoveries suggest that Indigenous peoples have lived in the area we know as the American Southwest for more than 22,000 years. Jon Ghahate of the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque examines how these early inhabitants utilized science-based constructs as they shifted from nomadic hunter-gatherer family groups to more socially complex agrarian communities of thousands of inhabitants.

Tour

Architecture on the Nation’s Front Lawn

Sunday, August 28, 2022 - 9:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. ET

The structures on the National Mall embody Washington, D.C, the Smithsonian, and America. Enjoy a morning walking tour led by lecturer Bill Keene and discover the Mall’s history, design, and architecture, from its earliest vision to the latest developments. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)

Lecture/Seminar

Art + History: Evening Encores

Tuesday, August 30, 2022 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

If you’ve not experienced Paul Glenshaw’s dynamic series Art + History, in which he examines great works of art in their historical context, now’s your chance. In this summer series, he reprises six of his earlier daytime sessions in livestreamed evening programs. In this session, Glenshaw discusses Gassed by John Singer Sargent. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)

Lecture/Seminar

Tangier and Smith Island: Beauty and Peril

Wednesday, August 31, 2022 - 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET

Tangier Island, Virginia, and Smith Island, Maryland, are communities inextricably connected to the Chesapeake Bay. Enjoy a visual narrative by author and photographer Jay Fleming that explores their environment, communities, and commercial fisheries.

Tour

Historic Homes of Washington Series: The Arts Club of Washington and the Perry Belmont House

Wednesday, September 7, 2022 - 11:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. ET

Washington, D.C., is filled with public spaces, monuments, and buildings that define its architectural history and its essence as a city. But much of that character is also shaped by its distinctive residences. Discover two such houses—the Arts Club of Washington and the Perry Belmont House—on an intimately scaled tour that immerses you in the elegance of the early 19th-century and the extravagance of the Gilded Age.

Lecture/Seminar

The Vice Presidency: Power on Hold

Thursday, September 8, 2022 - 6:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. ET

Once dismissed as “not worth a bucket of warm spit,” over the years the vice presidency has emerged as a more respected position since its office holders became closer high-level policy advisers to presidents. Veteran White House correspondent, historian, and author Ken Walsh explores how those who served in the second-highest post in American government contributed to the evolving state of the vice presidency.

Tour

Old Town’s African American History

Friday, September 9, 2022 - 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. ET

Founded in 1749, Alexandria, Virginia, was a major American port that was home to both the country’s largest slave-trading firm and to a large free Black community. Local guide and historian John Chapman leads a walking tour of the city’s OId Town neighborhood that takes in significant sites connected to this history.

Lecture/Seminar

Nikola Tesla: An Inventor Re-invents Military Technology

Friday, September 9, 2022 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. ET

In the 21st century, the life and accomplishments of inventor, engineer, and futurist Nikola Tesla have risen from almost total obscurity to topics of fresh interest. Author Marc J. Seifer, one of the world’s leading Tesla experts, surveys his most significant discoveries that continue to influence today's military technology and diplomatic strategies.

Tour

Historic Chestertown with a Cruise on the Schooner Sultana

Sunday, September 11, 2022 - 7:45 a.m. to 6:15 p.m. ET

Regional historian Hayden Mathews explores the rich heritage of this Eastern Shore town, focusing on both land and sea. The day includes a cruise on a replica of an 18th-century vessel, as well as an historic-district walking tour guided by Chestertown’s mayor.

Lecture/Seminar

Exploring the American Revolution: Yorktown and the French Alliance

Tuesday, September 13, 2022 - 6:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. ET

The climactic battle of the American Revolution, the siege of Yorktown, was a decisive win for George Washington’s Continental Army. Historian Richard Bell analyzes why it was also a triumph for the unlikely but essential wartime alliance forged between patriot revolutionaries and France’s king, Louis XVI.

Lecture/Seminar

The Age of Elegance: Fashion in the 1930s

Tuesday, September 13, 2022 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

Despite the hardships of the Depression, anyone with a quarter could dream about the glamorous world conjured up by Hollywood—and the era’s innovative fashion designers. Design historian Elizabeth Lay shares the stories and images of the age, one in which film royalty and actual royalty shaped how women and men yearned to dress.

Tour

Historic Homes of Washington Series: The Arts Club of Washington and the Perry Belmont House

Wednesday, September 14, 2022 - 11:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. ET

Washington, D.C., is filled with public spaces, monuments, and buildings that define its architectural history and its essence as a city. But much of that character is also shaped by its distinctive residences. Discover two such houses—the Arts Club of Washington and the Perry Belmont House—on an intimately scaled tour that immerses you in the elegance of the early 19th-century and the extravagance of the Gilded Age.

Lecture/Seminar

Rockin' TV: From Elvis to the Monkees

Wednesday, September 14, 2022 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. ET

Though rock music found a surprising home on mainstream TV in the mid-1950s, the 1964 appearance of the Beatles on “The Ed Sullivan Show” would change the face of pop culture, leading to an explosion of televised rock. Media expert Brian Rose offers a lively survey of the fascinating history of how rock and television grew up together.

Tour

Theodore Roosevelt’s North Dakota: Badlands, Bison, and the Making of a Conservationist

September 17 - 21, 2022, 6:00 p.m. to 12:30 p.m. ET

The Badlands of North Dakota transformed Theodore Roosevelt over the course of more than three decades into the kind of vigorous outdoorsman he’d idealized as a youth—and that shaped his public image as president and a passionate conservationist. Experience those landscapes—filled with dramatic vistas, vividly colored canyons, and wandering herds of wild bison—on an extraordinary 5-day study tour.

Tour

Old Town’s African American History

Sunday, September 18, 2022 - 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. ET

Founded in 1749, Alexandria, Virginia, was a major American port that was home to both the country’s largest slave-trading firm and to a large free Black community. Local guide and historian John Chapman leads a walking tour of the city’s OId Town neighborhood that takes in significant sites connected to this history.

Lecture/Seminar

Baltimore Neighborhoods: Mount Washington

Monday, September 19, 2022 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET

Hilly—but far from mountainous—Mount Washington is a residential neighborhood of choice and a destination within the city limits for a variety of activities. Arts journalist and former Baltimore resident Richard Selden continues his survey of Charm City neighborhoods with a virtual tour of Mount Washington, focusing on notable sites that define its history and character.

Lecture/Seminar

Miles Davis: Prince of Style

Tuesday, September 20, 2022 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET

Miles Davis was a restless innovator, controversial celebrity, and the dominant jazz figure of the second half of the 20th century. In a program highlighted by clips and musical recordings, John Edward Hasse, longtime curator of American music at the National Museum of American History, recounts Davis’s struggles against racism, convention, and his own demons.

Lecture/Seminar

Building the Panama Canal: A Controversial Symbol of American Might

Tuesday, September 20, 2022 - 6:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. ET

Building the Panama Canal early in the 20th century was either a bold, decisive diplomatic stroke that claimed America’s rightful place on the world stage or a crude display of arrogance and corruption. Historian Ralph Nurnberger examines the sweep of the canal saga and addresses such problematic issues as why the U.S. claimed the right to build a canal in another country, and why Panama was chosen.

Lecture/Seminar

Tiffany Glass from the Neustadt Collection

Tuesday, September 20, 2022 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

Take a behind-the-scenes look at works by Louis C. Tiffany and his studios in the preeminent Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass in Queens, New York. Lindsy Parrott, the collection’s executive director and curator, shares highlights of this extraordinary assemblage encompassing lamps, windows, metalwork, and rare archival materials—and offers tips on spotting authentic Tiffany works among the forgeries.

Tour

A Bite of Baltimore: Savoring Food Traditions

Friday, September 23, 2022 - 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. ET

Baltimore is a city with a rich and diverse food history shaped by products from the surrounding fertile farmland, the bounty of the Chesapeake Bay, and the heritage of waves of immigrants. Join food guru Christine Rai for a dynamic and delicious day exploring the unique food culture of Charm City in locations that include the historic Lexington Market and the stables where the city’s distinctive “Arraber” vendors prepare their horse-drawn produce wagons.

Tour

Old Town’s African American History

Saturday, September 24, 2022 - 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. ET

Founded in 1749, Alexandria, Virginia, was a major American port that was home to both the country’s largest slave-trading firm and to a large free Black community. Local guide and historian John Chapman leads a walking tour of the city’s OId Town neighborhood that takes in significant sites connected to this history.

Tour

Historic Chestertown with a Cruise on the Schooner Sultana

Sunday, September 25, 2022 - 7:45 a.m. to 6:15 p.m. ET

Regional historian Hayden Mathews explores the rich heritage of this Eastern Shore town, focusing on both land and sea. The day includes a cruise on a replica of an 18th-century vessel, as well as an historic-district walking tour guided by Chestertown’s mayor.

Lecture/Seminar

The Untouchable Eliot Ness

Monday, September 26, 2022 - 6:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. ET

As the leader of a team of federal agents known as the Untouchables, Eliot Ness’ two-fisted enforcement of Prohibition-era laws and relentless pursuit of mob boss Al Capone cemented his image as the embodiment of uncompromising justice. Join author Daniel Stashower and actor Scott Seder as they bring this icon to life, from his early exploits in Chicago to his unprecedented manhunt for America’s version of Jack the Ripper.

Lecture/Seminar

The Legal Legacy of Jim Crow

Wednesday, September 28, 2022 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

In-Person and Online Program: Margaret A. Burnham, director of Northeastern University’s Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project, investigates the violence of the Jim Crow–era, the legal apparatus that sustained it, and its enduring legacy. As she maps the criminal legal system in the mid-20th-century South, she traces its line back to slavery and forward to the legal structures of today.

Lecture/Seminar

Jim Thorpe: Outracing the Odds

Thursday, October 6, 2022 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET

In-Person and Online Program: Jim Thorpe rose to world fame as a mythic talent who excelled at every sport, but despite his colossal skills, his life was a struggle against the odds. Biographer David Maraniss discusses America’s greatest all-around athlete, a man who endured in the face of racism, alcohol abuse, broken marriages, and financial distress—and so did his myth.

Tour

Gold-Rush California

October 16 - 21, 2022, 6:00 p.m. to 11:00 a.m. ET

A sparkle of gold flashed in a river near Coloma, California, touching off a massive wave of gold seekers to California. The Gold Rush of 1849 forever altered California and the nation’s destiny. A 6-day tour visits the places where the adventure unfolded.

Lecture/Seminar

Zingerman's Deli Turns 40

Tuesday, October 18, 2022 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET

The iconic Zingerman’s Delicatessen in Ann Arbor, Michigan, opened in 1982 as a traditional Jewish deli and food shop that sold great stacked sandwiches and delicious baked goods. Less known is its role in building new food-business opportunities for others in the area. Co-founder Ari Weinzweig joins Christopher W. Wilson, director of experience design at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, to discuss Zingerman’s story and unique approach to management and leadership.

Tour

The Road to Nashville

November 6 - 10, 2022, 8:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. ET

Nashville is a 21st-century boom town, a cultural melting pot that attracts residents from across the nation and around the world. If the Ken Burns documentary Country Music sparked your appetite to learn more about the form’s roots and influences, this 5-day  tour offers the perfect way to do it.