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Lectures

Wild Bill's Secret Agents: The Birth of the OSS

Before the CIA there was the Office of Strategic Services, whose operations spawned some of the World War II’s boldest and most daring covert missions—as well as some of its unlikeliest agents. Career CIA officer Randy Burkett traces the fascinating history of the OSS, its strategies and players, and its postwar transition into the Central Intelligence Agency.

Date of event
Wednesday, January 22, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

The Science of Sleep with WebMD's John Whyte

A good night’s sleep might be a dream for some, but the importance of sleep and how it impacts our overall health is a reality for all. John Whyte, WebMD’s chief medical officer, presents the latest research about sleep, including strategies that work best to improve its quality.

Date of event
Wednesday, January 29, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

Amelia Earhart: Legend and Legacy

Dorothy Cochrane, a curator at the Air and Space Museum, separates fact from fiction as she examines the pioneering aviator’s accomplishments and her shortcomings, and why Earhart still challenges and inspires in the 21st century.

Date of event
Thursday, January 30, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

Travels with Darley: Exploring Qatar

Join Darley Newman as she shares insider’s tips on Qatar, which she curated while filming her popular PBS series “Travels with Darley.” From markets and museums to restaurants and beautiful natural locations, she offers plenty of surprising finds and practical strategies for delving deep into the rich culture of this Middle Eastern nation.

Date of event
Thursday, January 30, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

A Clear Distinction: Muslim Cultures and the Islamic Faith

Farhana N. Shah of the Muslim Community Center in Silver Spring breaks down myths and misconceptions as she examines the differences between the faith of Islam and the cultures found in the Muslim world.

Date of event
Tuesday, February 4, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

The New Brain Science: How Brainwave Research Is Shaping the Future

Neuroscience is widening our awareness of the wealth of information brainwaves can hold about who we are—and that information’s power. Neuroscientist R. Douglas Fields examines the current frontiers of the new brain science and what its research means for medicine, technology, and our understanding of ourselves.

Date of event
Wednesday, February 5, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

How To Watch the Oscars

As the awards race approaches its conclusion, join Washington City Paper film critic Noah Gittell for an evening that focuses on all things Oscar, from Academy Awards history and trivia to discussions of this year’s nominations and behind-the-scenes stories.

Date of event
Thursday, February 6, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

Lucy's Ancestor: A Human Face for an Ancient Skull

Paleoanthropologist Rick Potts, head of the Smithsonian’s Human Origins Program, examines the significance of the 2016 discovery of a skull that represented the most ancient early human ever found. Paleo-artist John Gurche describes how he reconstructed the face of that pivotal human ancestor for the David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins at the Natural History Museum.

Date of event
Monday, February 10, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

J'Accuse! The Dreyfus Affair and its Aftermath

The wrongful court-martial of Alfred Dreyfus, a young officer—and a Jew—in 1895 Paris, has had far-reaching ramifications. Historian Ralph Nurnberger highlights the trial when Dreyfus was convicted and the subsequent trials over the course of the next dozen years.

Date of event
Monday, February 10, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

Economics + Dystopian Literature

Beyond their compelling stories, dystopian tales like The Hunger Games, Divergent, Maze Runner, and Brave New World offer something more for economist Brian O’Roark: perfect settings for an economic analysis. Join him to discover some entertaining insights that we can learn from fictional societies gone wrong.

Date of event
Tuesday, February 11, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

1774: The Long Year of Revolution

Colonial historian Mary Beth Norton examines the critical “long year” that encompassed the Boston Tea Party, the first Continental Congress, and two significant early battles in the War of Independence.

Date of event
Wednesday, February 12, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

Louis Armstrong: American Icon

Say the name Louis Armstrong and you’re instantly able to conjure the unmistakable sound of his voice and his trumpet. Curator and author John Edward Hasse provides a film and video portrait of the beloved entertainer who transformed American music.

Date of event
Thursday, February 13, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

You + Me = Symbiosis

Celebrate Valentine’s Day by looking at some of Mother Nature’s greatest examples of relationships that work guided by two Smithsonian scientists, lichenologist Manuela Dal Forno and entomologist Natasha Mehdiabadi.

Date of event
Friday, February 14, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

The Creative Curve: Unplugging the Myth of the "Lightbulb Moment"

Looking for that elusive spark of inspiration to write a hit screenplay or book, design an effective marketing campaign, or start a successful company? Learn why technology entrepreneur Allen Gannett says to stop waiting and discover that creative ideas are not just the province of so-called geniuses, but within the reach of everyone.

Date of event
Tuesday, February 18, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

The Science of CBD: Anecdotes and Evidence

Products that tout the powers of CBD are popping up all over the marketplace. Join Steven Grant, a neuroscientist at the National Institutes of Health, for an examination of what research has—and more importantly, has not—discovered about this elusive chemical's potential benefits and risks.

Date of event
Thursday, February 20, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

Restaurateur Danny Meyer: Bringing Manhattan Style to DC Dining

Local burger fans love Shake Shack, and soon there’ll be another restaurant from Danny Meyer in town—Maialino, which pays homage to Rome’s seafood trattorias. Join the man behind some of New York’s most notable eateries as he talks about opening a restaurant in Washington, his career in the culinary world, and more.

Date of event
Thursday, February 20, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

Volcanoes of the Western Aleutians

Join research geologist and curator Liz Cottrell of the Natural History Museum as she recounts her 2015 journey to the middle of the Bering Sea to explore active volcanic features previously unknown to science.

Date of event
Monday, February 24, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

Celebrating Bob Ross's Joy of Painting

No television show was more aptly named than Bob Ross’s long-running “Joy of Painting.” Join curator Eric Jentsch of the American History Museum and Sarah Strohl of Bob Ross, Inc., as they examine the artist’s continuing legacy. This program includes a morning painting class to bring home a distinctive Ross-style landscape of your own as well as a lunch break.

Date of event
Sunday, March 1, 2020 - 10:00 a.m.

Celebrating Bob Ross's Joy of Painting

No television show was more aptly named than Bob Ross’s long-running “Joy of Painting.” Join curator Eric Jentsch of the American History Museum and Sarah Strohl of Bob Ross, Inc., as they examine the artist’s continuing legacy. This program includes a mid-afternoon painting class to bring home a distinctive Ross-style landscape of your own.

Date of event
Sunday, March 1, 2020 - 1:00 p.m.

The Greek Gods: Myths and Worship

For the ancient Greeks, the gods were more than just powerful characters in exciting narratives: Their worship played a central role in shaping religious life. Classicist Katherine Wasdin examines this vital connection between mortals and their gods.

Date of event
Monday, March 2, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

Coming Together on Abbey Road

Fifty years ago, the Beatles made their final album together, a farewell project that was their most innovative collection of songs. Beatles historian Kenneth Womack draws on rare clips and videos to show how the group and producer George Martin created Abbey Road’s unique sounds.

Date of event
Tuesday, March 3, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

The Constitution and Declaration of Independence: A Contrary View

Have we gotten the principles of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution all wrong? Constitutional law professor Kermit Roosevelt challenges the conventional view that these hallowed documents established our core values and tell us who we are.

Date of event
Tuesday, March 3, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

Understanding the Celtic World

The ancient Celts terrified the Greeks and Romans, but the modern-day revival of Celtic music and art charms millions of people around the world. Historian Jennifer Paxton examines the complex and fascinating legacy of the Celtic world, revealing that its language, art, and customs may be rooted in some surprising sources.

Date of event
Wednesday, March 4, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

Why We Love Crosswords: It's a Puzzle

Deb Amlen, the New York Times' crossword columnist and senior editor of “Wordplay,” presents an insider's look at how the crossword evolved through history, how you can get started as a puzzle solver or improve your skills, and ways to eventually crack the code behind even the trickiest of clues.

Date of event
Thursday, March 5, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

Sapporo-Style Ramen: A Regional Rage

Japanese foodies take their ramen—which boasts more than 30 regional variations—very seriously. The team behind D.C.’s popular Bantam King, Daikaya, and Haikan restaurants explores the essentials of Sapporo-style ramen, how they prepare it, and how best to enjoy it. Then, get a taste of your own when you sit down for lunch at Haikan.

Date of event
Saturday, March 7, 2020 - 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

Re-examining Plato's Republic

Classicist Frederick Winter examines the continuing influence of Plato’s utopian vision of the state and how a re-examination of this key Western text provides important insights into our own era of political transformation.

Date of event
Monday, March 9, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

The Worlds of Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin’s many accomplishments as a statesman, scientist, writer, and more are well known. Historian Richard Bell addresses the man’s many other faces and capacity for complexity—which rendered him both ordinary and extraordinary.

Date of event
Tuesday, March 10, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

Charlemagne: The Paradoxical Conqueror

The greatest of the barbarian rulers who rose to power after the fall of the Roman Empire was both a warrior king marked by a lust for territory and plunder and a great patron of the arts, learning, and religion. Historian Richard Abels explores the defining facets of the man and the myth behind the so-called Father of Europe.

Date of event
Thursday, March 12, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

Life Lessons with Judith Viorst: From Under 9 to Nearing 90

Judith Viorst’s sharp observations about adulting—reflected in her series of decade-focused poetry books—offer just as much fun and insights as her beloved children’s stories. Join her as she shares her wry wisdom on such matters as aging, love, marriage, friendship, and happiness drawn from her newest title, Nearing 90 and Other Comedies of Late Life.

Date of event
Monday, March 16, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

Author Erik Larson on Churchill's Darkest Year

MEMBERS-ONLY PROGRAM: Drawing on his new book The Splendid and the Vile, Erik Larson offers a vivid portrait of London and Winston Churchill during the Blitz, detailing how the prime minister taught the British people “the art of being fearless.” Ticket includes a copy of The Splendid and the Vile.

Date of event
Monday, March 16, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

Ireland's Fight for Freedom

Ireland’s bitter war with the British Empire from 1919 to 1921 created the template for other independence struggles in the 20th century. Historian Kevin Matthews examines its development and tactics—and the price that Ireland paid for freedom.

Date of event
Tuesday, March 17, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

Decoding the Royal Wardrobe: From the Tudors to Today

There's more to the gowns, crowns, uniforms, and regalia of British royalty than meets the eye. Join Tudor scholar Carol Ann Lloyd Stanger for a glimpse into the palace closet that reveals how monarchs used their wardrobes to project power, influence, politics, and personality.

Date of event
Wednesday, March 18, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

Forensic Anthropologist Kathy Reichs

Kathy Reichs is known for her crime-fiction novels chronicling the adventures of Temperance (Bones) Brennan, a forensic anthropologist at the fictional Jeffersonian Institute. Join her as she uncovers the challenges of translating real-life drama into the stuff of fiction, discusses her dual careers, and shares stories behind her newest novel, A Conspiracy of Bones.

Date of event
Wednesday, March 18, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

Africa in the African American Artistic Imagination

The impact of African art on African Americans artists has been long debated. Art historian Kevin Tervala examines the ways in which African American artists have—or have not—engaged with the art of the African continent as reflected in works from early 20th-century pioneers and more contemporary artists. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)

Date of event
Tuesday, March 24, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

European Microstates: Survival of the Smallest

In an age of nation-states, Europe contains the world’s largest collection of a dozen countries that are literally too small to appear on most maps of the continent. Historian Charles Ingrao delves into the remarkable resilience of these microstates by examining the historical forces that shaped them.

Date of event
Tuesday, March 24, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

Creativity in Dark Times: Artists and Writers of the New Deal

Author David Taylor looks at some of the artists and writers for whom the Federal Writers’ Project and the Federal Arts Project gave them a new purpose: recording American life. Their works—some of which remain controversial—provide a vivid portrait a nation struggling for recovery and identity during the Great Depression.

Date of event
Wednesday, March 25, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

Bagel and Lox: An Edible Icon

What’s better than the perfect shmear? Jewish historian Ted Merwin bites into the cultural history of the beloved breakfast sandwich of bagels and cured fish. Afterward, enjoy a classic combo with ingredients from local purveyors.

Date of event
Sunday, March 29, 2020 - 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Alexander von Humboldt: His World of Nature

He has more species named after him than any other human being. Learn why from Eleanor Jones Harvey, senior curator at the American Art Museum, who examines the fascinating life of German naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt, one of the most influential intellectuals of the 19th century. 

Date of event
Sunday, March 29, 2020 - 3:00 p.m.

Leadership in Crisis: Defining Moments of Modern Presidencies

Leaders from Franklin Roosevelt to Donald Trump dealt with their defining moments in a variety of ways that forever changed our perceptions of them. As he surveys these responses, journalist Ken Walsh identifies what we have learned about presidential attributes and skills that matter most in trying times, and also takes a fresh look at President Trump through the prism of his crisis-filled administration.

Date of event
Tuesday, March 31, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

Extreme Weather and Climate: Adaptation in a Changing World

Meeting the shock and awe of extreme floods, droughts, storms, and fires calls for plans and action—and authoritative scientific information. Roger S. Pulwarty, the senior scientist in the physical sciences division at NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory, examines the significance and sources of that information as countries, communities, and businesses make critical decisions in response to changing weather and extreme climate trends.

Date of event
Tuesday, March 31, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

Celebrating Robert Frost: An American Poet

More than 50 years after his death, Robert Frost remains one of the most beloved and critically respected poets of all time. Author Daniel Stashower explores Frost’s life and legacy and actor Scott Sedar reads a selection of his most celebrated works.

Date of event
Wednesday, April 1, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.