In-person Program: Join other night owls as you immerse yourself in a unique Smithsonian evening experience at the Natural History Museum. Wander through the museum's galleries and enjoy special activities related to fossils, dinosaurs, and the ocean. Geared for children ages 8 to 14 years old, accompanied by an adult.
Join geologist Kirt Kempter as he explores the geology of Western National Parks over the course of 2023, with an in-depth look at one location every month. This program spotlights Yosemite National Park as part of a summer series, focused on parks in California, Oregon, and Wyoming.
The full mobilization of American society during the Second World War prompted a massive, multi-faceted advertising campaign from the federal government’s Office of War Information (OWI). The posters that emerged from the OWI remain some of the most eye-catching and memorable mass-audience images in memory. Historian Christopher Hamner explores those well-known posters, focusing on two important themes: the differing portrayals of America’s enemies, and the evolution of what were deemed acceptable roles for men and women amid the turmoil of war.
Washington’s movers and shakers once strolled the streets of Dupont Circle, where Massachusetts Avenue was the city’s most fashionable residential address with opulent mansions built to impress Washington society. After the Great Depression, many of these magnificent houses were converted into embassies, social clubs, and offices. Carolyn Muraskin, founder of DC Design Tours, offers stories of the capital’s ruling class and their links to the history of Washington’s premier promenade.
Planetary scientist Rebecca Ghent, co-investigator on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission, discusses our Moon’s history of impact cratering and examines the significance of the impact record for understanding the evolution of the Moon and other solar system bodies.
Guided by outreach librarian Erin Rushing, visit the Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Library of Natural History at the National Museum of Natural History in a rare look at this research library, typically open by appointment only. The collection contains approximately 10,000 rare books, all published before 1840, on the natural sciences, including anthropology, mineralogy, and zoology.
Buddhism—and the art it inspired—helped shape the cultures of Asia. Today, its extraordinary art is a source of beauty and contemplation for audiences across the world. Join Robert DeCaroli, an art historian and specialist in the early history of Buddhism, to spend a day exploring Buddhist and other Asian works of art at the National Museum of Asian Art and the Walters Art Museum. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)
Apart from a few “design heroines,” many of the women who gained prominence in the world of design in the first half of the 20th century are lost to the traditional narrative. In a two-part course, design historian and curator Elizabeth Lay brings them to light as she focuses on two generations of women working as skilled design professionals in the modern era—some of whom you might know and others whose work may be new to you. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)
Historian Dan Flores chronicles the epoch in which humans and animals have coexisted in North America—a place shaped by evolutionary forces and momentous arrivals of humans from Asia, Africa, and Europe. These arrivals precipitated a massive disruption of the teeming environment they found. In telling the story, Flores sees humans not as a species apart but as a new animal entering a place that had never seen our like before.
Join geologist Kirt Kempter as he explores the geology of Western National Parks over the course of 2023, with an in-depth look at one location every month. This program spotlights Lassen Volcanic and Crater Lake National Parks as part of a summer series, focused on parks in California, Oregon, and Wyoming.
Few people are neutral about Russian-American writer and philosopher Ayn Rand. She generated legions of fans—and detractors—through her bestselling books The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged and the philosophy of Objectivism she founded and espoused. Why is Rand so controversial to this day? Onkar Ghate, a senior fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute, explores some of the central ideas of Rand’s worldview and why they continue to draw both devoted adherents and impassioned rejection.
Forty thousand years ago, humans began to paint animals, mysterious symbols, and even people on cave walls. For over a century, researchers have been interested in how these images were created and what they might have meant. Paleolithic archaeologist April Nowell explores cave art and related objects and how cutting-edge technology is leading to a new understanding of the lives of Ice-Age peoples. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)
Each of us began life as a single cell, eventually emerging as a dazzlingly complex, exquisitely engineered assemblage of trillions. This metamorphosis constitutes one of nature’s most spectacular yet commonplace magic tricks—and one of its most coveted secrets. Physician and researcher Ben Stanger offers a glimpse into what scientists are discovering about how life and the body take shape, and how these revelations stand to revolutionize medicine and the future of human health.
Sake, the national drink of Japan, is making its mark in the United States. Sake expert and professional kikizakeshi (sake sommelier) Jessica Joly-Crane of Sake Discoveries discusses the basics behind this historic, yet revolutionary drink. Learn about sake’s history, how it’s made, and how it’s categorized. Then use your new-found knowledge as you enjoy samples of sake following the presentation.
The great 16th-century Flemish painter Pieter Bruegel the Elder may be best remembered as one of the pioneers of genre scenes in Renaissance art. However, this master of the ordinary, especially of scenes inspired by peasant life, was steeped in the humanist culture of his era. Art historian Aneta Georgievska-Shine explores how Breugel’s wonderful inventiveness and wit are reflected throughout his oeuvre—where almost every painting becomes a point of departure for a deeper philosophical consideration. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)
Enjoy a morning walking tour and discover the Mall’s history, design, and architecture, from its earliest incarnation to the latest developments. Take in a wide range of architectural styles as you view the Smithsonian’s buildings as well as the National Gallery of Art and the Department of Agriculture. The tour leader is Bill Keene, a lecturer in history, urban studies, and architecture.
Join Grace Marston, arts educator at the Andy Warhol Museum, as she delves into how historical events affected Andy Warhol’s art and life. Marston presents artworks from the museum’s permanent collection, including works that are rarely on public display. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit per session)
In a program highlighted by live performances, pianist and lecturer Rachel Franklin traces Kurt Weill’s creative journey from Weimar Germany to Broadway. He explores the early works that led to Weill’s extraordinary partnership with Bertolt Brecht and his subsequent artistic evolution in the United States, working with lyricists including Ira Gershwin, Langston Hughes, and Maxwell Anderson—collaborations that produced such beloved songs as “Speak Low,” “September Song,” “Lost in the Stars,” and “My Ship.”
At the turn of the 20th century, Vienna was the capital of a great empire ruled by the Hapsburgs. The city was a center of political power as well as avant-garde culture, home to some of the world’s greatest composers, architects, writers, and artists. Two who helped define this age of glamour, elegance, and decadence were artists Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele. Art critic and advisor Judy Pomeranz explores the lives and art of these extraordinary individuals, examines how they were influenced by their time and place, and illustrates how powerfully they reflected them in works both beautiful and shocking. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)
America’s most famous avenue, connecting the White House and U.S. Capitol, hasn’t always been a grand thoroughfare. Pennsylvania Avenue and the surrounding neighborhood has been renovated, re-imagined, and revitalized over and over again. From Murder Bay, a center of crime, gambling, and prostitution to the stately boulevard of presidential inaugurations, Carolyn Muraskin, founder of DC Design Tours, unfolds the story of a metamorphosis along America’s Main Street.
For centuries, people believed the deep was a sinister realm of fiendish creatures and deadly peril. But as cutting-edge technologies have allowed scientists and explorers to dive miles beneath the surface, we are beginning to understand this underworld: It’s a place of soaring mountains, smoldering volcanoes, pink gelatinous predators, and sharks that live for half a millennium. Join award-winning journalist and New York Times bestselling author Susan Casey for a dive into the deep ocean.
He was an uncompromising modernist, a great chronicler of the American South, and an inspiration—as well as immovable obstacle—for the generations of writers who followed. William Faulkner stands as one of the greatest, and one of the most problematic figures in American literature. Michael Gorra, author of The Saddest Words: William Faulkner’s Civil War, focuses on a trio of Faulkner’s greatest novels in a reading series: The Sound and the Fury, Light in August, and Absalom, Absalom!
Experience the power of reflective writing guided by the founding instructor of the National Gallery of Art’s popular Writing Salon, Mary Hall Surface. Inspired by works of art by Georgia O'Keeffe and poetry by Mary Oliver, explore the lessons that the summer season offers us when we slow down, look closely, and reflect. The workshop is designed for writers of all levels.
Americans today expect their president to be not only chief executive, commander in chief, chief consoler, and chief crisis manager. They also expect our national leader to be our celebrity in chief. In an era in which media stardom is a key part of public life, a president needs to hold people's interest and entertain them, says Ken Walsh, a 30-year veteran of U.S. News & World Report’s White House beat. Join him as he surveys the presidents across the centuries who made the most effective use of their celebrity, those who didn’t—and why.
Bonsai, tiny trees in pots or miniature landscapes on trays, have delighted and intrigued people for centuries. Join Michael James, the U.S. National Arboretum’s bonsai curator, and Ann McClellan, author of Bonsai and Penjing: Ambassadors of Peace and Beauty, for an an illustrated talk about the arboretum’s National Bonsai & Penjing Museum and its unique collections. They share stories about how the diminuitive trees were created and came to Washington, plus a few tips on how to care for them.
To many people, a skeleton is just a hopeless pile of bones. But to a forensic anthropologist, skeletal remains are the key to identifying an individual and how and when they died. And nowhere else do they get a better understanding of decomposition than at the Forensic Anthropology Center at the University of Tennessee, aka the body farm. Dawnie Wolfe Steadman, the director of the center, digs into how forensic anthropologists from around the world learn from these bodies.
Perhaps no other single day in U.S. history was as threatening to the survival of the nation as August 24, 1814, when British forces captured Washington, D.C. This unique moment significantly altered the nation’s path forward, but the event and the reasons behind it are little remembered by most Americans. Historian Robert P. Watson examines the British campaign and American missteps that led to the fall of Washington during the War of 1812, the actions of key figures on both sides of the conflict, and the individuals who risked their lives to save priceless artifacts and documents from the flames.
The paintings of the Hudson River School artists define our image of early 19th-century America. Works by Thomas Cole, Asher B. Durand, Frederic Edwin Church, and other lesser-known artists synthesize the spirit of European landscape masters with the distinctly American view of nature, science, and spirituality reflected in Thoreau and Emerson. Art historian Heidi Applegate examines why the Hudson River School artists were so popular, how they fell out of favor, and why their art has generated renewed interest. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)
Whatever their area of expertise, professional historians use a common set of skills—locating primary sources, placing them in context, reading texts closely and precisely, and corroborating multiple accounts—to make sense of the past. In a unique interactive full-day workshop, historian Christopher Hamner of George Mason University demystifies this process by guiding you in how to think about and interpret the past. Hamner introduces participants to the skills and thought processes of the historical profession, employing actual primary sources from 300 years of American history.
There’s more to keeping your brain in tip-top shape and lowering your risk for dementia than crossword puzzles, brain games, and Sudoku according to scientist and author Marc Milstein. Drawing on his book The Age-Proof Brain: New Strategies to Improve Memory, Protect Immunity, and Fight Off Dementia, he examines why serious mental decline may not be an inevitable part of aging—and how individuals can boost short- and long-term brain health.
The history of Catholicism in America—and of America itself—cannot be told without the history of the Jesuits. David J. Collins, SJ, of Georgetown University offers a panoramic overview of the Jesuit order in the United States from the colonial era to the present and places it against the backdrop of American religious, cultural, and social history.
Utterly extraordinary as pianist, conductor, and composer, throughout his life Sergei Rachmaninoff bestrode the musical world like a colossus. In his 150th birthday year, popular speaker and concert pianist Rachel Franklin celebrates his prodigious mastery of all these fields in a two-part course enlivened by recordings, video clips, and demonstrations at her piano.
England is by far the largest and most populous of the three nations that occupy the island of Britain, but how did its borders take their current shape, and why did Wales and Scotland maintain their distinctive national identities, despite eventually coming under English rule? Historian Jennifer Paxton recounts how Germanic settlers mixed with the existing Celtic-speaking population at the end of Roman rule in Britain, leading to the rise of several small kingdoms that coalesced into the entity that we know as England.
Join geologist Kirt Kempter as he explores the geology of Western National Parks over the course of 2023, with an in-depth look at one location every month. This program spotlights Yellowstone National Park as part of a summer series, focused on parks in California, Oregon, and Wyoming.
When Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile married in 1469, they incorporated not only their two kingdoms but also independent Spanish dominions into a large, unified country that wielded political and religious power over much of Europe for years. Tudor scholar and historian Carol Ann Lloyd-Stanger traces the history of this famous couple and their lasting impact on the thrones of several European nations.
Edward Hopper is widely regarded as one of the great American realists of modern art. His works capture a quintessential view of New York City that became part of our cultural fabric. Indeed, many noir films of the 1940s and 1950s reflect Hopper’s vision of city life reflected in his paintings: austere, silent, moody, and lonely. Art historian Bonita Billman explores the highlights of Hopper’s career and examines the sociopolitical and cultural contexts in which he lived and worked. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)
During the American Revolutionary War, the British military made big promises to enslaved Americans. In return for taking up arms against the patriots, enslaved people won pledges from British commanders that they would be freed when Britain won the war. But what happened once Britain lost? Historian Richard Bell explores these Black fugitives’ extraordinary odyssey through the remainder of Britain’s global empire after 1783 to examine the ways they tried to pursue happiness and forge an African American diaspora.
For many American high school students, reading Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic novel The Scarlet Letter from 1850 is a literary rite of passage, introducing them to the time’s moral codes and the Puritans’ notions of gender, sexuality, and religion. Joseph Luzzi, a professor of literature at Bard College, explores the nuances of Hawthorne’s language and style and the ways in which his vivid characters and their plights relate to concerns in the modern world.
Since ancient times, the Ganges has been embodied as the goddess Ganga, and her reach stretches well beyond the riverbanks. Art historian Robert DeCaroli traces the Ganges from its origins in the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal, exploring historic and sacred locations along the way. He also examines the art and architecture used to enhance and replicate access to Ganga’s sacred waters. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)
The late 19th century in New York City was an era of exquisite mansions, beautiful parks and squares, and palatial public buildings—all magnificent markers of the Gilded Age and the wealth that made it possible. Yet the city was a study in dichotomies, an urban society whose facets were both celebrated and critiqued in the writings of Edith Wharton and Henry James and boldly exposed by Jacob Riis in his photographs of immigrant life. Lecturer George Scheper surveys the cultural panorama of New York and the contrasting realities of its inhabitants.
For more than a century, Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov have captivated readers with their spellbinding narratives, philosophical brilliance, and insights into human psychology and spirituality. Joseph Luzzi, professor of literature at Bard College, takes you inside two of the most consequential novels ever written and explores how their insights continue to illuminate our lives today.
The Myth of the Lost Cause, created by ex-Confederates as a social and cultural movement to define the Confederacy’s value and justify the just-concluded Civil War, remains part of contemporary America. Historian Stephen D. Engle challenges the enduring Southern reverence for the Confederacy as he examines issues central to the myth over generations by targeting its origins during Reconstruction, its cultural endurance through the 1920s and the Great Depression, its challenges to the Civil Rights era, and its symbolism in rallying patriotism today.
Many young readers list reading J.D. Salinger’s blockbuster novel, The Catcher in the Rye, as one of their most formative experiences with literature. Joseph Luzzi, a professor of literature at Bard College, revisits this epochal work to see how it has aged since its publication in 1951, highlighting the ways in which readers continue to see themselves reflected in the tormented character of its complex protagonist, Holden Caulfield.
The churches of Italy are renowned for their artistic treasures, from Giotto’s 14th-century frescoes in Florence, Padua, and Assisi to Giacomo Manzu’s great 20th-century bronze doors for St. Peter’s in Rome. In a splendidly illustrated seminar, art historian Sophia D’Addio of Columbia University explores churches that represent some of Italy’s greatest repositories of sacred art. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1 credit)
One of America's most innovative architects, Frank Lloyd Wright experimented with new ways to design homes and integrate them into nature. Fallingwater, Kentuck Knob, and the houses at Polymath Park offer prime examples of his organic architecture. Visit all three locations during an overnight tour to Pennsylvania’s scenic Laurel Highlands. Tour leader Bill Keene, a writer and lecturer on architecture, urban history, and city planning, has a special interest in Wright.
Step from the bustling sidewalks of the Left Bank in Paris into a veritable treasure house: the Cluny Museum. The remains of ancient Roman baths and the Gothic Paris residence of the abbots of Cluny provide the fairy-tale backdrop for marvels of medieval art. Barbara Drake Boehm, a curator emerita of The Met Cloisters, explores the museum, renovated and reopened last year. The masterpieces inside include the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries, sculpture from the Cathedral of Notre-Dame that was buried during the French Revolution, and a Jewish wedding ring hidden by its owner during the Black Death. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)