On a cold, overcast Tuesday morning in February 1981, something caught the eye of a museum technician as he walked through the “We the People” exhibit on the second floor of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History: The silver pen of President McKinley’s Secretary of State John Hay was missing. The 7 ¼-inch Parker Jointless pen had been used to sign the 1898 Treaty of Paris, ending the Spanish-American War.
But now, to the technician’s horror, its case was empty -- and there were more alarming discoveries to come.
In a city full of millions of people and a myriad of activities to take part in, a twenty-five-year-old Albert Small roamed the concrete jungle that was New York City in 1949. He was a bit bored without his beloved girlfriend, Shirley, by his side. Forced to occupy his time while Shirley worked her Saturday retail job to pay for school. Albert was left to his own devices. He was more used to the slower pace of his home in Washington, DC. The hustle and bustle of the people, noise, and sights of one of the world’s largest metropolises overwhelmed him at points. On this particular Saturday, Albert ducked into an antique bookstore as a means to escape the sensory overload that is the Big Apple. What he found changed his life.
The country’s first modern art museum was established 100 years ago in a Dupont Circle townhouse. And since the Phillips Collection celebrated its centenary last year, it’s a great time to remind Washingtonians that their city has a rich art history—largely exemplified by the story of this museum.
The Smithsonian museums attract millions of D.C. locals and tourists alike every year, but in the late 1980s, the Institution found its reputation at risk. As Smithsonian spokeswoman Madeline Jacobs described in October of 1989, “The calls and letters” during that period were “like a flood." "Even important topics like our divestment from South Africa didn't get this much attention,” Jacobs told The Washington Post.
What sparked the uproar? In 1989, the Smithsonian reportedly held 35,000 skeletal remains of Indigenous peoples, 18,500 of which were Native American remains.
For the time being, Washingtonians have been cut off from our favorite museums. Luckily, brilliant museum professionals have come up with lots of ways to bring some light to our lockdowns. In honor of Museum Week, we've rounded up some of the coolest online resources that D.C. museums have to offer.
One of the big challenges to writing a history blog is finding good images. Well, things just got a lot easier with Getty's announcement that it is making up to 35 million images available for bloggers to embed in their sites for free. The company has created a new embed tool that allows images to be shared and includes proper photo credit information. See an example of the new tool at work after the jump.
August 28th marks the anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington, one of the watershed moments in American History and the Civil Rights struggle. On August 28, 1963 over 250,000 marchers peacefully demonstrated in the nation's capital under the mantra of "jobs and freedom" for all Americans regardless of skin color. The march is widely credited with helping to pass the Civil Rights Act (1964) and the Voting Rights Act (1965).
To commemorate the 1963 March, there will be two different marches through the streets of Washington in the coming days. On Saturday, August 24 at 8am, the National Action Network is organizing a rally with Rev. Al Sharpton and Martin Luther King III at the Lincoln Memorial. Following the rally, participants will walk en-masse to the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. On Wednesday, August 28 at 8am, the Center For the Study of Civil and Human Rights Laws is organizing a procession from 600 New Jersey Ave. NW to the Lincoln Memorial.
In addition to these marches, there will be many other celebrations happening around town to mark the anniversary. We've listed a few of the larger ones after the jump. For more, check out The Root's Guide to March on Washington Celebrations and the 50th Anniversary Coalition for Jobs, Justice and Freedom website. Hope that you can take part in one or more of the events!
D.C. is by far the best city in the country for museum lovers. Although most of them are free to the public, a few have rather high admission fees. Luckily, for the month of July only, a few of the more costly museums are offering free admission. And who doesn’t like free stuff?!
This past Saturday, I headed to the National Museum of Crime and Punishment to take advantage of the awesome July deal. All you have to do is download Google’s Field Trip app and show the cashier the selected page. Simple as that.