Smithsonian Archives unveils new website

The Smithsonian Institution Archives records the development of America’s greatest museum. With a staggering amount of artifacts, recordings, books, and other records, it now has a new website designed to help people explore this matchless museum from home.

The archives got their first website back in the dial-up days of 1995. This newer website takes readers deeper into the Institution to see thousands of documents and photos, and get a behind-the-scenes look at the Institution at work and researching in the field. The Smithsonian Institution has 19 museums, nine research centers, and a Zoo. The records for all of these are kept at the archives. The site has pages on the history of each museum and research center, a timeline, and even a scan of James Smithson’s will, which left all his fortune to found the Institution.

The site has plenty of what everyone is looking for on the Internet: porn free downloads! You can get photos and documents for noncommercial use, everything from an old postcard showing lions shot on Teddy Roosevelt’s expedition to Africa to a cool photo of Soviet engineers assembling the Soyuz module to the Apollo module at the National Air and Space Museum. Detailed descriptions tell you more about each image or record.

On the forums you can even talk with Smithsonian staff and get tips on how to protect and preserve your family heirlooms. Also be sure to check out their blog, The Bigger Picture, and their amazing flickr photo stream, which.

[Photo courtesy cliff1066 via flickr]

Ronald Reagan retrospective at Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery

Ronald Reagan is the subject of a retrospective at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC. The multimedia exhibition is called One Life: Ronald Reagan and marks the centenary of his birth.

Most of the material covers his time as president, including the attempted assassination in 1981, his handling of the waning years of the Cold War, and bombing Libya. Yes, Gaddafi has been causing trouble for that long. Visitors will see a variety of photographs and artifacts, including a portion of the Berlin Wall, a portrait by Andy Warhol, and video clips of the 40th president’s speeches.

Space is reserved for lesser-seen images of Reagan from his early years as a sports announcer, actor, and president of the Screen Actors Guild. Yes, Reagan was a union leader! The image above is from his 1938 film Cowboy from Brooklyn. This musical comedy, one of his many popular films, even has Ronny Rayguns singing.

Love him or hate him, Ronald Reagan had a profound effect on the nation’s politics and culture. This show will teach you more about the man everyone has an opinion on.

One Life: Ronald Reagan runs from July 1 to May 28, 2012.

[Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

Thirty years of AIDS: Smithsonian remembers the start of a pandemic

Thirty years ago this summer, the first official reports were released about a new virus that destroyed the human immune system. The virus was the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), which causes AIDS.

Since that time HIV/AIDS has become a global pandemic, claiming millions of lives and seriously damaging several developing economies.

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History is marking this grim anniversary with a special two-part exhibition at the Washington, DC, museum. HIV and AIDS Thirty Years Ago looks at the initial public and government response to HIV/AIDS from 1981-1987, and how the virus was first isolated. Archiving the History of an Epidemic: HIV and AIDS, 1985-2009 takes the story forward to look at society’s growing awareness of the problem and oral histories of those affected. There’s also an online exhibition.

For more information on how HIV/AIDS and how to protect yourself, go to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services HIV/AIDS information page or the government’s AIDS page for basic information about HIV/AIDS.

[Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

Smithsonian in National Latino Musuem controversy

The Smithsonian Institution is considering building a National Museum of the American Latino in Washington, DC, but is facing controversy over the idea.

The museum is planned for the National Mall, shown here in this image courtesy Andrew Bossi, and would complete a set of museums that include the National Museum of the American Indian and the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The latter museum is due to open in 2015. While a museum to the contributions of Latinos to American history and culture makes sense, it’s meeting opposition in Congress over funding and the concept itself.

Jim Moran (D-VA) says he doesn’t want each minority group going to their own museum and skipping the others. This reasoning would hold water if the other museums hadn’t been established already, but it seems a bit late in the day to be bringing forth this argument now.

The current financial crisis is a more persuasive argument against a new museum. The National Museum of African American History and Culture sported a $500 million price tag. Half of that was paid for with Federal dollars, something that’s not going to go over well in the current Congress. There’s also talk of a national woman’s museum, but that’s likely to face the same hurdles as the Latino Museum.

Latinos are the largest minority group in the United States and have been here since well before the country was founded. Many modern states, such as Florida, Arizona, even Missouri, were Spanish colonies before they became U.S. states.

Do you think there should be a National Museum of the American Latino? Should it be paid for with tax dollars? Tell us what you think in the comments section!

Smithsonian opens up its attic

The Smithsonian is often called “America’s attic.” This October, America’s attic will be opening up its attic to give visitors a behind-the-scenes look at how it operates.

October is American Archives Month and and the Smithsonian will be celebrating by hosting a free Archives Fair on October 22 at the National Mall in Washington, DC. Experts working with the Smithsonian’s collections will be talking about the institution’s hidden treasures and giving tips on how to preserve your old mementos. You can even make an appointment and have your heirlooms examined by an expert.

If you can’t make it to DC, check out the Smithsonian Collections blog, which will be running a 31-day blogathon throughout October. Curators will post about how they preserve and restore the objects in the world’s biggest museum.

[Image courtesy ultraclay! via Gadling’s flickr pool]