Saturday Is National Archaeology Day

This Saturday, October 20, has officially been declared National Archaeology Day here in the U.S. and to celebrate, the Archaeological Institute of America is hosting a number of events across the country. Additionally, the National Park Service is helping to promote the day as well, offering up opportunities to visit archaeological sites and even volunteer on a live dig.

Now in its second year, National Archaeology Day was founded to not only help raise awareness of the importance of archaeology but also to celebrate the thrill and excitement of discovery. To that end, the AIA, working in conjunction with local chapters and clubs, has come up with some fun, family-friendly activities that can help everyone get into the spirit of the celebration. There are literally dozens of events taking place across the U.S. (and some abroad!) that will give everyone the opportunity to learn what archaeology is all about. To find an event close to you, check out the NAD events page. You’ll find everything from film screenings, guided tours, lectures, simulated digs and much more.

Many U.S. national parks were created around important historical sites, making them popular destinations for professional and amateur archaeologists alike. For those interested in gaining first hand experience and knowledge of what takes place on an archaeological dig, the Park Service has posted a list of volunteer opportunities within the system. Those opportunities include fieldwork with the Smithsonian Institute and the AIA, volunteer programs with the Forest Service and collaborations with various archaeology centers across the nation.

If you’re someone who is fascinated by the study of human history or would just like to know more about archaeology in general, than Saturday will definitely be a day for you. Judging from the various activities that will be taking place around the country, it should be a fun and fascinating day.

Get Your Free Museum Day Tickets Here

Museum Day Live is an annual event hosted by Smithsonian magazine, coming up this weekend on Saturday, September 29, when participating museums across the country give free admission to anyone presenting a Museum Day Ticket.

Smithsonian magazine hosts the annual event to encourage people to revisit their favorite local museum or try a new one in the area. The deal is simple too. Go to the Museum Day website and register to download a free ticket good for free admission for two people at one of the museums on the list.

Finding a participating museum is also easy. Just visit the Find a Museum page to locate a participating museum in your area.

In addition to the Smithsonian facilities in Washington, DC, free every day of the year anyway, a number of museums all around the United States are participating in Museum Day. Among them is the Aerospace Museum of California exhibiting 40 military and civilian aircraft, an engine collection from early aircraft to rockets, motion ride simulator, F-16 simulators, art, aviation and aerospace exhibits. In Florida, the Harry S Truman Little White House in Key West is included too. Used as Truman’s residence for 175 days of his presidency, Presidents William H. Taft, Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton also called the place home.

Special exhibits, parking and Imax presentations are not included.

The Smithsonian is a diverse organization with many interests and surely worth a visit if not a lifetime of study. This video, typical of the Smithsonian’s diversity, features “Photography Changes Everything,” a new book from the Smithsonian and the Aperture Foundation, which uses the visual assets of the museum to explore how photographs impact our culture and our lives.

[Photo-Chris Owen]

Google Maps Inside Of Smithsonian Musueums

We all know that Google Maps technology is invaluable for finding out how to get from point A to point B – or from point A to point D, with B and C in between. But what happens once you arrive at your destination?

Most maps stop being useful the minute you cross the threshold of a building, but, thanks to a new partnership with Google, the Smithsonian’s more than 2.7 million square feet of space are now mapped, both inside and out, using the search engine’s proprietary mapping technology.

The project encompasses 17 museums and the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and allows visitors with Google Maps for Android to navigate building interiors floor by floor, as well as pinpoint themselves within the building.

You can search for exhibits, stairs, restrooms, food courts and more, as well as find step-by-step walking directions between, say, the Hope Diamond and Dorothy’s Red Slippers (which are located in two different museums).

“An increasing number of our visitors now turn to their mobile devices and familiar applications to help them find their way and get information about the Smithsonian,” said Nancy Proctor, head of mobile strategy and initiatives at the Smithsonian. “Indoor Google Maps helps us achieve our goal of putting the Smithsonian in their hands, both literally and figuratively.”

In addition to museums in D.C., the mapping technology also catalogs the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia, and the George Gustav Heye Center in New York City.

The Smithsonian and Google will continue to increase the level of exhibit detail and the number of features in the maps in coming months. Indoor Maps is available on Google Maps for Android (Android 2.2 or above and Google Maps for Android 6.0 or above).

Want to learn more? Check out this great article about what happened when the Gadling team went inside the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History for a private tour!

Thanks to ArtDaily for the tip!

An Inside Look Into The Smithsonian’s Museum Of Natural History

My favorite travel writers share a sense of curiosity about their surroundings, regardless of where they are. You can squish a dozen or so of them into an elevator, take them into an attic and they’ll find something of interest. If that attic happens to be just below the grand upper rotunda of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and those writers happen to be a subset of the Gadling crew, well, let’s just say it’s unlikely you’ve seen a group of people more excited about a dusty hallway lined with cardboard boxes and file cabinets.

I’m still thinking about the box that had “Porcupine, Old, Not Cute” scrawled on the outside in sharpie. And about the fact that there’s stardust down there in the mineral hall. And how when I leaned on that door to the lab while I was taking pictures, it swung open because it was unlocked. I’m thinking about looking down onto the marine hallway, over the top of a giant jellyfish, through a sort of peephole slot from above while kids looked at the same jellyfish from below.

While our guides, Education Specialist Margery Gordon and Director of Public Outreach Randall Kremer told us a bit about the history of the building and the collection, our archeology and history nerd Sean McLachlan called me over. “Stand there,” he said, and had me peek inside a box that contained Zip-lock bags full of bones. Don George pointed all the way across the open space under the rotunda. “What kind of bird is that?” he asked our guides. “What’s the story with all these boxes marked ‘Reburial only?'” I asked.”Oh my god, I want that!” said Laurel Miller of a tiny, spiky-haired critter that shared case space with a rhinoceros shot by Teddy Roosevelt. We were back on the main floor, away from risky unlocked doors. “It looks like a piece of sushi,” Grant Martin said of the tiny fairy armadillo. Kyle Ellison looked up at the life-sized replica of Phoenix, the Wright whale, and said, “Let’s just have a conversation underneath this whale, shall we?” “Man, that is one ugly fish,” said nearly everyone of a fist-sized yellowish lump of deep sea dweller.

“I’ll take you to see the giant snake – Titanoboa – and the Hope Diamond,” said Ms. Gordon. We followed her like a class of somewhat obedient fourth graders. “But first, you have to see these replicas of early humans. The heads are at the height they’d have been and you can look them right in the eye.”

“What does working in a place like this do to your sense of time?” “How do you deal with creationists?” “Where did the elephant come from?” “Can you imagine, you’re walking through the jungle and you see THAT?” “She’s tiny. Who knew she’d be so tiny?” “Oh. My. God… Space.” All that arch irony that travel writers at their worst can be guilty of was wrong. We were 12 years old again, our brains firing on the magic of science and history and the miracles you can find by taking a good look at the natural history of our planet.

We had about two hours at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. It was too short by about a week. The museum is at 10th and Constitution in Washington, D.C. It’s open every day of the year except Christmas Day. And get this: it’s FREE.

Washington, D.C. breaks ground today for brand new National Museum of African American History and Culture

This morning, Washington, D.C. held a groundbreaking ceremony for their brand new National Museum of African American History and Culture that will be the Smithsonian Institution’s 19th museum. The event, attended by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, marked Black History Month by celebrating a new kind of history museum that looks to educate people through a candid representation of African American life, art and culture.

Says Museum Director Lonnie Bunch, “What this museum can do is if we tell the unvarnished truth in a way that’s engaging and not preachy, what I think will happen is that by illuminating all the dark corners of the American experience, we will help people find reconciliation and healing.”

While the project won’t be completed until 2015, you can still visit the National Museum’s current gallery at the Smithsonian (shown above). Until October 14, 2012, visitors can view the exhibition, “Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello: Paradox of Liberty.” The showcase tells the story of President Thomas Jefferson and his conflicting roles of being a slave owner and an anti-slavery advocate. It’s a good example of the museum telling the kinds of stories that are often seen as taboo, but are important to get out to the public.

The seven-level museum will feature architecture and decor inspired by African culture and will eventually feature exhibits on military history, sports, pop culture and music, including items like Louis Armstrong’s trumpet, a Jim Crow-era segregated railroad car, and much more. So far, $100 million has been raised in private funds, and the museum will now begin attempts to raise public funds in order to meet their $250 million goal.

For more information on the National Museum of African American History and Culture, click here.