Program areas at SI
Education, Public Programs and Exhibitions (SEE SCHEDULE O) EDUCATION, PUBLIC PROGRAMS AND EXHIBITIONS: The Smithsonian closed its museums in March 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. A few museums re-opened to the public between July and September, with limited visitation numbers. Between March and September, the Smithsonian took a digital-first approach to education, public programs and exhibitions. In response to COVID-19, the Smithsonian created an education response team to quickly develop and curate the educational resources students, teachers and caregivers needed to transition to distance learning. Smithsonian educators focused on providing classroom-ready resources aligned to national learning standards, and on developing low and no-tech resources and bilingual resources to make content accessible to wide audiences. In April 2020, the Smithsonian hosted the two-day Earth Optimism Digital Summit to mark the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. The virtual event brought together over 100 scientists, thought leaders, entrepreneurs, artists and experts to encourage a global, public dialogue about conservation and sustainability. Topics ranged from conservation, climate change, species loss and food sustainability to youth movements and underrepresented communities. The Smithsonian American Art Museum opened Alexander von Humboldt and the United States: Art, Nature, and Culture in Sept. 2020. It is the first exhibition to examine Humboldt's impact on five spheres of American cultural development: the visual arts, sciences, literature, politics and exploration, between 1804 and 1903. The exhibition includes more than 100 paintings, sculptures, maps, and artifacts to explore the breadth of the renowned historical figure's impact. The exhibit will reopen in 2021. The National Museum of African American History and Culture launched Talking About Race, an online portal that provides educational resources to help individuals, families and communities talk about racism and racial identity. The portal was released in June 2020 as several racially charged incidents prompted nationwide protests. Through digital tools, online exercises, video instructions, scholarly articles and more than 100 multi-media resources, the portal encourages constructive conversation about racism and its impact on every facet of society.
Membership (SEE SCHEDULE O) MEMBERSHIP: The National Associate Program is the Institution's largest and most basic membership program. The program provides members with Smithsonian Magazine, which is published 11 times a year. The print and online publication provides in-depth coverage of history, science, nature, the art and world cultures. Smithsonian Magazine also hosts the annual ingenuity awards, honoring the best and brightest innovators who are making a difference in the world across a variety of fields. "Friends of the Smithsonian" is a higher level membership program for people interested in a deep philanthropic connection to the Smithsonian. Friends receive Smithsonian Magazine, plus they are invited to various events and are given the opportunity to learn about and support the Institution's exhibitions and research. The Smithsonian Associates is a membership program which offers unparalleled access to the Smithsonian's world of knowledge through innovative and engaging programming that promotes learning, enrichment, and creativity for people of all ages. The largest museum-based educational program in the world, Smithsonian Associates annually offers more than 750 seminars, performances lectures, studio art classes and local and regional study tours. Performances at Discovery Theater and more than 90 educationally focused summer camps are among the programs that foster the joys of learning for young people and their families. During the pandemic of 2020/21, Smithsonian Associates converted all in-person programs to the streaming platform and expanded its reach nationally and internationally.
Research and Collections (SEE SCHEDULE O) RESEARCH AND COLLECTIONS: The Smithsonian's collections of nearly 155 million objects (art, artifacts and scientific specimens) are the heart of the institution. Research, public programs and exhibitions are based on these collections, which additionally include more than 33 million digital records of online material. Care of the collections involves the work of registrars, conservators, museum specialists, designers, curators and editors. Approximately 146 million objects and specimens are part of the National Museum of Natural History collections and are primarily used for research by both Smithsonian scientists and researchers from around the world. In some cases, the museum has the definitive, irreplaceable collection of a certain species which is essential for comparative studies. Giant panda cub, Xiao Qi Ji, was born at the National Zoo in August 2020. Made possible by reproductive scientists from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) and Zoo veterinarians, Xiao Qi Ji's birth marks the first time a U.S. zoo experienced a successful pregnancy via artificial insemination using only frozen semen. At 22 years old, Mei Xiang is the oldest panda in the U.S. and the second oldest documented in the world to give birth. A team of researchers led by the National Museum of Natural History discovered how the skin of deep-sea, ultra-black fish absorbs more than 99.5% of light. The team identified 16 species of fish that use a unique arrangement of highly pigmented granules to disguise themselves in their pitch-black environment. The discovery could improve how scientists manufacture ultra-black materials, advancing high-tech optical and camouflage technology. Scientists at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute discovered that maximum daily temperatures above 32.2 degrees Celsius (about 90 degrees Fahrenheit) cause tropical forests to lose stored carbon more quickly. The study explored the implications of thermal conditions and used the findings to recommend strategies for tropical forest conservation and climate stabilization. Smithsonian Open Access launched in Feb. 2020, giving the public the ability to reuse, transform and share 2.8 million digital items from Smithsonian collections, free of copyright restrictions.