Questions Come Alive

Q: Does the Smithsonian seem different in 2012?
A: If so, it's by design.
The Smithsonian is all about questions and answers, and it is people who bring those questions to life.

We created seven quirky characters to symbolize the questions the Smithsonian asks and answers every day.

Look for them inside the question mark, and then go to seriouslyamazing.com
The New is where technology and creativity collide.
The Masterpiece embodies artistic expression.
The Discoverer explores our world and the universe.
The Green reflects the wonder of the natural landscape.
The Mash Up stands for the ways people share culture.
The Storyteller is about America, its people, and the tales they tell.
The Wild represents the diversity of the animal kingdom.
To help younger, more diverse audiences understand who the Smithsonian is and why it matters, we recently took a new look at our venerable brand, launching a coast-to-coast, online and multi-media campaign.

Asking and answering questions is the basis of learning, and learning is at the Smithsonian’s core.

We created seven quirky characters to symbolize the questions the Smithsonian asks and answers every day. Click on see more to pay them a visit at SeriouslyAmazing.com.
“We need to speak directly to young people in their own language, and show them we’re not your grandfather’s Smithsonian.”

Pherabe Kolb, Associate Director of Strategic Communications
Q: What do you get when you combine a shovel with a tent full of living history?
A: A groundbreaking event on the National Mall.
February 22, 2012, was a day more than a century and a half in the making. Speaking at the groundbreaking of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, President Barack Obama called it an idea whose time had come. First proposed by black veterans of the Civil War and picked up again by civil rights advocates of the 1950s and ’60s, the museum finally became a reality through an Act of Congress in 2003.

Scheduled to open in 2015, the new museum will be the nation’s only one devoted exclusively to documenting African American life, art, history, and culture.
“We are building a museum that is about making America better... And it will tell a part of your story as an American, no matter who you are.”

Lonnie Bunch, Founding Director
Q: How did the Smithsonian land its biggest Discovery in 2012?
A: By boldly going where no museum has gone before.

World-famous astronauts stood at attention. Young children rode atop their fathers’ shoulders, jockeying for the best view. And thousands gathered on April 19, 2012, to welcome the space shuttle Discovery into its new home at the James S. McDonnell Space Hangar at the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.

Recognized around the world as a symbol of American ingenuity, Discovery blazed a trail through space, but important days are still ahead. Even grounded, it will inspire us to reach for the stars.
“We built the shuttle to make space travel routine. Ultimately, though, we learned it was anything but.”

Valerie Neal, Space History Curator
Q: What do you get when you combine ancient art, modern science and the night sky?
A: African Cosmos: Stellar Arts.
Contemporary South African artist Gavin Jantjes' untitled painting, exhibited in African Cosmos, references a Khoi San myth about a girl dancing around an evening fire. She threw glowing embers skyward, where they remained as the Milky Way.
Who knew that every star makes its own sound, each as distinct as a fingerprint? That’s just one lesson from African Cosmos: Stellar Arts, a groundbreaking 2012 exhibition and publication developed by the National Museum of African Art that explored African cultural astronomy and how it intersects with ancient and contemporary African arts.

The show featured more than 100 works reflecting how African artists have drawn on the sun, moon, starts, rainbows, and lighting to create art and contribute to the history of knowledge. The collective strengths of the Smithsonian were brought to bear as experts Institution-wide collaborated with the museum on cultural astronomy educational programs.
“The exhibition resonated with anyone who was ever impressed by the beauty of the night sky and wondered about our place within the vast universe, and that describes just about all of us.”

Christine Mullen Kreamer, Exhibition Curator
By the Numbers
More people than ever before engaged with the Smithsonian in 2012—through exhibitions, websites, social media, educational outreach, research programs, and events.
Advancing the Institution's Mission
Board of Regents Message

In 2012, the Board of Regents focused on advancing the Smithsonian’s mission in the face of ongoing economic uncertainty and political change.

It furthered the ambitious goals of the strategic plan through engaged oversight and a constructive partnership with Secretary Clough and his leadership team. It worked to ensure the public and private financial resources necessary to keep the Smithsonian relevant and strong, knowing that investment in the Smithsonian is an investment in our future.

The Board continues to actively steward the progress of this uniquely American Institution, for the benefit of the nation and the world.
Thank you for your interest in "Questions Come Alive,"
the Smithsonian's first online annual report.
We would like to hear your feedback!
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Secretary's Message
Seriously Amazing
African Cosmos
By The Numbers
Regents Messsage