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Consortia Online Events
Castle Lecture Series
Noon–1pm
Talks are held monthly and are webcast live. Videos archived here.

Living in the Anthropocene: Prospects for Climate, Economics, Health, and Security
9 October 2014
Webcast available here.

Grand Challenges Share Fair
May 12, 2014
Archive available here.

Scots in the American West Symposium
8 August 2013
Archive available here.

Grand Challenges Share Fair
May 14, 2013
Archive available here.

The Anthropocene: Planet Earth in the Age of Humans
11 October 2012
Archive available here.

Grand Challenges Share Fair
May 10, 2012
Archive available here.

Perspectives on Limits to Growth: Challenges to Building a Sustainable Planet
March 1, 2012
Archive available here.

Grand Challenges Share Fair
May 18, 2011
Archive available here.
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Consortium for Understanding the American Experience


2012 Grand Challenges Award Projects

Level One Projects

Creating a Roadmap for Music at the Smithsonian
Music collections have been in the Institution almost since its founding. Today, the Smithsonian boasts an array of successful music initiatives, which often cross disciplines and museums. Activities include exhibitions such as Beyond Category: The Musical Genius of Duke Ellington (Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service and National Museum of American History), Red, Hot, and Blue (National Portrait Gallery and National Museum of American History), and Up Where We Belong: Native Musicians in Popular Music (National Museum of the American Indian); award-winning recordings from Smithsonian Folkways and by the Smithsonian Chamber Music Society ensembles; international performances by the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra; rare, original instruments in the Museum’s collections; and years of music-making at the Folklife Festival. In 2010, a group of Smithsonian staff involved with music convened the Smithsonian Music Forum – a group interested in enhancing public access and research collaboration in an effort to take full advantage of the Smithsonian’s great depth of musical resources. The Smithsonian Music Forum will host a two-day conference for Smithsonian staff that work with music collections, exhibitions, research, publications, education, and programs. Together with external thought-leaders, the group will discuss the future of music at the Smithsonian and explore ways to share and maximize the potential of the Institution’s vast musical resources.

Project Team Collaborating Smithsonian Units
Kennith Kimrey (Principal Investigator)
John Hasse
Cynthia Adams Hoover
Kenneth Slowik

National Museum of American History
Richard Burgess
Jeff Place
Atesh Sonneborn

Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage
Adrienne Kaeppler

National Museum of Natural History
Michael Pahn

National Museum of the American Indian
Dwandalyn Reece

National Museum of African American History and Culture
Wendy Wick Reaves

National Portrait Gallery
Joanna Pecore
Michael Wilpers
Freer and Sackler Galleries

This project funded jointly with the Consortium for World Cultures


Unseen Connections in the Ecologies of Cell Phones
Bringing together scholars from a wide range of disciplines, including anthropology, linguistics, fine arts, geology, public health and environmental science, as well as institutions, including the Smithsonian, universities, and private companies, this workshop seeks to address the interconnected material, linguistic, and aesthetic aspects of the cellular phone. Using these three aspects as a guide for framing the workshop will help illuminate how cell phones operate along different scales, transforming not only individual subjectivities and bodily habits, but also collective orientations as these devices enable new dimensions of connectivity and communication. From the rare earths and raw materials extracted to make cellular phones, to the ways that people mediate their communication using a variety of technologies, to the mapping of the movement of waste, each scholar will inform the rest about different material, linguistic, or aesthetic networks connected by cell phones.

By exploring each site in the history of a cell phone's life, we can better understand the multiple and varied impacts that it has on communities across the world. The workshop will result in six outcomes, including: 1) interdisciplinary dialogue about the cell phone and all of its components, capabilities, and consequences; 2) a concept script that provides an outline of the key components and objectives of the proposed exhibit, A Natural History of the Cell Phone; 3) the development of an advisory board to coordinate and manage the diverse scholars as the exhibit and research project proceed; 4) begin a database of relevant holdings in the Smithsonian for the exhibit; 4) publish several articles from interdisciplinary perspectives not usually brought together; 5) build a network essential in developing a varied portfolio of possible support.

Project Team Collaborating Smithsonian Units
John Bell (Principal Investigator)

National Museum of Natural History
Cynthia Smith Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum

This project funded jointly with the Consortium for World Cultures