FAQs Smithsonian World

Dedicated to exploring the full scope of modern culture, Smithsonian World was produced by the Smithsonian Institution and WETA-TV between 1984 and 1991 and examined a variety of subjects, including the arts, humanities, science, history, and technology. This award-winning series drew upon the vast resources of the Smithsonian Institution to present an expansive look at the world.

Smithsonian World videos are no longer available from the Smithsonian Institution.   Smithsonian World videos can be found online by conducting a search of the Internet using a search engine.

Following is an annotated list of all thirty-two Smithsonian World programs with links to the reading lists developed in conjunction with the series.:

"American Dream at Groton" (1988) - Viewers examine the meaning and consequences of success in the microcosm of the Groton School -- a small college preparatory institution that once trained American's elite, but today provides opportunities for those born to very little.

"American Pie" (1986) - Viewers examine the progressive American spirit by visiting a large airplane exhibit; learning new facts about the first president George Washington; examining American church architecture; and witnessing the patriotic spirit in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

"A Certain Age" (1991) - This program discusses how Americans are living longer than ever before with the help of healthy diets, regular exercise, and medical advancements, and how the nation is meeting the needs of this growing population.

A Certain Age reading list

"Crossing the Distance" (1984) - Viewers visit the world's longest aerial tramway, ponder the imagination that spurred the industrial design revolution of the 1930s, and visit with Ann Morrow Lindbergh as they learn about mankind's efforts to get from one place to another.

"Designs for Living" (1984) - This program traces our remarkable ability to adapt to our environment on earth, in space, under ground, and under water. Viewers probe the ingenuity exemplified by the design of the skyscraper, the evolution of the space suit, and the decay of the proton.

"Desk in the Jungle" (1985) - Viewers visit a variety of Smithsonian research facilities and meet marine biologists, ethnologists, anthropologists, and ornithologists.

"Doors of Perception" (1991) - This program looks at both the positive and negative effects of altering consciousness through drug use and other consciousness-altering techniques, such as athletics, dance, art, and meditation.

Doors of Perception reading list

"The Elephant on the Hill" (1987) - Through visits to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Boston's City Hall Plaza, viewers explore the changes in the historical relationship between art and technology, from Greek mythology to lasers and computer graphics.

"Filling in the Blanks" (1984) - Host David McCollough examines how collections are developed by visiting such museums as the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum and the Freer Gallery of Art.

"From Information to Wisdom" (1991) - This program features interviews with leading experts in the field of artificial intelligence asking young students, "Are computers alive?"

From Information to Wisdom reading list

"Gender: An Enduring Paradox" (1991) - This program explores the subject of gender in American society, from the formation of childhood gender roles to socially constructed notions of masculinity and femininity, exploring the validity of popular ideas about men and women and illustrating the paradox and contradictions of gender.

Gender: An Enduring Paradox reading list

"Heroes and the Test of Time" (1985) - A unique portrayal of two intriguing personalities of late 19th century America -- artist Thomas Eakins and General George Armstrong Custer.

"Islam" (1987) - This program offers perspectives on an ancient religion as it confronts modern society and its changing Muslim people.

"The Last Flower" (1984) - This program explores the race to save the world's vanishing treasures such as paintings that are prone to natural decay, rare animals that face extinction, and tribal customs that are threatened by a modern world.

"The Living Smithsonian" (1988) - A behind-the-scenes look at the people who operate the Smithsonian, as they work to create museums that reflect America's ambitions and accomplishments.

The Living Smithsonian reading list

"A Moveable Feast" (1990) - This program explores the nature of America's eating habits as they relate to our transportation system with examples from the 17th-century pilgrims to the first "fast foods" to organic cooking.

A Moveable Feast reading list

"Nigerian Art - Kindred Spirits" (1990) - Actress Ruby Dee narrates a look at Nigerian artists who are inspired by their continent's cultural and historical legacy to create art unique to their region and experience.

Nigerian Art reading list

"On the Shoulders of Giants" (1986) - David Steadman ventures to such hazardous places as the Galapagos and Polynesian Cook Islands while he studies Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.

"The Promise of the Land" (1987) - This program looks at agriculture's golden age of prosperity at the turn of the century, the Dust Bowl (a result of our intervention with the land), and current agricultural practices.

"The Quantum Universe" (1990) - This program explores the world of quantum physics as seen through the eyes of scientists and artists.

Quantum Universe reading list

"Selling the Dream" (1991): This program takes a behind-the-scenes look at the world of advertising and how it influences consumers.

Selling the Dream reading list

"Speaking Without Words" (1984) - This program explores the scope of communication, including the language of animals, modern art, mathematics, and the less familiar forms of communication of roadside architecture and archaeological bones.

"Tales of the Human Dawn" (1990) - Interviews with research scientist Steven J. Gould and author Kurt Vonnegut and visits to the Lascaux caves in France and the Galapagos Islands shed light on our evolutionary beginnings.

Tales of the Human Dawn reading list

"Time and Light" (1984) - This program investigates time and light in nature through a careful look at the evolution of a sea urchin, the "alarm clock" hidden inside bamboo, the Tower of Winds in Rome, and the paintings of artist Thomas Moran.

"A Usable Past (1985)" - Viewers travel to various historical museums and castles that still function as institutions in an effort to understand how the past can shape the present.

"The Vever Affair" (1989) - Hear the suspenseful tale of the Henry Vever collection of Persian and Indian paintings, the collection's disappearance in World War II, and eventual acquisition by the Smithsonian Institution forty years later.

"Voices of Latin America" (1987) - The cultural identity of Latin America is revealed through five writers, each a voice of a respective geographical area.

"The Way We Wear" (1988) - Exploring fashion from the 18th century to the present, this program sheds light on the pivotal role fashion plays in society.

"Web of Life" (1989) - Scientists, historians, social analysts, and a philosopher/poet ponder the human quest to understand and control the genetic basis of life and consider the origins, myths, and potential of our attempts to shape our biological legacy.

"Where None Has Gone Before" (1985) - Three stories of 20th-century exploration are discussed -- the first non-stop 25,000 mile flight around the world, the discovery of a new class of crustacean, and the Hubble Space Telescope.

"The Wyeths: A Father and His Family" (1986) - A tribute to American artist N.C. Wyeth, this program uses photographs, home movies, and personal interviews with his multi-talented family.

The Wyeths reading list

"Zoo" (1990) - Commemorating the 100th anniversary of the National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C., director Michael Robinson shares his vision of a biopark where visitors can better understand their relationship with nature.

Zoo reading list


Prepared in conjunction with Smithsonian World,
produced by the Smithsonian Institution and WETA-TV,
in cooperation with Public Inquiry Services,
Smithsonian Institution

revised 12/03

NOTE: This publication can be made available in Braille, on audio cassette, and on disk. To obtain a copy in one of these formats, please call or write :

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Smithsonian Institution
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Washington, DC 20560-0010
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