Smithsonian Folklife Festival to Turn the “Smithsonian Inside Out”

May 27, 2010
News Release

Where can people discover a new species of insect, meet a master weaver of African baskets and uncover hidden mysteries of Antartica all in the same day? The “Smithsonian Inside Out” program at the 44th annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival will give visitors the opportunity to go behind-the-scenes of the world’s largest museum and research complex and learn how the work of the Institution’s 6,000 staff members affects the world.

The Festival will be held Thursday, June 24, through Monday, June 28, and Thursday, July 1, through Monday, July 5, outdoors on the National Mall between Seventh and 14th streets. Admission is free. Festival hours are from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. each day, with special evening events such as concerts and dance parties beginning at 5:30 p.m. The Festival is co-sponsored by the National Park Service.

A new forward-looking vision for the Smithsonian calls for workers across the Institution’s 19 museums, nine research centers and numerous outreach and education programs to “shape the future by preserving our heritage, discovering new knowledge and sharing our resources with the world.” The program will allow Festival visitors to engage in a dialogue with Smithsonian staff about how the Institution is moving ahead into the future and how the work of the Institution reaches beyond the museums on the Mall.

“‘Smithsonian Inside Out’ is an opportunity for Institution staff to present their research, knowledge and passion to Festival visitors,” said Betty Belanus, program curator. “We hope visitors will leave this program with a greater appreciation for the scope and scale of the work carried out by Smithsonian staff on a daily basis.”  

The program will be organized around four broad themes that cut across Smithsonian disciplines and museums: “Unlocking the Mysteries of the Universe,” “Valuing World Cultures,” “Understanding the American Experience” and “Understanding and Sustaining a Biodiverse Planet.” Each tent will highlight the research, collections and current projects of Smithsonian museums, research centers and other units.

In these tents, visitors will be able to see fossilized vertebrae from the giant snake Titanaboa, which was found by researchers at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. On Ocean Day (June 28), the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef project, in partnership with the Natural History Museum, will be at the Festival, allowing visitors to crochet part of a coral reef to call attention to the disappearing wonders of the marine world. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory will display pictures from the Chandra X-ray observatory, and visitors also can take a poll about democracy and have their opinions become part of a future exhibition at the American History Museum. On African Art Day (June 25) the African Art Museum will present storytelling and a drum circle.

In two “Behind the Scenes” tents, visitors can learn how Smithsonian staff care for and maintain the Institution’s buildings, artifacts and living collections. Staff from the Office of Exhibits Central will show how they design and fabricate museums exhibitions, while curators and keepers from the National Zoo will discuss how they safely move the park’s animals. Employees from the Office of Facilities Engineering and Operations will demonstrate how they “tend and mend” the hundreds of buildings the Smithsonian has around the world. Visitors can also create their own hanging baskets or learn about orchids with staff from the Smithsonian Gardens. Staff from the Office of Facilities and Management Reliability will demonstrate infrared cameras that detect roof leaks and share with visitors the latest efforts to make Smithsonian buildings more “green.”

Other areas of the program include a Family Activities tent where visitors can participate in hands-on activities such as science experiments and creating art. On the discussion stage, Smithsonian staff will participate in conversations about researching and designing popular exhibitions, keeping staff, visitors and collections safe, and new tools and techniques in museum conservation. In the “Ask the Smithsonian” tent, staff from the Institution’s visitor’s office, public relations offices and National Programs will answer general questions about the Institution and explain its presence around the world.

During the Festival, visitors also can participate in the PhotoCity challenge to recreate all of the Smithsonian museums on the Mall in 3-D. Visitors can take pictures of the Smithsonian museums from every angle using their Smartphone and upload the images to www.photocitygame.com/smithsonian/, with the goal of creating models of all the Smithsonian museums.

About the Festival
The Smithsonian Folklife Festival, inaugurated in 1967, honors tradition bearers from across the United States and around the world. With approximately 1 million visitors each year, the Festival unites performers and visitors in the nation’s capital to celebrate the diversity of cultural traditions. It is produced by the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. The Festival’s website is http://www.festival.si.edu.

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SI-233-2010

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Amy Kehs

(202) 309-5543