The Smithsonian Secretary in the 70s, S. Dillon Ripley, was an ornithologist and thought the owls could hunt the rats attracted to the new garbage cans on the National Mall. He named them Increase and Diffusion—a nod to the Smithsonian’s mission of “the increase and diffusion of knowledge”—and they lived in the building’s west tower.
The pair hatched three owlets in the spring of 1977. One of those new owlets fell out of the tower, but was recaptured and brought safely inside by a staff member. After raising their family, the owls departed and never returned.
(Not to be confused with the previous Castle owl residents, who were known to crash into windows and swoop down on guards on the National Mall at night, and whose extensive droppings caused the collapse of the floor of a tower. They remain nameless.)
In honor of International Owl Awareness Day
Every two years, staff members at New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art get the chance to display their own creations on the institution’s hallowed walls. Since the tradition started in 1935, the exhibition has been something of a secret, open only to employees and their guests, Hyperallergenic’s Elaine Velie reports. But now, for the first time, the show is open to the public.
“Art Work: Artists Working at the Met” features hundreds of pieces—including paintings, drawings, photographs, sculptures and digital installations—made by guards, librarians, conservators, educators, registrars and others who work at the Manhattan museum. More than 450 of the Met’s 1,700 employees contributed to the exhibition, which is held in the space next to the museum’s ancient Greek sculpture hall, Hyperallergic notes. The show accepts all staff-made submissions, which are installed by Met staff members working extra hours.
Daniel Kershaw, a Met exhibition design manager who has overseen the show’s curation for more than two decades, says he identifies themes that unify the disparate submissions, grouping pieces that work well together (for example, landscapes go next to other landscapes). This year’s show includes a photograph of Cuba, an oil painting of a partially frozen pond, a series on Black life in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood, and jars and cans painted to look like tiny monsters, among other works.
Until this year, museum officials and employees were extremely furtive about the exhibition—so much so that the New York Times’ Corey Kilgannon struggled to find sources for a 2012 story on the show. When he visited the Met and asked guards about it, they told him they were forbidden to discuss it with the press.
After some more digging, Kilgannon found a few guards willing to talk, including Peter J. Hoffmeister, who expressed concerns about the secrecy around the event. “It’s complicated to have artists working for you who want their art on the walls—I understand that,” Hoffmeister told the Times. “But as an artist I think it should be public, because keeping it private defeats the purpose of having an art show.”
Some of the Met’s employees are artists who work at the museum to supplement their income, while others make art as a hobby, according to Hyperallergic. But everyone who submits to the show is balancing their art with their day jobs.
Back in 2012, one such individual was Christoper Boynton, a painter, photographer and museum guard. At the time, Boynton didn’t know why the show was closed to the public. “Maybe it’s because they would have to insure the art in the show,” he told the Times. “Maybe it’s that, if someone’s artwork is shown at the museum, people may think it’s being sanctioned by the museum.”
“Art Work: Artists Working at the Met” is on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City through June 19.
yesterday was national donut day and somehow i missed it
but i’ll be sure to make up for it today!
Keeping it highly academic on the day after National Donut Day. The photo above is from the Sally L. Steinberg Collection of Doughnut Ephemera (that’s its real name) in the Smithsonian National Museum of American HIstory’s Archives Center.
Steinberg describes herself as the “doughnut princess”— her grandfather Adolph Levitt was America’s original “doughnut king.” He developed the automatic doughnut-making machine, opened the first retail doughnut chain in the country and founded the modern American doughnut industry.
She gathered this collection while researching a 1987 book on the history of the doughnut, (not surprisingly called:”The Donut Book.”)
Why, you ask after looking at the decreasing size of the hole trend in the photo, is the hole not totally gone? Somewhere in the 80’s, the trend of the hole shrinking stopped and the outer rim began collapsing inwards, getting sweeter as it diminished. This became known as the “supernova” era of donuts and continues today.
Sources: Smithsonian Museums, Sally Levitt Steinberg, The Donut Book , Storey Publishing
Spread across two floors of a regal old 1920s bank building in Astoria, Oregon, this collection is packed with unexpected finds at every turn. It’s a smorgasbord of quirky curiosities, so you never know what treasures or trinkets you’ll come across.
There’s little rhyme or reason to the assortment of oddities. The oldest item, a Native American chair seat made from colored porcupine quills, dates from the 1850s. But the rest of the whimsical wonders are a medley of old and new artifacts from around the world.
You can climb inside a full-sized replica of a British canal narrowboat parked unceremoniously within the old bank building, scan the exhibits for intricate wax boxes, or simply wander the room until you stumble across a piece of vintage clothing or jewelry that sparks your interest.
There are so many things to see, it’s difficult to decide where to start. A striking collection of Folies Bergère dresses and hats immediately catches your eye as you enter—some of the hats even have the name of the dancer who once wore them scrawled inside. Dolls, both daintily beautiful and disturbingly lifelike, are scattered throughout like well-stationed guards. Taxidermy creatures, including a charmingly cute miniature horse, lurk in unexpected places and antique curios hide among newly commissioned works.
The museum is the work of Trish Bright, a retired stockbroker who bought the former bank with her husband in 2005. The curated odds and ends that fill the space are her ever-growing passion project.
“museums are custodians of epiphanies,
and these epiphanies
enter the central nervous system and deep recesses of the mind.”
credits: museum of whimsy, trish bright, atlas obscura