Archive for the ‘Smithsonian Research Notes’ Category

SI Research Notes: National Museum of Natural History

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) curates the largest, most comprehensive natural history collection in the world. There are now over 126 million specimens in the ever-growing NMNH collections, ranging from DNA samples to whale skulls, African baskets to Chinese shoes, algae samples to petrified logs, tiny crustaceans to giant squid, Moon rocks to the Hope diamond, and Tyrannosaurus rex bones to the oldest fossils from the Burgess Shale.

Alyssa Bobst

Visitors enjoy the newly reopened Sant Ocean Hall in the National Museum of Natural History. Photo: Alyssa Bobst

The Museum has scientists working in the fields of anthropology, botany, entomology, invertebrate zoology, mineral sciences, paleobiology, and vertebrate zoology—birds, fishes, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. Research programs include field studies in over 122 countries worldwide. By comparing items gathered in different eras and regions, scientists learn how our world has varied across time and space.The Natural History Museum has become an international center for research in several fields, including taxonomy, mineralogy, petrology, physical anthropology, and North American ethnology.

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SI Research Notes: Gardens of the Alhambra in Washington, DC

Friday, April 24th, 2009

Linda Stevens is Field Notes Coordinator for Smithsonian Journeys. Combing the Institution for interesting projects happening around the world, she prepares these research notes especially for travelers. Learn more about Linda here. Click here to see more research notes.

A view through the Smithsonian Fountain Garden through April's blooming Magnolia trees to the Enid A Haupt Garden. Photo: Betsy Brand

A view of the Smithsonian’s Fountain and Enid A. Haupt gardens through April’s blooming Magnolia trees. Photo: Betsy Brand

The Smithsonian Institution includes a number of outdoor museums. These alternative centers for learning are the colorful and attractive gardens that surround the Smithsonian museums along the National Mall. The Horticulture Services Division was established in 1972 to manage the grounds of the Institution museums in Washington, DC, and to develop specific interior and exterior spaces as horticulture exhibitions. In addition, a research and educational program promotes the ongoing development of collections of living plants, horticultural artifacts, and garden documentation.

The Enid A. Haupt Garden is located on the National Mall above the underground Sackler Gallery, the Ripley Center, and the National Museum of African Art. The Haupt Garden, which opened to the public in 1987 when these Smithsonian museums were inaugurated, includes three distinct areasthe Asian-influenced Moongate Garden, the central 19th-century-style parterre, and a Moorish-style Fountain Garden. This garden is geometrically symmetrical and includes a central fountain and water channels. The Fountain Garden is modeled after the Court of the Lions at the Alhambra, a 13th, 14th, and 15th century Moorish palace and fortress in Granada, Spain, now included on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The legendary Court features a chahar bogh a Persian term meaning “four gardens”pattern of four quadrants formed by water channels that meet at a central fountain. (more…)

SI Research Notes: Bronze Age Burials of Mongolia

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

Linda Stevens is Field Notes Coordinator for Smithsonian Journeys. Combing the Institution for interesting projects happening around the world, she prepares these research notes especially for travelers. Learn more about Linda here.

This typical Bronze Age mound contains the remains of a newborn infant, only. The burial site consists of a central pile of rocks covering the burial chamber and a circular stone fence. Photo: Bruno Frolich, NMNH

This typical Bronze Age mound contains the remains of a newborn infant, only. The burial site consists of a central pile of rocks covering the burial chamber and a circular stone fence. Photo: Bruno Frohlich, NMNH

Since 2003 physical anthropologist Bruno Frohlich has led a team of international scientists on a National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) Department of Anthropology survey and excavation of Bronze Age burial mounds (3500 to 2700 B.P.) in the steppe environment of Hovsgol Aimag of Mongolia. Of the 2,000 mounds the research team has recorded and surveyed, they have excavated 35, and in summer 2008, the team uncovered seven additional burial mounds.

During the 2003 field season in Mongolia, researchers were also made aware of a newly discovered mass burial within the Buddhist Gandan Monastery in Ulaanbaatar (Hambiin Ovoo). About 1,200 bodies, all of Buddhist monks, had been removed for cremation, which took place under the direction of Lam Purevbat, who kept about 80 skulls and some femora as physical evidence. Apparently most of the victims were executed by the Soviet regime in the years leading up to World War II. (more…)

SI Research Notes: Where does the Amazon Really Begin?

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

The mighty Amazon River runs over 4,000 miles from the Peruvian Andes through Brazil to the Atlantic Ocean. A historical definition of the “source” of a river is the point at which water must flow the greatest distance to flow into the river. However, finding the ultimate “source” of a great river can be problematic.

The most distant sources of the River lie in southern Peru. The Rio Lloqueta, a small river in the Andes Mountains, is located about 130 kilometers north of the city of Arequipa in southern Peru. The five main tributaries of the Lloquetanamed Carhuasanta, Sillanque, Apacheta, Calomarco, and Ccaccansareach almost to the summits of the continental divide. The peaks include Nevado Mismi Mountain. Land use in the Rio Lloqueta basin is seasonal and limited to grazing alpacas and llamas.

In 2000, research teams coordinated by Andrew Johnston of the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies (CEPS) at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum (NASM) surveyed the area of the Lloqueta River. (more…)

SI Research Notes: Asian Art at Freer and Sackler Galleries

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009
A wooden carving of the Buddhist deity White Avalokiteshvara is a fine example of the arts of the 14th century Malla dynasty in Nepal. Photo: Courtesy the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

A wooden carving of the Buddhist deity White Avalokiteshvara is a fine example of the arts of the 14th century Malla dynasty in Nepal. Photo: Courtesy the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

The Freer Gallery of Art opened its doors on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. in 1923 to display the Asian and American collections given to the nation by Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919). It was the Smithsonian Institution’s first art museum and houses an outstanding Asian art collection that has continued to grow. Arthur M. Sackler’s contribution of his collection led to the opening in 1987 of the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery adjacent to the Freer Gallery. Operated by the same staff, these two galleries together form the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museums of Asian Art.

During his lifetime, Freer acquired just a handful of objects from South and Southeast Asia. Through purchases and gifts from Sackler and other collectors, the collection has developed into a rich and expanding representation of Southeast and South Asian and Himalayan art. The staff works closely with museums and colleagues in the region and has established a training program for bronze conservation at the National Museum of Cambodia. (more…)