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Pandas and Platex and Kitchens, Oh My!

Posted on October 1, 2015 by in The OFI Blog

On Tuesday, September 29, the second of three HDA Lunchtime Lecture Series with Smithsonian Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture Dr. Richard Kurin, focused on his book The Smithsonian’s History of America in 101 Objects.

kurin2After his first session focusing on the Hope Diamond a few weeks earlier, the OFI Interns including Amelia, Catherine, Adrian, and myself, were excited to attend this second session.

Surrounded by Staff, Interns, Fellows, and students we listened as Dr. Kurin shared the stories of several of the 101 objects he wrote about in his book. Commanding the audiences’ attention on Smithsonian treasures from Benjamin Franklin’s walking stick which features a fur hat on top to Julia Child’s entire kitchen, an exhibit in it’s own right without any help from professional curators.

As we lunched on provided pizza, Dr. Kurin went on to explain the story of the 1.7 Million stitches that were put in the gigantic original Star Spangled Banner (yes, there is an actual flag that inspired our National Anthem) to save it and how Smithsonian employees had to take those millions of stitches out many years later. Or how the original steam engine was taken out for a not-so-legal test drive by Smithsonian curators to see if it still worked.

Dr. Kurin showed photos of the Browning Camera owned by a 16 year old girl who was on the rescue ship that savedkurin survivors of the Titanic wreck and captured photos of the rescue operations. He explained how Platex won the design contest for the first Space Suit and how the iconic Ruby Red Slippers from The Wizard of Oz were originally silver. However, he refused to tell us what the United States gave the Chinese in return for their gift of the Smithsonian’s first two Giant Pandas. For that you will just need to read his book.

The next session titled “Objects in Cultural Crisis” will take place Thursday, October 15 at 11:30 am in Ripley 3035.