>Section: Around the Mall
FROM THE CASTLE
A LIST OF THE NEW SEVEN WONDERS of the world, published this past April by Condé Nast Traveler, included the Smithsonian’s magnificent new Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard, with its free-standing glass roof designed by British architect Norman Foster for the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture. But the courtyard’s opening in November 2007, grand as it was, was only one highlight of what for me has been a deeply gratifying year as Acting Secretary I’ve chronicled some of the other highlights in the 12 columns I’ve written for this space. (They’re at Smithsonian.com.)
A column called “Small World” described one of my favorite exhibitions, “Encompassing the Globe: Portugal and the World in the 16th & 17th Centuries,” which showed how sailing ships moved goods and information around the world in ways not so different from today’s Internet–just slower. “Co-Evolution” focused on the National Museum of Natural History’s new butterfly exhibition; there, visitors discover how animals and plants evolve in response to one another. ‘Aero Dynamic” announced a spectacular new gallery at the National Air and Space Museum devoted to passenger air travel. “Health Checks” summarized a trailblazing Smithsonian study of tropical rain forests, which will help scientists monitor climate change. In “Hello? Hello?” I presented plans for a giant new telescope in Chile capable of photographing young planets as they are forming around a faraway star. And in “Life on the Web” I reported on the Encyclopedia of Life, an extraordinary Web portal that will create a site for each of earth’s 1.8 million known species. “Barcoding 101” described DNA barcoding, a revolutionary technology for distinguishing species that has countless practical applications, such as reducing bird-airplane collisions and protecting important fish populations.
The Institution has also made far-reaching internal changes over the past year. We worked with Congress to address the $2.5 billion needed for overdue maintenance and began planning a national fundraising campaign. We refocused our business unit, Smithsonian Business Ventures, and solicited proposals for the best way to renovate–and ultimately, to use–our endangered Arts & Industries Building. “Smithsonian Connections,” funded by a member of the Smithsonian National Board, will create materials to help Smithsonian visitors better understand how our diverse collections relate to one another; collaboration among our scholars in both sciences and humanities is increasingly important since some of the most creative questions lie at the boundaries of disciplines. As I look to the future, I am filled with optimism for the Institution under the leadership of our new Secretary, G. Wayne Clough, who takes up the reins next month.
PHOTO (COLOR): Pools at the Kogod Courtyard reflect the roof–and invite visitors to walk on water.
By Cristián Samper
Cristián Samper is Acting Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution.
- What a Year! By: Samper, Cristián, Smithsonian, 00377333, Jun2008, Vol. 39, Issue 3
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