On July 6, the Smithsonian staff and interns were invited to attend the tenth annual Smithsonian staff picnic hosted by the Folklife Festival on the National Mall. We braved the glaring heat and eighty percent humidity with food vouchers in hand, possibly the only thing preventing us from collapsing into shade cast by the nearest national monument. Despite the heat, things were looking up for us once we made our food selection from Southeast Asian, West African, and Colombian cuisines, and we claimed a row of chairs in front of a live string and bagpipe band. Onstage performances featured fellow Smithsonian staff, with a particularly spirited three-person rendition of a scene from the Victorian lyric opera La Belle Hélène. Reenergized by Thai iced tea and operatic inspiration, we snaked through the Congress of Scholars Tent where Smithsonian staff readily shared their newest brainstorms in research, including the preservation of NASA space suits, the National Zoo’s methods for chimpanzee training, and the conservation of the translucent pages composing Jefferson’s Bible.
We also had the pleasure of introducing ourselves to the Secretary of the Smithsonian, Dr. G. Wayne Clough. Throughout his tenure, Secretary Clough has prioritized interdisciplinary collaboration between Smithsonian units, encouraging the sharing of resources, ideas, and talent. Events like the staff picnic inspire fellowship among the diverse minds and disciplines that populate the ranks of the Smithsonian, and provide a glimpse into the range of what the Institution can accomplish. Upon returning to work that afternoon, we were grateful for both the cool air flowing through the vents, but in particular the scope of our learning experience we have gained this summer, from day to day operations at the Archives of American Art to the wider happenings in the Smithsonian community.
Like the National zoo trainers we encountered at the staff picnic, Diego Rivera (pictured here) and Frida Kahlo trained their pet primate—a mischievous spider monkey named Fulang-Chang—to perform tricks on the dinner table as entertainment for their house guests. Unlike Fulang-Chang, we don’t monkey around while at the Archives. As interns, we have been working this summer with the staff to make the Archives’ vast collections more accessible to the public. Our duties range from assisting in the coordination of events and organizing exhibits based on material from the collections, to digitizing archival material such as images, documents, and oral history interviews.
A recent graduate of the University of Mary Washington, Corrie Shellnutt was an intern working on the ongoing digitization of the Oral History collection at the Archives of American Art during the spring and summer of 2011.
Marion Carr graduated from the University of Mary Washington in May 2011 and spent the following summer as a curatorial intern for the Archives of American Art.