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Smithsonian MagazineSmithsonian Magazine

Smithsonian Magazine March 2018

Smithsonian Magazine takes you on a journey through history, science, world culture and technology with breathtaking images from around the world.

United States
Smithsonian Institute
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11 Issues


access_time5 min.
from the editors

WHATEVER YOU THINK about the events of 1968—the subject of our special January/February issue—they should not be forgotten. “I was 16 years old in 1968 and each of its largerthan- life events rocked me to the core,” Valerie Baker-Easley of Broomfield, Colorado, recalls. Joan Murray of Old Chatham, New York, doesn’t think the year “shattered” America. “‘Enlightened,’ ‘liberated’ or ‘expanded’ would have been more accurate. 1968 was a year of growth … that made us bigger and better.” Other readers complain we omitted the good things, such as the debut of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Spacy Odyssey, a cost of living far lower than today’s and, says John Sens of Newfolden, Minnesota, “a modicum of cooperation between parties in Washington.” But Wendy Thomas of Sparta, New Jersey, speaks for many:…

access_time3 min.

Jane Smiley The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Thousand Acres and 13 other novels returned to Iowa to explore the many ways her fiction and Grant Wood’s art, the subject of a new blockbuster retrospective at the Whitney Museum, are both rooted in the Hawkeye State (p. 58). Though Wood died before she was born, if they had met, Smiley says, “the nosy person in me would have asked him about his time in Europe, but the decent Iowa person in me would have simply asked, ‘How are you?’” Smiley’s current project is a nonfiction book titled Five Mothers that examines intergenerational relationships in her family. Wenjia Tang Originally from southeast China, Tang moved to the United States for high school, where she discovered her passion for illustrating. The New York-based artist graduated…

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revisiting rockwell

AMERICAN ICON E.B. WHITE PENNED immortal lines for spiders and piglets, but the author of Charlotte’s Web failed to make Franklin Roosevelt’s rhetoric come to life. Hoping to stoke enthusiasm for American involvement in World War II, Roosevelt delivered an address to Congress in January 1941 that laid out the humanitarian values at stake: Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want and Freedom from Fear. The public response? Crickets. Congress barely applauded. The next day most newspapers didn't even mention the “Four Freedoms.” Those who were still talking about the phrase in the weeks and months that followed did so to lambaste its “hollow, empty sound.” The government hired White and other A-list scribes to drum up some buzz, but White’s boss called his pamphlet “dull.” The “Four Freedoms,” in the…

access_time1 min.
new visions

Freedom of Worship BY TIM O’BRIEN When the realistic oil painter looked at Rockwell’s “Four Freedoms,” he did not see the diverse America he knows today. “In the original Freedom of Worship, the five figures in the center are all white. The fringes are people of color,” O’Brien says. “That’s what institutional racism is, when you fail to notice things like that.” Freedom of Speech BY MELINDA BECK “I believe in speaking truth to power. That’s why I got into this business,” says Beck, a celebrated mixed media artist. The model for this work is a black female friend whom she admires for her personal strength and outspokenness. “I create a lot of political illustrations, and thanks to the freedom of speech, I can do that in this country and not be jailed.” Freedom from Want BY…

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the archaeology of wealth

WHEN THE LAST of the volcanic ash from Mount Vesuvius settled over Pompeii in A.D. 79, it preserved a detailed portrait of life in the grand Roman city, from bristling military outposts to ingenious aqueducts. Now researchers say the eruption nearly 2,000 years ago also captured clues to one of today’s most pressing social problems. Analyzing dwellings in Pompeii and 62 other archaeological sites dating back 11,200 years, a team of experts has ranked the distribution of wealth in those communities. Bottom line: economic disparities increased over the centuries (see below) and technology played a role. The findings add to our knowledge of history’s haves and have-nots, an urgent concern as the gulf between the 1 percent of ultra-rich and the rest of us continues to grow. “We wanted to be able…

access_time4 min.
fantastic beasts

“AND BEFORE MANY YEARS THE BUFFALO, LIKE THE GREAT AUK, WILL HAVE DISAPPEARED; SURELY THIS SHOULD NOT BE PERMITTED.” THE SPRING OF 1843 came late. In March the Ohio and Mississippi rivers were still choked with ice. But by April 25, the weather had turned fine in St. Louis, where the steamboat Omega stood alongside the wharf, its bow pointed upriver. Onshore, Omega’s captain rounded up the last of 100 fur traders who’d been out all night and herded them aboard. Half were hung over, the other half still drunk. Looking on with amusement from the deck was white-haired John James Audubon, one day shy of 58. As Omega swung into the current, Audubon studied the dark waters of the Mississippi, on which he had voyaged so far and so many…