The Smithsonian – Top Stories: May 2021

Smithsonian Institution


May 2021 News

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Chandra X-Ray Observatory
Illustration of the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, courtesy of Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian.

Take a Virtual Tour of the Chandra Operations Control Center

The public can now take a 3D tour of the facility where scientists monitor the Chandra X-ray Observatory, a space telescope that captures key data on planets, stars, and events within our Galaxy and beyond.

Created by the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian, the tour lets visitors explore the state-of-the-art observatory while learning more about Chandra’s mission.

Breate With Me illustration
Breathe With Me by Oronde Kenrick Okan Wright, 2020. Photograph of work courtesy of the artist.

“Vaccines & US” Initiative Shares Knowledge on COVID-19 Vaccine Safety and Efficacy

The Smithsonian has launched “Vaccines & US,” a nationwide initiative bringing together museums, libraries, and cultural institutions to provide Americans with accessible and trustworthy information about vaccines.

The online hub of resources includes vetted information about the COVID-19 vaccines, practical advice for having conversations about vaccination, and context around the history of pandemics and vaccinations in the United States.

Learning Lab logo
Discover, create, share, and learn with the Smithsonian Learning Lab.

Teachers Curate Inspiring Collections with the Smithsonian Learning Lab

National Teachers Day is Tuesday, May 4! We’re grateful to the educators who have faced unprecedented challenges over the past year and adopted new tools and technologies to continue inspiring their students.

The Smithsonian Learning Lab offers a vast collection of materials to help teachers create immersive digital learning experiences. See how educators are utilizing this resource by exploring the curated collections of Kate Harris, a Learning Lab Coordinator for middle and high school, and Jean-Marie Galing, an Art Resource Teacher who works across grade levels.

Did you know that everything in this newsletter is made possible by people like you? Support your Smithsonian and help bring knowledge to life.

Eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) taken from the Choptank River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Photo by Sarah Donelan, courtesy of the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center.

Stressful Environments for Young Oysters Could Mean Less Meat Later On

Early exposure to environmental stressors can leave lasting scars on an oyster’s ability to grow, according to a new study from the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center.

A team of biologists mimicked the living conditions of Eastern oysters in the Chesapeake Bay in lab. They found that stressors like fluctuating oxygen and water temperatures caused oysters to focus on shell growth, rather than tissue growth. The findings offer key information for marine conservationists as well as the seafood industry.

Frederick Eversley sculptures
Installation view, David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles: Fred Eversley, Chromospheres, January 12 – March 2, 2019, Photograph by Jeff McLane, Courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles.

For Sculptor Frederick Eversley, Fine Art is a Science

While Frederick Eversley’s sculptures may resemble planets floating in space, their inclusion in the National Air and Space Museum’s collection is actually due to their innovative use of plastic! With a background in aerospace engineering, Eversley has brought a unique lens to modern art. Learn more about his works and career, including his time as artist-in-residence at the Museum.
man with documents


Protect Your Loved Ones with an Up-to-Date Estate Plan

You probably already know how important it is to have an estate plan. Here’s how to tell if your estate plan needs an update.

FUTURES exhibit concept art
Concept art for FUTURES, an exhibition coming this fall to the Smithsonian’s Arts + Industries Building. Image created by the Rockwell Group.

The Future Is Coming to the Smithsonian This Fall

What do you think of when you consider the future? Opening at the Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building in late 2021, FUTURES will guide visitors through interactive exhibits, art, and technologies that look ahead toward humanity’s next chapter.

You can get a sneak peak into FUTURES today! See some of the objects and ideas that aim to inspire, problem solve, innovate, and tap into our shared experience.

yellow warbler
A yellow warbler. Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo.

Help Bring Back Wild Birds with Seven Simple Actions

Did you know that bird populations have dropped dramatically over the past 50 years? North America has lost 29% of its wild birds since 1970, signaling a widespread ecological crisis.

But you can take easy steps at home and in your neighborhood to help wild bird populations! In celebration of World Migratory Bird Day on Saturday, May 8, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo has seven simple ways to lead a more bird-friendly life.

James Smithson's Trivia Corner
James Smithson, c. 1765-1829 (detail), James Roberts, 1753-c.1809, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

Trivia: Innovation on a Roll

The Smithsonian is home to many instantly recognizable objects… as well as some items that require a bit more explanation! You’ve likely seen a rolling pin used in the kitchen before, but the example below was fitted for another purpose in 1939.

Where would you have found this rolling pin?

Rolling Pin

A Cobbler's Shop


The Auto Mechanic
The Post Office


A Dairy Farm
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