Arts and science in usa


Every year millions of Americans and foreigners visit the Nation's Capital, and many of them pass fascinating hours there viewing such historic treasures as the Wright brothers' first airplane, Alexander Graham Bell's prototype telephone, and a wealth of American and foreign art at various museums scattered around the city.

Few of these visitors realize that they are guests of the Smithsonian Institution, one of the world's most far-reaching societies of scholars and scientists, with interests in such diverse fields as astrophysics and music, painting and ethnology, drama and zoology.

A vast complex of museums and galleries, laboratories and halls of learning, research centers and editorial offices, the Smithsonian Institution, though center in Washington, also maintains a variety of facilities throughout the Nation and the world. But to the general public the Smithsonian is best known for its exhibition halls in the Nation's Capital. These include, among others, the National Gallery of Art, the Museum of Natural History, the National Museum of American History, the Air and Space Museum, the Museum of History and Technology.

Supported in part by public funding and in part by private donations, the Smithsonian was established in 1846, thanks to a bequest of $508000 from a British scientist, James Smithson, for "an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men".

In becoming one of the world's foremost institutes of research and enlightenment, and establishing its public displays, the Smithsonian has more than carried out its benefactor's charge.


On March 17, 1941, the National Gallery of Art was dedicated to the nation. Located in the heart of the nation's capital, the building was designed by architect John Russell Pope to implement a dream long held by its donor, the financier and art collector Andrew W. Mellon. In many ways the building was the result of the plans and ideals of those two men, yet it was also influenced by the ideas of its time, by its location on the Mall, and by a tradition of grand art museum buildings.

The architectural concept of the public art museum originated in Europe, where, in the first half of the nineteenth century, grand buildings in a classical style were built to house national art collections in spacious and beautiful surroundings. After the Civil War many wealthy Americans, including Andrew Mellon, visited Europe and brought back with them a vision inspired by those museums.

By the 1920s Washington had several distinguished art museums. However, Andrew Mellon realized soon after coming to Washington that none of those museums was of the type exemplified by the national collections of Europe or the grand art museums such as existed in New York, Boston, and Chicago. He began to plan for such an institution in the nation's capital quietly and without public notice. Mellon had started to collect paintings early in life, and as he planned for a National Gallery of Art, he brought together a superb collection of art to serve as the nucleus of a great national collection.

Andrew Mellon selected John Russell Pope to design the building of the National Gallery of Art. The proposal came as early as 1935, and the architect set out to create a building that would be monumental yet practical, classical in appearance yet thoroughly modern in structure and as comfortable as possible for visitors and staff alike.

Andrew Mellon and John Russell Pope both died in August 1937 within twenty-four hours of each other. The overall plan and exterior design for the National Gallery had been finalized by them, but the layout and decoration of the interior spaces was left to Pope's successors.

Construction of the National Gallery of Art was completed before the end of 1940. The new museum was opened on March 17, 1941. On behalf of the people of the United States of America, President Franklin D. Roosevelt accepted the completed building and the collection which Andrew W. Mellon promised to the nation in 1937.

Andrew Mellon had believed that the gallery he established should bear not his name but the nation's, and that its collections should grow through gifts of art from private citizens. Thus the museum was named the National Gallery of Art, and it holds, in addition to Mellon's paintings and sculpture, great collections of many other generous donators. Private gifts of art of the highest quality, installed in the elegant classical building designed by John Russell Pope, have made the National Gallery of Art the grand national museum which Andrew Mellon envisioned.

The building is one of the largest marble structures in the world, measuring 785 feet in length and containing more than 100,000 square feet of exhibition space.

John Russel Pope

By 1929, when he accepted Andrew Mellon's invitation to work on the Federal Triangle project, John Russell Pope was one of America's most famous architects. He had graduated from Columbia College (later Columbia University) in New York in 1894 and had received fellowships for study at the American Academy in Rome and for travel in Italy and Greece, where he was able to examine the remains of antiquity and the Italian Renaissance. He then studied architecture in Paris for two years, graduating in 1900.

Pope developed a successful architectural practice in the United States, designing elegant residences, university campuses, churches, mausoleums, and other monuments. His work in Washington included many outstanding projects among which is the National Gallery of Art, the National Archives and the Jefferson Memorial.

Pope also became well known as a museum architect. He had designed the Baltimore Museum of Art and new galleries or additions for the British Museum and the Tate Gallery in London, as well as the American Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Pope was an eclectic designer, able to work in a range of historic styles as the occasion required. Yet like many architects of his generation, he was convinced that the architecture of ancient Greece and Rome was the best possible expression of the American national ideal of democracy and humanism, and his monumental designs were nearly always classical.


The National Gallery of Art was created for the people of the United States of America by a joint resolution of Congress.

The Board of Trustees consists of four public servants and five private citizens. Under the policies set by the Board, the Gallery acquires and maintains a collection of paintings, sculpture, and the graphic arts, representative of the best in the artistic heritage of America and Europe. Supported in its daily operations by federal funds, the Gallery is entirely dependent on the generosity of private citizens for the works of art in its collections.

The paintings and sculpture given by the founder, Andrew W. Mellon, including works by the greatest masters from the 13th through the 19th centuries, have formed a nucleus of high quality around which the collections have grown. Mr. Mellon's hope that the newly created National Gallery would attract gifts from other collectors was soon realized in the form of major donations from Samuel and Rush Kress, Chester Dale, Edgar William and many others, as well as individual donations from hundreds of additional donors.

As the Gallery expands its interests into 20 century art, the Collectors Committee, an advisory group of private citizens, has provided funds for the acquisition of paintings and sculpture of our time.

The collections of the National Gallery of Art are so rich that it is absolutely impossible to enlist all the painters and sculptors, among whom are Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt, Monet, Degas, Picasso, Dali, Moore.


Like the National Gallery of Art, the National Museum of American History is part of the Smithsonian Institution and is devoted to the exhibition, care and study of artifacts that reflect the experience of the American people. These artifacts are collections of objects with which Americans developed and sustained their civilization.

Among the objects on view in the National Museum of American History are national treasures such as the original Star Spangled Banner; scientific instruments, inventions (like Morse's telegraph and early Edison's light bulbs), implements of everyday life (from spinning wheels to steam locomotives); stamps and coins; musical instruments; and selected gowns of American First Ladies. Together they illustrate America's cultural, scientific, technological and political history.

The Museum also offers a variety of scholarly and public programs which interpret American history.

One of the most famous artifacts is, by no means, the Star Spangled Banner. A special exposition tells the visitors the story of the banner. In 1813 the War Department engaged Mrs. Mary Pickersgill of Baltimore to make a garrison flag for Fort McHenry. The flag bore fifteen stars and stripes symbolic of all the states of the union.

Fort McHenry was at that time a military installation guarding the approach to Baltimore by sea. On the night of September 13, 1814, the British bombarded the fort. Nothing seemed to have survived in the attack but, as the dawn of the 14th broke, everybody saw the American flag flying over the fort. It meant that the fort's commander, Major George Armistead, and his troops had withstood the attack.

Francis Scott Key, a lawyer of Georgetown, saw that beautiful sight. Inspired, he wrote a poem under the title "The Defense of Fort McHenry". Set to the tune of a well-known song, Key's verse soon became a popular patriotic song. In 1931, an Act of Congress declared "The Star Spangled Banner" as the national anthem of the USA.

The flag stayed in the Armistead family through the 1800s. In 1818, the Congress set the flag's final design: thirteen stripes would represent the original States, and the number of stars would grow as other States joined the union.

In 1907, the Star Spangled Banner came to the museum. This flag is still available to visitors — and will continue to serve as an important reminder of American national heritage.


The National Museum of American History has staged a special exhibition devoted to the Great Migration.

After 1900 about 70 per cent of the Nation's Negro citizens moved to urban areas, almost half of them to cities outside the South. Though that mass movement set the scene for modern life in most American cities today, it remains one of the twentieth-century America's least studied and most poorly understood historical events.

The exhibition interprets the complexities and effects of the Great Migration by focusing on the migrants themselves. Through them, the exhibition illustrates the individual experiences that together fueled this mass movement: the lives of Afro-Americans in the South, the hopes and expectations that prompted the decision to move north, and the difficulties migrants faced in a new environment.

The exhibition also examines closely the new technologies and culture that the migrants found in the North, the adjustments they had to make to their new surroundings, and the ways in which the populations of Northern cities had to adjust to them. The exhibition illustrates these changes and adaptations through the display of a tenant farmhouse from southern Maryland, a recreation of a row house from Philadelphia, and more than 400 artifacts and documents.

By re-creating the environments in which the migrants lived, the exhibition offers an opportunity to understand the significance and difficulty of the migrants' decision to leave family, home and friends. Although the Great Migration was of tremendous national importance, it was first and foremost a movement of people, the result of hundreds of thousands of individual decisions to leave an old life behind in search of a brighter future.

The Great Migration was a movement within America, yet it paralleled the immigration experiences of other ethnic groups. Both migrants and immigrants carried their hopes and dreams, along with their cardboard suitcases and cloth bundles, into an uncertain existence. So the exhibition shows the uniqueness of the Afro-American experience and yet echoes the immigration experience of all peoples.


The Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, opened in 1976, offers its visitors a dazzling array of flying machines and aircraft never before assembled in one place. An average of 9 million people visit the Museum each year.

Twenty-three exhibit areas house artifacts from the Wright brothers' original 1903 Flyer to a touchable moon rock and a Skylab Orbital Workshop which visitors may enter.

Also included are dozens of airplanes and spacecraft, missiles and rockets, engines, propellers, models, uniforms, instruments, flight equipment, medals and insignia. These items document most of the major achievements — both historical and technological — of air and space flight.

The Smithsonian's interest in aeronautics dates back to its early years. In 1861, the first Secretary of the Smithsonian, Joseph Henry, recommended to President Lincoln that balloonist Thaddeus Lowe be permitted to demonstrate the potential of the balloon for military observation.

The third Secretary of the Smithsonian, Samuel P. Langley, constructed and tested a number of heavier-than-air craft from 1887-1903. Two of those unmanned models succeeded in flying under steam power over the Potomac River for more than a half-mile.

Interest in rocket research was prompted by Charles Abbot, later the fifth Secretary of the Institution, when he supported the early work of the American rocket pioneer Robert H. Goddard. Goddard was one of the first to recognize the potential of the rocket for propelling vehicles through space.

The Building of the National Air and Space Museum is 680 feet (280 m) long and 90 feet (27.7 m) tall. The exterior is constructed of Tennessee marble of a pinkish hue.

Almost all the aircraft and spacecraft displayed were actually flown or were used as backup vehicles.


One of the most famous attractions in New York City is the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Museum founded in 1870 by a group of civic leaders, financiers, industrialists, and art collectors, moved to its present location in Central Park in 1880.

Today the Metropolitan is the largest museum of art in the Western Hemisphere. It occupies 1.4 million square feet, extending from 80th to 84th Streets on Fifth Avenue. Its collections include more than two million works of art from prehistoric through modern times and from all areas of the world.

The collections are divided into eighteen curatorial departments.

In each department curators acquire, preserve and exhibit works of art for both the permanent collections and special exhibitions.

The Museum's holdings in European art are unparalleled outside Europe. In addition to one of the world's great collections of European paintings, the Metropolitan has outstanding collections of Medieval art and architecture, and of prints, photographs, drawings, costumes, musical instruments, sculpture, and decorative arts from the Renaissance through the 20th century.

The Museum's collection of American art, exhibited in the American Wing, is the most comprehensive in the world. Contemporary American art became a particular concern of the Metropolitan Museum when in 1906 and 1911 George A. Heam donated funds specifically designed for the acquisition of paintings by living American artists. Although the income from these funds has diminished, they have been the basis upon which the Museum's collection of modern American paintings has been formed.

In 1946 Gertrude Stein, the American writer, who was a resident of France, bequeathed to the Metropolitan her portrait by Pablo Picasso, who had been represented in the Museum's collections since 1923. Stein perceived that since its founding in 1870, four years before she was born, the Metropolitan had been as involved with the art of its own time as with the art of the past. She wanted her portrait to be viewed within the context of the history of world art and in a gallery of national stature in New York City.

The Metropolitan's collections of Asian art are extensive, and its Islamic collection is the largest in existence. The wing in the south end of the building houses an impressive collection of African and Oceanic art as well as that from Native North and South America.

The educational function of the Museum is implicit in every facet of the Museum's endeavors. The Metropolitan's monthly "Calendar" provides a handy index to the many ongoing programs and activities.


The 19th century was the golden age of landscape painting in America. Inspired by the nature descriptions of different writers, Americans began to look at their native scenery with a new sense of pride. In the mid-1800s a whole new generation of artists emerged and captured the public's imagination with reverent portrayals of the American landscape. The group came to be known as the Hudson River school, although its members ranged far beyond New York State's Hudson Valley in their search for subject matter. Their romantic renderings of the American scene are honored now as the first wholly indigenous movement in the history of American art.

The landscape tradition continued to the end of the century. Many artists furthered the development of the Hudson River school. But others evolved quite different styles. Many of them painted huge theatrical canvases of awesome mountains and wilderness. George Inness, on the other hand, transmuted the Hudson River tradition into a highly individual style, imbuing intimate pastoral scenes with the lyrical beauty of his personal response.

He was a poetic interpreter of nature's changing moods and found his inspiration in the fields and meadows near his homes in New Jersey and Massachusetts. His paintings reveal his preoccupation with atmospheric effects. In all his works he sought to achieve the objective of arousing in the viewer emotions similar to those he himself felt while contemplating the scene.

The results of his sensitive work include some of the finest landscapes ever painted by an American.

In the closing decades of the 19th century America produced several artists who snared the greatest prize of all — immortality. One of them, Winslow Homer, is impossible to pigeonhole. He painted genre scenes of rural and resort life. He portrayed hunters and fishermen; he dashed off sparkling water colours. In his later years he turned to the Maine coast, creating potent images of the sea. But whatever his subject, he executed his powerful compositions with absolute fidelity to the facts.


Benjamin Franklin

Franklin was easily the foremost American scientist of his day, and his ingenuity was immensely wide ranging. He was a printer, publisher, writer, statesman, and scientist. He was also a gifted inventor. Here are some of his inventions.

Having established by observation and logic, and then by a practical kite test, that lightning is atmospheric electricity, he went on to invent the lightning rod, to this day a building's best protection against thunderbolts.

Franklin also originated much of the vocabulary of electricity, including such terms as "battery", "condenser", "charge", "discharge", "positive", "negative".

Americans had previously relied on the open fireplace, which sent most of the heat up the chimney, or the German stove, which ; made breathing uncomfortable by constantly reheating the air. Franklin pulled the stove away from the wall to increase its heating ; efficiency and gave it a flue that lost less heat and also served as a simple radiator.

His restless mind fixed on problems large and small. It is to Franklin that we are indebted for the grocer's claw, the mechanical hand attached to a pole used for reaching items stored on high shelves.

At the age of 83, under the spur of his own nearsightedness, Franklin invented the bifocal. The top half of each lens was for distance viewing, the bottom half for reading.

Samuel F B. Morse

Morse gave up a successful career as a portrait painter to pursue his interest in telegraphy and gained more fame and wealth than he could have imagined as a painter. Before his invention of the unique dot-dash code that bears his name and the remarkable electromagnetic system that he assembled to transmit the message, the exact location of a fast-moving train was not known, and this lack of exactitude was often fatal.

Morse had completed a model of his system, including the code, by 1853. The telegraph was not patented until 1844 and not put to practical use on the railroad until 1851. Although it immediately proved to be the best available method on communicating between railway stations to determine whether or not a given train had arrived at that point or had already left, established practices diehard, and the telegraph system was not universally adopted for full 20 years after its first use.

The sewing machine

The sewing machine was the creation of many minds. Walter Hunt, probably the 1800s most prolific inventor, was one of the first to create a device that could sew. He built his machine in about 1833, but thinking it would deprive seamstresses of their work, he withheld it from the market.

Elias Howe had no such compunction; he patented his sewing machine in 1846 and spent years fighting to maintain the exclusive rights for his invention.

Among his opponents was the machinist and promotional genius Isaac M. Singer, who had built a machine with several marked improvements.

In prolonged litigation over patent rights, Howe emerged the victor in 1854. Two years later Howe, Singer, and two more competitors agreed to pool the best sewing machine patents and share the royalties. This reasonable approach proved to be a good idea: Singer and Howe both became millionaires.

"India rubber"

Charles Goodyear was obsessed with gum elastic, or "India rubber". It its natural state, the material was too soft for practical use in hot weather and too hard when it was cold. Goodyear was determined to stabilize it by some curing process, and he had a blind faith that he would hit on something if he kept trying every method he could think of. As it turned out, the process that made rubber a useful servant of man was discovered by accident. After patenting his process of vulcanization in 1844, Goodyear advocated rubber for almost every use including clothing, tobacco pouches, and bathtubs. He died in 1860, and was, therefore, not destined to see its universal use in automobile tires.

Thomas Elva Edison

Edison once remarked that genius is "one per cent inspiration and ninety nine per cent perspiration". Certainly neither inspiration nor industry were lacking in this prolific inventor, who was granted a total of 1097 patents — an all-time record.

Thomas E. Edison was born in Milan, Ohio, in 1847. He had but a few years of formal schooling, but his mother taught him at home, and he early developed an interest in science. He took his first job as a railroad newsboy and "candy butcher", and then became an itinerant telegrapher, an occupation that started him on the road to developing his amazing potentialities for electrical innovation.

His first commercially successful invention was an improved stock ticker, used by speculators in gold and securities. He used the $40000 he got for this — a small fortune for a 23-year-old — to open a factory in Newark, New Jersey. There he made telegraph instruments and stock tickers, and methodically set about turning out further inventions.

In 1876 Edison moved from Newark to Menlo Park, New Jersey, where he established his "invention factory", the first industrial research laboratory. A torrent of discoveries and inventions was soon pouring from his fertile brain. Edison's invention, in 1877, of a "talking machine" that could record, store, and reproduce human speech or music was revolutionary. His only discovery in pure science came in 1883: it was the Edison effect. He patented this discovery in 1884 but did not investigate it further. Other scientists used it to develop the electronics industry, particularly radio and television.

Edison's character was not a simple one, he was not always successful. But the urge to experiment and improve never lagged. When he died at 84, many people dimmed their lights in honor of the wizard who had extended their days with the incandescent light bulb.

Alexander Graham Bell

It is hard to imagine that until a century ago the world had to get along without the telephone. Its inventor, Alexander Graham Bell, was born in Scotland in 1847 and came to the United States at the age of 24. In 1873 he became professor of vocal physiology at Boston University. For several years he had been experimenting with transmitting the human voice. On March 10, 1876, he called over his transmitter: "Mr. Watson, come here, I want you". His assistant raced from the laboratory to Bell's bedroom, shouting that he had heard every word clearly.

By the turn of the century more than 1,5 million telephones were in use across the country. Its impact on business and industry was explosive.

Bell became a wealthy man, but money had never been his goal. He plunged into other projects, building, devising, and inventing something all his life.