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Portraits of Obamas Will Be a 1st for National Portrait Gallery

Smithsonian hires black artists to paint presidential portraits for 1st time

(Newser) - For the first time ever, the Smithsonian has hired black artists to paint the president and first lady for its National Portrait Gallery, the Wall Street Journal reports. Kehinde Wiley will paint Barack Obama, who requested him specifically. Wiley is known for juxtaposing his subjects—often young black men in... More »

Saving the Ruby Slippers Will Cost America $300K

And the Smithsonian is turning to Kickstarter for the funds

(Newser) - The Smithsonian needs your help preserving a piece of American film history. Dorothy's ruby slippers from the Wizard of Oz are in need of some serious TLC, Entertainment Weekly reports, and the museum explains its federal funding doesn't extend to "non-core" projects like this one. To that... More »

Museum 'Must-See' Dedicated to Black History, Culture

'NYT' review of Smithsonian's long-awaited museum, set to open next Saturday

(Newser) - A week from Saturday, a 130-year-old bell from a church erected by slaves will ring to herald the grand opening of a 400,000-square-foot DC museum that's been talked about since 1915, NPR reports. The idea for that museum, the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and... More »

New Dolphin Species Hid in Museum for 55 Years

Meet Arktocara yakataga

(Newser) - The discoverers of a brand new dolphin species didn't even have to leave the office to make their find, UPI reports. Smithsonian curator Nicholas Pyenson and researcher Alexandra Boersma were presumably going about their business when—in Boersma's words—"this beautiful little skull from Alaska" jumped out... More »

'White Whale' Discovered in Depths of the Smithsonian

Old fossil has been redescribed as the Albicetus oxymycterus

(Newser) - It's quite the epic timeline: Some 15 million years ago, the creature swam in our oceans. In the 1880s, its remains were found in California. In 1925, Remington Kellogg classified it in an extinct genus of walrus. Now, nine decades later, researchers with the Smithsonian's National Museum of... More »

Smithsonian Launches $500K Kickstarter for Famous Suit

They'll leave lunar dust on Neil Armstrong's moonwalk getup, though

(Newser) - "Reboot the Suit" is the slogan for the Smithsonian Institution's new campaign to restore Neil Armstrong's famous moonwalk spacesuit—and the museum group has launched its first-ever Kickstarter campaign to reach its $500,000 goal, Smithsonian reports. Funds raised will go toward conserving the spacesuit so it... More »

1st Sunken Slave Ship Found After 220 Years

212 slaves died on the Sao Jose-Paquete de Africa, en route to Brazil

(Newser) - The first-ever wreckage of a ship that went down with slaves on board has been found just 100 yards off the coast of South Africa where it sank in 1794. The Portuguese ship, Sao Jose-Paquete de Africa, set out from Mozambique Island with more than 400 slaves shackled in its... More »

Neil Armstrong Brought Back 'Purse' From the Moon

Full of 'odds and ends' from Apollo 11

(Newser) - After Neil Armstrong's death, his widow, Carol, found something unexpected in a closet: a white bag full of parts from the Apollo 11 Lunar Module Eagle. The spacecraft parts were originally thought to have been left on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission, the New York Daily News... More »

New Effort: Bring Passenger Pigeon Back to Life

As Smithsonian honors 100th anniversary of the last one's death

(Newser) - The passenger pigeon was once so plentiful, a flock of billions darkened Ontario's skies for 14 hours in 1866; the birds were considered a "poor man's food," the AP reports, to the point that domestic workers tired of eating so many. But their numbers dwindled shockingly... More »

In 9/11 Museum: a Life-Saving Squeegee

Men used it to escape World Trade Center elevator

(Newser) - On 9/11, six lives were saved by a squeegee handle. Six men, including a window washer, were trapped in an elevator at One World Trade Center during the attacks. When their car began falling downward, they were saved by the emergency stop button. But at that point, the men smelled... More »

Jurassic Park-esque Find: Blood-Filled Mosquito Fossil

But don't expect dinosaurs anytime soon

(Newser) - OK, so the mosquito is only 46 million years old—too recent to have sucked dinosaur blood. But for the first time in history, scientists have found a fossilized skeeter that's still got a belly full of blood, harkening back to the plot of Jurassic Park, the Smithsonian points... More »

Oprah Donates $12M to Black History Museum

Smithsonian site opens in 2015

(Newser) - Visitors to a coming museum on black history will be able to sit in a theater named after Oprah Winfrey when the site opens in 2015. Reason? Winfrey has donated $12 million to the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture in DC, reports the Washington Post... More »

Richard III Had Unpleasant Burial

King was given no death shroud, may have been bound

(Newser) - If you thought being found buried under a parking lot was about as unroyal as it could get for King Richard III, think again. In a paper published this week in Antiquity , researchers describe his body as being buried in haste, crammed into a too-small grave that was roughly dug... More »

Syria's War Triggered by ... Water?

The Tigris-Euphrates Basin is losing a lot of water, and fast

(Newser) - Tucked into a piece on the drastically dropping water levels in the Middle East's Tigris-Euphrates Basin comes this theory: The drop helped spur the Syrian civil war. As Joshua Hammer explains for Smithsonian , a pair of satellites tasked with measuring groundwater found that the basin lost the equivalent of... More »

Ben Franklin Tried to Change Our Alphabet

His phonetic approach never took off

(Newser) - If Benjamin Franklin were alive today, he'd probably be a dynamite texter. As Smithsonian explains, Franklin once designed a phonetic alphabet for the nation because he thought the one in place was too unwieldy. Alas, it never caught on. Some highlights of his "A Reformed Mode of Spelling,... More »

Apollo 11 Engines Pulled From Ocean Floor

Jeff Bezos-funded operation recovers 2 of 5 engines

(Newser) - A year after Amazon founder Jeff Bezos discovered the debris of five Apollo 11 engines , he's recovered two of the massive F-1 engines from the floor of the Atlantic Ocean, reports USA Today . The twisted, rusted remains were brought up from 14,000 feet below the surface, but they'... More »

NYU Loses Years of Cancer Research in Storm

Mice drowned, reagents lost when hospital flooded

(Newser) - New York University researchers lost thousands of lab mice and years of scientific research when Hurricane Sandy hit New York University Hospital. The mice—which had been genetically modified for cancer research and took years to produce—drowned when the hospital flooded, the New York Daily News reports. Many special... More »

Bird Expert Convicted in Cat Poison Bid

Researcher wrote on the feline menace to birds

(Newser) - A Smithsonian bird researcher has been convicted of animal cruelty after she tried to poison the local cat population. Nico Dauphine, 38, was caught on a security tape standing in front of a bowl of cat food outside a DC apartment building, the Los Angeles Times reports. She said she... More »

Righty Blogger Infiltrates DC Protest, Ignites Uproar

Spectator pulls writer's claim that he was most effective protester

(Newser) - A right-wing journalist infiltrated the DC protest that ultimately closed the Air and Space Museum this weekend and emerged with the latest scandal to grip the blogosphere: American Spectator writer Patrick Howley wrote that he played the role of agent provocateur, leading the charge against guards at the museum in... More »

P-Funk Spaceship Lands at Smithsonian

Classic funk stage prop to anchor new museum

(Newser) - The Smithsonian is about to get a whole lot funkier. The Parliament-Funkadelic Mothership is going to anchor the music collection at the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture when it opens in 2015, reports the Washington Post . While not the original, 1,200-pound aluminum spaceship—that... More »

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