Watch 150 Years of Asian American History Unfold in This Documentary

Editor’s Note, March 18, 2021: In light of a shooting in the Atlanta area that left eight people, including six Asian women, dead, PBS has made the documentary series “Asian Americans” freely available to stream online. Read more about the five-part series, which premiered last May, below. Viewers can now watch the landmark documentary series […]

Entirely Digital Artwork Sells for Record-Breaking $69 Million

Editor’s Note, March 11, 2021:An entirely digital artwork sold at auction today for $69.3 million, Christie’s announced via Twitter. Per the New York Times’ Scott Reyburn, the sale marks the third-highest auction price achieved by a living artist, placing Beeple after Jeff Koons and David Hockney. Read more about the record-breaking artwork—and its implication for […]

One of the Last Privately Owned Botticelli Portraits Just Sold for $92 Million

Editor’s Note, January 28, 2021: Sandro Botticelli’s Portrait of a Young Man Holding a Roundel sold at Sotheby’s today for $92.2 million—the highest price paid for an Old Master painting since Leonardo da Vinci’s record-breaking Salvator Mundi fetched $450 million in 2017, reports Katya Kazakina for theNew York Times. Read more about the 15th-century work’s […]

The Epic Failure of Thomas Edison’s Talking Doll

Editor’s Note, December 18, 2020: A new Smithsonian Sidedoor podcast revisits the peculiar story of Thomas Edison’s failed attempt to invent a talking doll, this time with an imaginary holiday twist, so we’re recycling our legacy article from 2015 when Edison’s doll first went on view in the exhibition “American Enterprise” at the Smithsonian’s National […]

The Little-Known Story of Madagascar’s Last Queen, Ranavalona III

Editor’s Note, December 10, 2020: Earlier this week, Madagascar’s government purchased a trove of artifacts linked to the island’s last queen, Ranavalona III, for £43,000 (around $57,000 USD)—significantly higher than Kerry Taylor Auction’s estimate of £1,000 to £1,500, or $1,300 to $2,000 USD. The documents, photographs and other assorted mementos will now return to Madagascar, […]

Olympic Decathlon Medalist Rafer Johnson Dies at 86

Editor’s Note, December 3, 2020: Olympian Rafer Johnson died in Los Angeles on Wednesday, according to a statement from UCLA and USA Track & Field. The decathlon champion was 86. Read more about his life—and his contributions to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture—below. The life of Olympian Rafer Johnson is […]

A Mysterious Monolith in the Utah Desert Vanished Overnight

Editor’s Note, November 30, 2020: Earlier this month, surveyors in Utah’s Red Rock Country stumbled onto a 12-foot-tall metal monolith of unknown origin. At some point on Friday night, the structure vanished as suddenly as it had appeared, baffling local authorities and sparking a renewed round of speculation regarding its creation and ultimate fate. Read […]

The National Zoo Reveals Its New Panda Cub’s Name

Members of the public voted to name the three-month-old cub Xiao Qi Ji, or “little miracle” The cub’s new name is Xiao Qi Ji (SHIAU-chi-ji), or “little miracle.” (Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute) November 16, 2020 | Updated: November 23, 2020 4:41PM Editor’s Note, November 23, 2020: After five days of voting, […]

Authorities Arrest Three Suspects in $1 Billion Dresden Jewel Heist

Editor’s Note, November 17, 2020: German authorities have arrested three suspects linked to the November 25, 2019, Dresden “Green Vault” heist. At least one of the individuals detained was also involved in the 2017 theft of one of the world’s largest coins. Both burglaries were likely the work of an organized crime syndicate based in […]

What Are mRNA Vaccines, and Could They Work Against COVID-19?

Editor’s note, November 16, 2020: This story has been updated to reflect the latest news on vaccine development for Covid-19. Earlier today, the drug maker Moderna announced the coronavirus vaccine it created was 94.5 percent effective in a major trial. The news came a week after Pfizer and and bioNTech announced their coronavirus vaccine was […]

Alex Trebek on Why ‘Jeopardy’ Represents the American Dream

The game show host, who died yesterday at age 80, donated items to the Smithsonian in 2013 The longtime “Jeopardy” host died of pancreatic cancer on November 8. (Photo by Amanda Edwards / Getty Images) May 9, 2013 | Updated: 2 hours ago Editor’s Note, November 9, 2020: Longtime “Jeopardy” host Alex Trebek died […]

Four Times the Results of a Presidential Election Were Contested

As states continue to count their ballots in the 2020 election, it seems possible that Democrats and Republicans will end up in court over whether President Trump will preside a second term in the White House. The results currently indicate that former Vice President Joe Biden will win enough electoral votes to take the presidency, […]

When Republicans Were Blue and Democrats Were Red

Television’s first dynamic, color-coded presidential map, standing two stories high in the studio best known as the home to “Saturday Night Live,” was melting. It was early October, 1976, the month before the map was to debut—live—on election night. At the urging of anchor John Chancellor, NBC had constructed the behemoth map to illustrate, in […]