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The Backyard Cookout!

After World War II, newly affluent Americans had the means and desire to travel. They visited the Pacific islands, Southeast Asia, Mexico, Hawaii, Florida, and the Caribbean. People developed a taste for casual living and the distinctive local foods and drink. Returning home, they re-created these experiences in their new suburban backyards, with patios, tropical drinks, and the grill.

Resetting the American table ›

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When you are standing next to a Japanese folding screen.

This delicate Japanese art form often depicts a story in progress. This screen shows cherry blossoms in early spring. A rope strung around the trees holds up large, ornate brocades. The cloth acts as curtains to block off the area for a blossom-viewing party.

Ancient tales of beauty ›

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The cofounder and lead singer of the new wave punk band Blondie, Deborah Harry carved a path for female rockers with her good-meets-bad fusion of haughty detachment and streetwise style.

In 1978, Harry challenged the notion that musicians—particularly women—needed to be accessible. This 1978 photo is one of 100 that make up the “American Cool” exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery.

One way, or another ›

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The O. Orkin Insect Zoo lets you get up-close and very personal with some of its inhabitants.

The O. Orkin Insect Zoo lets you get up-close and very personal with some of its inhabitants. The O. Orkin Insect Zoo is a special exhibit hall on the 2nd Floor of the National Museum of Natural History where visitors can observe live insects and their many-legged relatives. Volunteers conduct tarantula feeding demonstrations, work with live insects that visitors may touch and hold, and answer questions about the many-legged creatures that live in the Insect Zoo.

The more legs, the better ›

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Lots of things, including playing, resting and coming in for its close-up―its really close-up.

And how do we know? Smithsonian scientists are studying the behavior of black bears, sun bears, giant pandas and dozens of other species through photos from motion-sensor camera traps around the world.

Look at the Birdie! Or the Panda, Elephant or Lion ›

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Want more of a say in what happens at the Smithsonian?

We are looking for a few good Smithsonian fans to join our Smithsonian Fan Forum (SFF), an online group of our friends and visitors who will give us feedback on an array of Smithsonian initiatives. If you would like to provide occasional feedback to the Smithsonian and help us plan for the future, please click below to sign up.

Join the Smithsonian Fan Forum ›

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Don't know much about Andean bears? Here are 6 things you should know. #Peru2SI https://t.co/k37Fw4ePU1

5 months ago

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Love Amelia Earhart? Check out these three high-flying objects from the Smithsonian collection.

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How can a galaxy far, far away be very, very close?

Fans don't have to wait until Star Wars: The Force Awakens premiere this December to get their stormtroopers fix. For the first time ever, an original stormtrooper costume from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi will be on display in a Smithsonian traveling exhibition, along with Jedi robes, Chewbacca’s fur suit, Princess Leia’s slave bikini and other iconic looks from George Lucas’ first six films. © & ™2015 Lucasfilm Ltd. All rights reserved. Used under authorization.

Explore a galaxy closer than you think ›

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How did a musician’s voice get lost?

If you don’t know Lead Belly, you likely know many of the musicians who covered his music: Led Zeppelin, (“Gallows Pole”), Nirvana (“Where Did You Sleep Last Night?”) and you’ve definitely heard “Black Betty” played in countless sports arenas. You can now rediscover Lead Belly as the man behind these favorite folk songs with the release of Smithsonian Folkways’ five-disc box set, “Lead Belly: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection,” the first career-spanning box set dedicated to the legend.

Listen to the legend of Lead Belly ›

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Which flower is closely related to tomatoes?

The native South American flower, petunia is a close relative of tomatoes, chili peppers and potatoes but is only a favorite food of caterpillars. You can continue to test your flower IQ with more fun facts like this in QuizUp’s new “Name the Flower” topic filled with questions from our Smithsonian Gardens.

Download the free app today! ›

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Which overly-dramatic teenagers did Shakespeare base Romeo and Juliet on?

The foundation for Romeo and Juliet was built on Ovid's Metamorphosis, a Greek tragedy about two young lovers forbidden to wed. Revisit the tale of how a crack in the wall and a bloody lion turned love into the ultimate tragedy.

The original Romeo and Juliet ›

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How does war spark poetry?

The hardship and crisis of the Civil War sparked the work of renown poet Emily Dickinson. Despite an intellectually isolated upbringing, Dickinson's creative work reflects the dead she saw and the casualties that returned to her town in the 19th century.

The war that changed poetry forever ›

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Are these pretzels making you thirsty?

If you're celebrating Oktoberfest, you better be thirsty! The difference in American and Bavarian pretzels lies in the use of lye to create the delicious and shiny outside of traditional pretzels. Yum!

Prost! ›

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What do you know about Andean Bears?

Giant Pandas. Grizzlies. You’ve probably heard a lot about these bear species, but what about Andean bears? To the Quechua and Aymara, the indigenous communities of the Andes, Andean bears are known for being loving and happy, seeking harmony and balance in nature. They are listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species, with an estimated 20,000 left in the wild.

Visit the National Zoo to learn more ›

The ensemble worn by Marian Anderson for her historic concert at the Lincoln Memorial.

A watershed moment ›

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Which owls might have been smarter than Hedwig?

ʺIncreaseʺ and ʺdiffusionʺ aren't just words from Smithsonian's mission, they're also the names of two adorable owls that lived in the Smithsonian castle in the 1970s. This feathered duo popped by our castle towers on occasion for food and shelter and (we think) to check out our latest exhibitions.

Residents of a different feather ›

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When did 140,000 bats turn into a time machine?

The bat collection at the National Museum of Natural History is the largest in the world. And all 140,000 bats in the collection help scientists go back in time to learn more about the diseases that threatened bat populations to try and save the bats of today.

Join Smithsonian Channel for a look at our bats ›

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What pet became a national mascot?

Owney the dog! This adorable pup became a regular fixture at the Albany, New York, post office in 1888. His owner was likely a postal clerk who let Owney walk him to work.

Tales from Owney's incredible journey ›

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What has given us water from Mars and daggers from India?

Meteorites at the Smithsonian. From slicing them open to expose their inner secrets to revealing how one emperor used a meteorite to make blades for his ceremonial weapons—Smithsonian experts study meteorites from many angles.

Meteorites Rock! ›

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What is part man, part fish and all latex?

Paul Thek’s Fishman. The sculpture has changed a lot since its creation in 1968: The original color of the latex has darkened and lost its elasticity, and parts of the sculpture have broken or crumbled away. In 2010, Fishman underwent a major treatment, which required conservators at Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum to develop new techniques since established conservation materials and methods weren’t compatible with the material.

Saving A Sculpture, One Fish at a Time ›

The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center is the companion facility to the Museum on the National Mall.

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What can mimic a bug or whack you in the face to get what it wants?

Orchids. With their beauty, mystery and deceit, the Smithsonian's collection of nearly 8,000 live orchids try every trick in the book just to get pollinated.

Nine Ways to Lure a Lover—Orchid-Style ›

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How many cables does it take to hang a 5-ton airplane?

Join Anthony Carp at Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum as he shows us the science behind how he hangs some of our heaviest artifacts at the Steven F. Udvar Hazy Center.

Planes and spaceships and more ›

This photo is one of 100 that make up the “American Cool” exhibition at the Portrait Gallery.

American Cool ›

The Smithsonian honors the musical legacy of Coltrane during Jazz Appreciation month.

American stories ›

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the passenger pigeon’s extinction.

Once there were billions ›

May 2014 marks the 75th anniversary of Batman’s debut with DC Comics.

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How do you entertain an otter?

Join Smithsonian's National Zoo keeper, Stacey Tabellario, as she shows us why enrichment activities for our Asian Small-Clawed Otters are so important.

Meet our family group of otters ›

Lady slipper orchids are just some of the varieties in the exhibition “Orchids of Latin America.”

If the slipper fits, pollinate it. ›

This is the smallest shark, a dwarf lantern shark – smaller than a person's hand!

Petite predator ›

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What plant smells good enough to eat?

This folk art guitar has a two chambers for stashing strings, picks or snacks

A primitive guitar ›

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What color is chocolate?

Natural chocolate is actually a reddish color. Chocolate didn't turn brown until chemists got their hands on it.

How did this happen? ›

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How can you help make history with the Smithsonian?

Happy American Archives Month! The Smithsonian Institution Archives staff show us how the Smithsonian has been crowd sourcing for 165 years.

Crowdsourcing the weather and the stars ›