Skip to main content

tv   Smithsonian Founder James Smithson  CSPAN  April 5, 2020 8:50am-9:51am EDT

8:50 am
founding donor of the smithsonian's intuition. she described how smithson's enlightenment ideals and desire for public access to scientific findings led to the insitution's founding. ms. ewing is the author of, "the lost world of james smithson." this event was hosted by the maryland historical society. mark: so, for tonight's lecture, exploring the world of james smithson, smithsonian's founder, is being presented by heather ewing. heather ewing is a graduate of yale university and the institute of art in london. she is currently a research associate of the smithsonian, where she once worked as an architectural historian and is the author of a number of books on the architecture and history of the institution. from 2013 to 2018, she was the executive director of the center of italian modern art in new york and has worked, as well,
8:51 am
for the john and mabel ringling museum of art in sarasota and the sir john museum in london. "the lost world of james smithson" was her first book, and she resides in new york. so please welcome heather ewing. [applause] heather: thanks for having me. can you all hear me? wonderful. it is really a pleasure to be here. and i very much look forward to speaking and meeting with you all afterwards. i just wanted to let you know that i will be bowing to you -- i am not shaking hands, per our current instruction. i encourage you all to do the same. anyway, i wanted to thank you all very much for having me. it is a pleasure to be here to talk about this topic that i care about so much. and so, here we go. you all know the smithsonian well as the keeper of many of
8:52 am
the most iconic objects of american culture. and, i thought i would run through a bunch of them. dorothy's ruby slippers, of course. charles lindbergh's spirit of st. louis. soon after i to the smithsonian. abraham lincoln's top hat. and, since we are here in baltimore, this is the star-spangled banner. also soon after it came to the smithsonian, where it was conserved, for the first time, in the marine life hall. so that is a giant squid over it. [laughter] but, it is, obviously, much, much more than that as well. and i'm excited to talk about that with you this evening. that extraordinary uniqueness begins with its origins. it's quite hard to believe that this place that we think of that is so very american, basically our national museum system, was
8:53 am
the brainchild of someone who was not an american at all. so, our story begins in 1835 when the new capital of washington, d.c. was a little grandhan a few colossal, buildings and some muddy boulevards. this is when the united states learned they were the beneficiary of this extraordinary request. a mysterious english scientist named james smithson had left his fortune to the u.s. to found -- this is a quote -- "at washington, under the name of the smithsonian institution, and establishment for the increase of the diffusion of knowledge among men." so who was this person? that was what everyone wondered. no one had heard of him. they soon learned that smithson had been the illegitimate son of the duke of northumberland and that his half-brother, who was
8:54 am
later the second duke, who was on the right, had fought against the americans in the revolutionary war. listen -- smithson had lived a per political life in -- europe, and he never married. he had no children. he had dedicated his life to science. that was about all they had found out. but most curious of all was the fact that he had never even visited the united states, and he didn't seem to have any connection here to the people or the place. so, some in congress wondered whether the united states should even accept this gift. was this really generosity? or was this something by a megalomaniac who just wanted his name on a building in the nation's capital? was he mentally fit? they asked all these questions. there was some debate in congress, and then they decided at least to go and accept the money, and then they would figure out what to do.
8:55 am
so they sent richard rush, who was a lawyer and a former ambassador to the court of st. james, and also the son of benjamin who had been one of the signers of the declaration and prominent physician. so they sent him over to london. he had to fight for the funds in chancery court. and he did successfully bring that to a conclusion in just over two years, which was, at the time, an extraordinarily speedy result. because, if any of you had read dickens' "bleakhouse" which tells the story of this generations-long lawsuit, this is set at exactly the same time. dickens describes the case in chancery as being "ground to bits in a slow mill. being roasted at a slow fire. being stung to death by single bees. it is being drowned by drops. it's going mad by grains."
8:56 am
and our term for redtape, today, comes from chancery court and the red, silk ribbons they wrapped around these voluminous case records. so richard rush comes back to the united states. he has successfully put the money, which was about 105,000 pounds, into u.s. currency, just over $500,000. the equivalent, today, is maybe $15 million, which does not sound quite so extraordinary. because, as you can imagine, the smithsonian, in recent years, has received several donations that are quite a bit larger than that. but, at the time, if we go back to the 1830's, it was truly an extraordinary gift. and i like to think of it as -- in a couple of different ways. it was about 1/66th of the entire federal budget then, which, today, as you can imagine, since we are talking
8:57 am
about trillions of dollars as our federal budget, it would be a very big number indeed. and another way to think about it is that it was essentially the equivalent of harvard university's endowment. and harvard, in 1838, when rush was coming back is about 200 years at this point. and there endowment, obviously, is not the gift of one person but of many gifts. so the power of this gift was really quite exceptional. so now congress had to decide what is an institution for the increase and diffusion of knowledge? and they wondered is it a national library, a national university? john quincy adams, who, after being president, was back in congress, wanted an astrophysical observatory. other congressmen wanted teacher training colleges or an experimental agricultural station.
8:58 am
there were many, many ideas they batted around. for nearly a decade, they debated and tabled bills and fought over what this should be. and there were others, still, who didn't think it should happen. there were a number of southern congressman who were extremely wary of having a national institution. and adams, who was essentially a contemporary of smithson's -- and he had spent a lot of his childhood in europe with his father, learning about diplomacy and science. he felt himself to understand the sort of aspirations behind smithson's gift, and he really fought for it to happen. the eventual bill finally passed in 1846, which, i realize, is two years after the institution was created. i used to say that it was a classic congressional compromise. i just don't know that such a thing exists anymore.
8:59 am
but it included a little bit of everything. library, museum, laboratory, lecture hall, a sculpture gallery. and it was this construct, in a way, that gave rise to everything that we have today. this idea that there were these multiplicity of purposes that the smithsonian could be. the smithsonian came to view their founder as an enigma. this eccentric person. and the reasons behind the bequest mysterious and unknowable, ultimately. this is some truth to this. this is actually the last page of the will in the public record office in england. and it gives no details, really, as to the purpose or the administration of this proposed institution. and, further, the bequest was only a contingent one, because it was originally going to the nephew, and only if the nephew
9:00 am
was to die with no heir would the money come to the united states. and that is, in fact, precisely what happened. six years after smithson'sthe ns any, unmarried and without heir died by himself and street to the the united states. this was compounded i a terrible fire early in the history of the smithsonian. a dramatization. all of his paper nurse and the belongings richard rush had brought back, that was all pretty much lost. and we know because there was
9:01 am
one person who looked through the papers when they came to the smithsonian. we know that they were 200 unpublished manuscripts. there were a lot of things. who looked at all of this stuff said that he was a curious person. he had a long and intimate acquaintance with the world. one thing when you are gone and there's no errors or love or anything left behind is one of is very easy for a caricature to emerge of a recluse or this wealthy, audit, gambler, basically. for smset out to search
9:02 am
ithson, i wanted to see if it him backble to bring into the time in which she had lived and see who and what had impacted him when he was growing up. to ponderespecially this idea of how he came to write this incredible well. this gives us a new perspective on this remarkable institution. youmy question was, how do go about riding a biography of someone who has essentially vanished from the historical record. i knew i would not find him in catalogs of europe. i had to find a different way. what i did was to try to map his
9:03 am
networks. his family, his friends, his social circles and figure out what i ended up calling the lost of james smithson. i started at oxford where he went to pembroke college. there he is in his robes. and i investigated the people that he was surrounding himself with and the few records i could find. he was very interested in chemistry already by the time he was at oxford. that was a subject that was not very gentlemanly. you were getting your hands dirty and things like that. he was part of this pretty radical avant-garde progressive
9:04 am
group of students and teachers who were focused on the subjects that were considered kind of french and suspect. and, he did some remarkable stuff. he already was building a reputation for himself there. at the royal society in london, i found the names of people he had brought as guests to all the meetings. that gave me names to work off of. this one i labeled in particular, he had his mother's name for the first years of his life. he's on the right-hand side. those are the people he is bringing. i thought it was interesting because his half-brother is in
9:05 am
that particular meeting as another guest. on the right are his bank records, which also still exists in london. so, all of these were ways that i started together names and dates to place him in certain places at any time. the smithsonian acquired a bunch of papers in the late 1900s -- on the right, there were a couple of letters of calling cards. people dropped by his department in paris. on the left, these are mineral notes from his catalogs. those are names of people he was treating specimens with and stuff like that. so that was how i started to piece things together at the beginning. a new portrait emerged of him. not this loner eccentric person, but someone who was incredibly enthusiastic and ambitious and usually talented, and also quite conflicted. and, his family story plays a big part in that conflict. the world is 18th-century england that smithson grew up in was about patronage. who you were able to marry, that sort of thing. smithson was a product of a liaison between the duke of northumberland and a wealthy widow who was a cousin of the duchess of northumberland. he was born in paris where his mother had gone to have the child in secret, so we don't know his actual birthday but it
9:06 am
is sometime around 1765. and, his mother, who might be this woman, this is an unidentified portrait. she was named elizabeth hungerford macie. she was this wealthy widow. up until the time i was working on this, we really knew nothing about her, but there were dozens and dozens of lawsuits at the public record office as it turns out. all of a sudden, there was really a lot of extraordinary insight into who she was. she was extremely litigious and very extravagant. she had lots of dresses and several carriages. she was quite fierce, really. she sued everyone you could possibly imagine. this i found so touching that -- this is an illiterate farm tenant of hers. he is just signing with his little mark there. he's one of the people who sued -- she sued her sister. she sued eventually her own lawyer. it is really kind of incredible. anyway, these lawsuits were completely amazing to me and
9:07 am
helped me understand something about the sort of psychological environment that smithson was growing up in. she was very proud of her family tree. she could trace her lineage back to henry viii. she instilled in smithson this idea he was from this very important family. a lot of these lawsuits have to do with ancestral property that she has a woman she was trying to gain control of. she had an older brother who died quite young, so all of a sudden, she had this opportunity to gain control of these properties and she really went after them. and so, one of the few lines that was taken out of smithson's papers before he died was this one that talks about the best
9:08 am
blood of england running through smithson's veins and how it avails him not -- this is something i have in my mind that needed to be sort of thought about when imagining why you might give your fortune to a place that was not england. smithson's books were one of the only things that survived that fire. today, they are in the cullman rare book library at the smithsonian national history museum. they also reveal this obsession with his family, and especially with his dad. everywhere in his book that his
9:09 am
father is mentioned, he made this little note in the margins. this is dr. johnson's account of going to scotland. and, he and boswell stopped at anick castle where the duke's seat was at northumberland and talked about being received graciously. the duke is one of only about 26 dukes in the whole of england and one of the most magnificent men in england at the time. he's a trendsetter, peacemaker. really a celebrity at the beginning of the age of celebrity. this is when the first town & country magazine starts. he's all over it with his affairs and everything else. so, when he and the duchess would enter a town, the bells would ring. their movements were tracked in the papers. their parties and their clothing. everything was written about. he'd never publicly acknowledged james smithson.
9:10 am
so, it would probably be something like having brad pitt as your secret dad who never recognized you. as i mentioned, smithson spent the first 35 years of his life as james lewis macie, which is the name of his mother. as soon as she died, he petitioned the crowd to change his name to smithson, which would have publicly aligned him with hugh smithson which was the duke of northumberland's original name. but it also would have telegraphed he was illegitimate
9:11 am
because he was carrying the smithson and not the percy or northumberland name. the illegitimacy was something that really troubled and weighed heavily on smithson all his life. but the principal story that emerged from my search for smithson was the context of enlightenment science and this broad international network of correspondents that smithson was operating in. it was sort of an essential part of his life. he left oxford at age 19, two years before he was technically graduating, to join this scientific expedition to scotland. they were going specifically to
9:12 am
this island, singles cave, which had recently become known to scientists. i won't say discovered. anyway, it had barely been written about. smithson was going to try to make his name by collecting specimens and was studying this place. there were four of them. this french geologist was leading the expedition. the first italian balloonist. and, another man, a scottish doctor and draftsman who soon after this immigrated to the united states. you might know him as the men who won the competition to
9:13 am
design the u.s. capitol building, william thorton. on this journey where they all eventually fell out and left separately -- it was kind of a catastrophe. smithson sort of met all of the leading life in edinburgh. he established what would establish the rest of his life. going to town, meeting all the leading scientists, getting to know them. exchanging specimens and information with them. so as soon as he gets back to london, he does not go back to oxford, he goes to london. he immerses himself in the coffeehouse culture and the scientific networks of the capital.
9:14 am
and, he becomes what was then the youngest member of the royal society, very prestigious institution, where he eventually published 27 papers, including the one that led to the naming of smithsonite after his death. which the smithsonian never happened, it would be the only thing we remember smithson by today. in science, smithson finds this world where he is valued for what he can contribute in the talents he brings to the table, not for his bloodline or for who his father is. science in a way is the closest thing that the world has at that time to a meritocracy. for smithson who is so troubled by his legitimacy and troubled by the circumstances of his birth, it opens up a new possibility for the future. a world governed by science and by law and reason, rather than church or king or heredity or superstition. and, america is that new future for him. the united states, for smithson and his chemist friends, represents the embodiment of all these aspirations. all of these men in these coffeehouses in london are trying to create a new egalitarian mode of sharing information. the royal society is quite formal and topdown. here, they're more interested in
9:15 am
the exchange and testing knowledge. across the ocean at this very time in the late 1780's, the u.s. is writing its constitution and in barking, if you will, on a similar radical experiment. this idea of making a new kind of government, as exciting as an experiment is any scientific one at this time. the statesmen who are leading this test benjamin franklin and thomas jefferson -- they understood the importance of increase of diffusion of knowledge. they talk about it a lot. they were themselves scientists and leaders and founders of scientific societies which were called then philosophical societies. so, for the presidential election of 1800, for example, it is pitting john adams, president of the american academy of arts and scientists, against thomas jefferson, who was the president of the american philosophical society.
9:16 am
so, that's the sort of atmosphere that smithson is observing from afar. george washington in his farewell address to the nation, he calls specifically for the promotion of institutions for the diffusion of knowledge. this language is in the air then. the other thing that would have touched smithson deeply is that the united states at this time became a place of refuge for chemists like smithson, because across the channel, france's completely melting down. and for smithson and his friends, this is super exciting. it's evidence that the most entrenched in ancient monarchy in europe could collapse at a pace that is scarcely to be believed.
9:17 am
so even the corrupt ancien regime can be transformed. smithson went right over to paris. he wrote a letter back saying stupidity and guilt have had a long reign. he was absolutely euphoric. he said it begins indeed for it to be time for justice and common sense to have their turn. so, one of these chemists is joseph priestly. he was also a leading theologian. you can see how these papers are making fun of these chemists, basically. his home and laboratory in birmingham were torched by a mob during the anniversary of the bastille falling and he had to flee first to london and then the united states. he spent the last decade of his life in pennsylvania and he was welcomed here personally by thomas jefferson. back in england, this public letter was published, telling him not to worry. you are going to a happier world, the world of washington and franklin.
9:18 am
a country where science has turned to better use. this will also give you a feel for how smithson might have been imagining what the united states was like. and he really believed wholeheartedly that science held the key to progress and the amelioration of the human condition. he had seen throughout his life that chemistry could transform the lives of many and it made it everything worthy of study for him. he studied the coin in his pocket. he analyzed a lady's tear. his brother brought back an egyptian statue from the napoleonic wars and smithson analyzed the ancient colors that were on it. he even tried to understand when a gnat was most on -- mushed on a piece of paper and it turned
9:19 am
green, he was trying to understand that green color. he felt for us to understand the natural world, we needed to study everything and we needed to share what we learned with each other. he chided his fellow scientists for not sharing absolutely everything, even little improvements to your apparatus. he really took this to heart. this was one of his 27 papers which is an improved method of making coffee. but in one of his last papers, he wrote something that i thought was particularly lovely, laying out his philosophy that it has been his knowledge that man has found his greatness and his happiness. and so, i like to think that smithson would be quite pleased to see that the smithsonian in the last week has just released -- i don't know if you saw the news -- this nearly 3 million images into the public domain under a creative common hero license, which means you all can
9:20 am
use them however you like even if you wanted commercially to do something with them. they are free for everyone to use them, no rights reserved. this is part of an effort that the smithsonian and many other museums are engaging in now to open up their collections and make them much more accessible to the public. and, it certainly seems to be in keeping with the way that smithson was thinking about knowledge and accessibility. he conducted his experiments using very simple tools, like even the bowl of his pipe or a wineglass, because he wanted people to be able to replicate his experience. he was really well known for working with a blow pipe and working in miniature. this is a chemist in massachusetts who taught me how the blow pipe worked. we were melting copper at 2000 degrees. it is kind of mimicking a
9:21 am
furnace but in a really tiny and controlled environment. this is in market contrast to what was happening in france. contrast ton marked what was happening in france. this is a scientist and his wife anne marie he was also a chemist. the french were known for having super expensive apparatus. smithson could have had these things. he certainly have the money, but he followed another ethos and creed. in keeping with that, he was one of the founding proprietors of the royal institution in london, which was opened in 1799. whose charter bears some similarity to the idea of the smithsonian in smithson's will. it was established for diffusing useful knowledge and for the application of science for the common purposes of life. it offered lots of programs and lectures that were very popular with men and women and society in general.
9:22 am
and, here's a sort of cartoon about -- they're exploring airs and pneumatics at this point in the early 1800s. these lectures were so popular, in fact, where the royal institution is today -- you can go visit it -- it became the first one-way street in london because there were so many carriages coming to drop people off to the lectures. smithson's enlightenment ideals forged initially in the coffeehouses of london and inspired by useful stint to revolutionary paris were tested and eventually reinforced by his experiences during the napoleonic wars where he was captured and held as a prisoner of war for over two years. for much of his life, as you can imagine, europe was at war and it really impacted his ability to travel and to work. it hampered the communications
9:23 am
between all these friends. but, smithson and his scientific friends tried to maintain contact and they proclaimed over and over that the sciences were not at war. here's one letter that smithson's writing to one of his french friends. he says the work of scientists for nation should be considered citizens of the world. in fact, it is this fraternity of science that is what gets smithson out of prison, in fact. the head of the royal society in london writes to the head of the
9:24 am
academy in paris, and that person goes to napoleon and gets smithson out of prison. so, this aspiration to be a citizen of the world is very important to smithson. and, the key element of it is to be a benefactor of all mankind, basically. and, i think it is that sentiment that lies behind the archaic words that are in the will. you can see it in a postage stamp from 1846. this is from a more recent website of the smithsonian and you will see they leave off the last two little words, among men, because it sounds like they are ignoring half the population. however, i do think they are really important because i think that the signal the gift was not just do the united states. i think it was entrusted to us for all the world because it was thought that we were the people with this new kind of government that could best foster the support -- and offer support for
9:25 am
the increase of knowledge and the betterment of mankind. so, i feel that the bequest, even though it is a mysterious thing, when it is seen in this light, it does not seem quite so random. it is sort of the natural extension, even if extraordinary, of someone who grew up in this explosion of knowledge and revolution at the end of the 18th century. it is obviously a very moving testament to the ideals that informed the founding of the
9:26 am
u.s. and the kind of place america held in the imagination of people like smithson. so in just my last five or so minutes, i wanted to fly through some of the smithsonian today. smithson is the kind of honorary american now, thanks to these two. he's now spent more time in the united states than he has anywhere else. around 1900, the cemetery in italy where he was buried was being moved and alexander graham bell and his wife mabel felt that smithson should be honored for all he has done in creating the smithsonian. they went over to italy to bring him back. this is the cortes as they arrived back from the u.s. navy yard. the supreme court, lots of people were involved in this.
9:27 am
they had him lying in state at the smithsonian for a while. misses bell documented the entire thing. this is them at the cemetery in genoa. that is our u.s. consul on the right in what he called his last pose. with smithson. alexander graham bell was not so foolish to be photographed with smithson's skull. anyway, there was a competition to build a monument to smithson. for a very brief moment at the beginning of the 20th century, we nearly elevated smithson to a founding father. this monument on the left would have been the size of the lincoln memorial. in the end, the smithsonian took the original sarcophagus from the cemetery in italy and installed it in what they called the crypt, which is today in the capital building so you can go visit him. he lies here mostly again forgotten, but his name in the form of the smithsonian is one of the most famous we have, obviously. this open nature of the bequest i mentioned earlier meant in a way that smithson's gift could become almost anything it needed
9:28 am
to be. in the 170 plus years since the founding, this missoni and has grown in many, many direction -- the smithsonian has grown in many directions. i want to fly through more of the american treasure house objects, like thomas jefferson's desk that he wrote the declaration of independence on. there are the portraits of the presidents. and some that are connected to them like the first ladies gown, even a collection of hair from the presidents. monuments of technological triumph. the wright brothers flyer. that is the apollo 11 capsule that carried those astronauts back to the united states. it's kind of a great window into how we have enshrined a lot of
9:29 am
american history at the smithsonian. that traveled around the country in 1970 and went immediately into the smithsonian seven years even before the construction and opening of the air and space museum. then, there is kermit. there's also julia child's kitchen. the smithsonian is still collecting, obviously all the time. farah fawcett's swimsuit came a year ago. lin-manuel miranda gave his cost of. smithsonian is collecting election memorabilia. it is one of the largest collections of its kind. about 150,000 objects around the election in the united states. 3.5 years ago, the smithsonian opened its national museum of african-american history and culture on the mall. i encourage you all to go to. it is extraordinary and has
9:30 am
quickly become one of the most visited and beloved museums on the mall. they had to build that collection from scratch. and they did so in a very short but this is the significance of having a home on the national mall. the smithsonian is a treasure powerfulamericana is but offers only a limited portrait of the scope of the place. there are many museums -- as i 19 native american, culture, air and space in new york and washington, african --, american art, design and the national zoo which got
9:31 am
its start behind the capital building trying to preserve the american buffalo from going extinct. more thanuch, much these museums that we know. there are nearly one dozen research centers. the kind of work going on behind the scenes is extraordinary. is a tropical research institute in panama which goes back more than 100 years. the smithsonian went down there during the construction of the panama canal to do environmental research to understand the impact of joining up the two watersheds. coastal a big focus on marine ecosystems. there is a station in florida, maryland, another in belize. an smithsonian is running observatory with harvard that
9:32 am
has its roots in something more than 100 years old. they were leading the team that photographed the blackhole last year. global volcano program. there is an arctic study center and a lot more. the smithsonian is active in rescue heritage wreck when there is an earthquake or hurricane and also abroad in haitisyria, brazil, collaborating with the military to safeguard cultural heritage and recognize diluted artifacts. the smithsonian is also operating in outer space. they are running the x-ray telescope observatory for nasa. this tradition of research in the depths it gives to the
9:33 am
collections and ongoing work of the institution is one of the things that set it apart. some of those collections predate the smithsonian. governmentns are in expeditions exploring the country and abroad. many of them have purposes well beyond what was originally imagined when they were collecting. bornis rocks he lay layborne who created ornithology. nearly every day there are these fedex packages with grisly remains showing up at the institute. is this younge whontist chris helgin discovered the first two species
9:34 am
of carnivore in the western hemisphere in 40 years. a super cute member of the raccoon family. also discovered a new species of samoan flying fox bat. previously unknown to science but had been sitting in a case in the smithsonian for 150 years. thatis one of the things is most remarkable to me. if you remember that terrible fire at the national museum in brazil, that collection was 200 years old and these are the kinds of things that are lost. it is the research that has not yet been done that we will never be able to recover. 's most the smithsonian remarkable for this. for its history and the potential it holds.
9:35 am
i just wanted to end here. undoubtably an is very different creature than the one that might have been birthed smithson's lifetime. it has some of the loftiest american ideals. the ones that most attracted smithson when he came to the u.s. i see this in the brick-and-mortar creation of the institute. we, as a country, dedicated this ground at the foot of the national government -- perhaps the most important public space -- that we dedicated this ground to the pursuit of knowledge and that these buildings are open and free to everyone.
9:36 am
thank you very much for having me. [applause] i am happy to answer questions if anyone has some. there is a microphone. >> how is the smithsonian financed today? >> very good question. i believe the budget is about $1.5 billion and nearly 70% is coming from the federal government. yearsegan about 15-20 after the institution was set up. that were world fairs bringing lots of material to the smithsonian, they were able to negotiate for care for the
9:37 am
national collections. the rest of that money, more than 30% is raised privately. gifts from individuals, foundations, and corporations. there is one down here. >> you have one building you start with and now we have -- >> a lot. >> more than a dozen or two. what has made this exceed? >> say it again? >> what has made this succeed? is it because the people in the united states endorsing the idea more? or the government endorsing the idea more and could you speak
9:38 am
about what are some of the challenges for the smithsonian? >> sure. we did go from one building to many, many, many and it started with that bicentennial exposition in paris in 1876. the smithsonian getting all of the stuff after and that second building came to be called the u.s. national museum building. today it is the arts and industry building if you know that. it grew from there. the next building is the natural history which is the national museum building. some of the buildings, or collections, are private gifts. museum was.n and have grown organically everything has to be approved by congress. it usually takes a long time and
9:39 am
in fact, the first movement for the african-american history museum was almost 100 years ago. it was a very long time ago these movements happened and it takes years for it to become approved by congress. then the fundraising has to happen because there is never just an amount of money from congress that is going to cover everything. they have to do a lot of fundraising as well. >> it was clear even by the standards of his day smithson was a very man. i would not call it a level of leisure because he was very busy and intent on his work but he clearly had a great deal of money to expend and to bequeath.
9:40 am
his motherney from and her side or did he have any inheritance or funds from the northumberland's? >> it was a question i was interested to try and get to the bottom of. records wasbank interesting. -- hearly inherited inherited about 10,000 pounds from his mother but the gift he left this missoni and was -- the smithsonian was over 100,000 pounds. she was spending a lot herself. she might have left a more than she actually did. imagine the duke did quietly fund smithson in some fashion. i tried to track that because the bank was also smithson's
9:41 am
mother account, the lawyer's account, and the duke's account. for connections between the duke's account and misses macy. time when she was suing everyone. i did not expect to see many going into her account. perhaps that was the case. illegitimatefour children and the two that were girls were able to carry his name. they were given names of his mother and sister. they were very close with jim smithson. they left him small amounts in their own wills. it is very possible. >> i'm curious about his
9:42 am
legitimacy. he was concerned about the fact he was a smithson because he grew up with the name of macy. he knew the day he became a smithson people would know he was the illegitimate child of the duke of northumberland. how do you compare both of these? -- hehad also published made a name for himself as macy. it was a calculation and it happened so quickly after his mother died he had to write someone and say, my mom wanted me to do this because it probably looked awful that he did it when she was not yet cold. i guess it was really important to him. one of the things that was also in play is that because he was born in paris, he was not even a citizen.
9:43 am
he needed to be naturalized. that was a further factor in his being sort of on the outside. it limited the kinds of positions he might be able to --e which he might otherwise even as an illegitimate person -- might have gotten a certain title or position and being born in france prevented that. there were a lot of things going on that contributed to this sense of being outside and not entitled to things. >> the second part of that gentleman's question when he was asking, what cap this going -- what kept this going? what kept people from throwing up their hands and saying, we don't want to spend anymore money on this? >> before the act is passed?
9:44 am
>> how do you get from one museum to a constellation? it is just amazing. >> every year the smithsonian has to go up to capitol hill and make their case to congress. endowmente national for the humanities and things like that. they have to make their case for what they are doing and why it is important. so, there is an awful lot of research happening behind the scenes. they are arguing for that and for the care for the collections. their role is the national museum system. my sense is that is what is going on and when things are bursting out of the seams, they need more space and they are fighting for that as well. congressoften inviting
9:45 am
down to see what they are up to and that sort of thing. >> [indiscernible] yes, there is quite a long interim. the gallery opens after world war i and there is no museums built for about 30-40 years. the first one is the american history museum which at the time was called the museum of history and technology. that is the first modern building that is done in the early 1960's.d from 1920 until almost 1960 there is no expansion. lot thate is an awful happens in the 1960's. >> [indiscernible] >> new leadership is when dylan
9:46 am
ripley became leader of the cesium. he was the leader for about 20 years and under him, many museums, and this missoni and, grew immensely -- and the smithsonian, grew immensely. going thing that keeps it is all of you. >> yeah. >> if you drive constitution avenue or independence avenue, you will see lines waiting to get into those museums. it is the public that keeps it going and those are the people who write their congressman and senators anytime the smithsonian is threatened. you are what keeps it going. >> you are absolutely right and the fact that every school child makes their pilgrimage there. [laughter] thank you very much.
9:47 am
[applause] announcer: this is american history tv on c-span3. each weekend we feature 48 hours exploring the nation's past. [no audio] every saturday night, american history tv takes you to college
9:48 am
classrooms around the country for lectures. >> why do you know who lizzie borden is? have you heard of the jean harris murder? >> the deepest cause we will find the truest meaning of the revolution was in this transformation that took place in the minds of the american people. >> we are going to talk about both of these sides of the story. the tools, techniques of slaveowner power and we will talk about the tools and techniques of power that were practiced by enslaved people. announcer: what history professors lee discussions with their students on topics ranging from the american revolution to september 11. lectures in history on c-span3 ever saturday at 8 p.m. eastern on american history tv and it is available as a podcast. find it where you listen to podcasts. ♪ television has changed since
9:49 am
c-span began but our mission continues. to provide an unfiltered view of government. already we have brought you election coverage, the presidential impeachment process, and the federal response to the coronavirus. you can watch of all of these on television, online, or listen on our free radio lab and be part of the national conversation through c-span's daily washington journal program or our social media seat. c-span, created by private industry. america's cable television company and brought to you by your television provider. ♪ announcer: you are watching american history tv all weekend, every weekend, on c-span3. to join the conversation, like us on facebook at c-span history. talks about the
9:50 am
success of the confederate union despite high casualties at the battle of antietam. she outlines the influences that shape the brigade including support from the families and camaraderie between the officers and soldiers. this talk was part of a symposium held at the library of virginia in richmond. moderator: i was going to introduce susannah ural but she is credentials on the screen. maybe i don't need to. [laughter] has, for years, and at the top of my personal list of speakers i have been wanting to introduce to our audiences. and maybeabout this your first public speech in richmond, virginia. susannah ural is a professor and studies for the university of southern mississippi. she previously taught at sam houstonta

44 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on