101 objects that tell America’s story
What do a Singer sewing machine, the Declaration of Independence and Dorothy’s ruby slippers have in common? Believe it or not, these three things (and 98 other objects) are a vital part of the history of our country.
In his work as director of the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, Dr. Richard Kurin, has collected 101 objects that tell the history of the United States, and he chronicles their story, our story, in a beautiful new book titled The Smithsonian’s History of America in 101 Objects. While some of the choices may seem obvious, others will surely surprise you. The collection ranges broadly from pre-Columbus America to the millennium, as Kurin delves into the history of each object and reveals why it is an integral piece of the American experience.
Some objects tell stories of our nation’s triumphs, like the flag of 15 stars and 15 stripes that flew over Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. This flag, known affectionately as the Star-Spangled Banner, inspired Francis Scott Key to write the poem that became our national anthem. Now thin with wear and peppered with tears and holes, the Star-Spangled Banner hangs in the Smithsonian. Kurin doesn’t shy away from the darker times of our history either. Catalogued is the aircraft used to drop the atomic bombs in WWII. The Enola Gay was named by the pilot for his mother. The night before his infamous flight her name was painted on the nose of the aircraft.
Dr. Richard Kurin sat down with history buff John Naber Wednesday, November 13, at our Crawford Family Forum for conversation about how a Mexican Army coat, a carrier pigeon and Kermit the Frog are all significant threads in the fabric of our nation.
John Naber: former Olympic athlete, sports broadcaster, professional writer… and all around history buff.
Dr. Richard Kurin: cultural anthropologist and world traveler. He serves as the Under Secretary for History, Art and Culture and as Director of the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage at the Smithsonian Institution. Since joining the Smithsonian in 1976 Kurin has worked on numerous cultural programs and products that have won Grammy, Emmy and Academy Awards. He has authored many other books including Hope Diamond: The Legendary History of a Cursed Gem, Reflections of a Culture Broker: A View from the Smithsonian and Culture Of, By and For the People: The Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Following the devastating Haitian earthquake in 2010, Kurin spearheaded U.S. efforts to preserve the cultural and artistic heritage of the country.