Smithsonian Scholars Pick Their Favorite Books of 2021

Visitors often entertain the romantic notion that behind-the-scenes at a Smithsonian museum is a mind-bending alternate universe that far surpasses anything they might encounter in the exhibition galleries. And they are not entirely wrong. The hundreds of men and women, who haunt the backroom warren of offices, libraries, laboratories and storage spaces at the largest museum and research complex in the world together form the intellectual wellspring of the Smithsonian Institution’s world-class exhibitions, events and happenings, scientific endeavors, and so much more. This year the Institution celebrated its 175th anniversary with a ground-breaking new exhibition "Futures" to explore the multivalent theme that humans can have agency in crafting a better tomorrow. A new initiative, “Our Shared Future: Reckoning with Our Racial Past,” is seeking to expand public understanding of how racism blights our country. In this year also, the Smithsonian is shouldering a massive expansion after 2020 legislation enacted two new museums—the National Museum of the American Latino and the American Women’s History Museum. Exciting new artifacts are entering the collections even now as a rising cadre of new curatorial expertise is taking shape. And finally, staff brought multiple museums to life again, reopening gallery spaces and new exhibitions after months of pandemic-related closures.
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