50th Anniversary Celebration

Save the date for the Smithsonian Libraries' 50th Anniversary Celebration!

A bearded man in profile, wearing a hoodie, looks into the viewfinder of a large camera that is pointed slightly upwards at an angle.
Burns filming National Parks
(Photo Credit: Jason Savage)

Sharing Knowledge, Preserving Treasures: A Conversation with Secretary David Skorton and Ken Burns
Wednesday, November 7, 2018 at 6:00 PM
National Museum of American History
Washington, DC

Featuring Emmy Award winning filmmaker and recipient of the Smithsonian Libraries Legend Award Ken Burns and the opening of our exhibition Magnificent Obsessions: Why We Collect.

Please RSVP here

To request access services, such as sign language interpretation, please contact kahng@si.edu by October 24, 2018.

About Ken Burns

Ken Burns has been making documentary films for almost forty years.  Since the Academy Award nominated Brooklyn Bridge in 1981, Ken has gone on to direct and produce some of the most acclaimed historical documentaries ever made, including The Civil War; Baseball; Jazz; The Statue of Liberty; Huey Long; Lewis & Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery; Frank Lloyd Wright; Mark Twain; Unforgivable Blackness:  The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson; The War; The National Parks:  America’s Best Idea; The Roosevelts:  An Intimate History; Jackie Robinson; Defying the Nazis:  The Sharps’ War; and, most recently, The Vietnam War.

Future projects include films on the history of country music, Ernest Hemingway, Muhammad Ali, Benjamin Franklin, the American Revolution, the history of crime and punishment in America, Leonardo da Vinci, Lyndon B. Johnson, Civil Rights, Winston Churchill, and the history of American innovation and technology, among others.

Ken’s films have been honored with dozens of major awards, including fifteen Emmy Awards, two Grammy Awards and two Oscar nominations; and in September of 2008, at the News & Documentary Emmy Awards, Ken was honored by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

About Magnificent Obsessions: Why We Collect

Since the Smithsonian’s founding in 1846, the Libraries have benefited from passionate book collectors, who developed specialized libraries on topics ranging from wildlife to design to aerospace—priceless collections that now belong to the nation. Who were these curious book collectors, who helped build the Smithsonian Libraries into a world-class resource? Why did they collect particular books? How did their collections influence the work of the Smithsonian? Magnificent Obsessions—a Smithsonian Libraries 50th Anniversary exhibition—will tell these collectors’ stories through the volumes they acquired, reflecting personal and professional pursuits. Some collected out of nostalgia for the past; some collected to create a resource for the future. Others collected to ensure little known stories would be kept alive.

The exhibition will feature collectors such as Sarah and Eleanor Hewitt, whose passion for 19th century decorative arts led them to establish a pioneering museum of design; noted conservationist Russell Train, who collected books, manuscripts, and maps on African exploration and big game hunting; and the Culinary Historians of Washington, D.C., who collect cookbooks that reflect how Americans’ eating habits have changed over time.

The exhibition also will highlight the contributions and innovations many of these collectors made in their fields—a legacy that continues today, as scientists and scholars access these collections for research, fueling new insights and discoveries. Through a unique personal lens, Magnificent Obsessions will showcase some of the Smithsonian Libraries’ rarest objects, allowing visitors to explore different times and cultures, as well as the evolution of American life.