1st Edition

Smithsonian Stories Chronicle of a Golden Age, 1964-1984

By Wilton S. Dillon Copyright 2015

    Why is the Smithsonian more than the "Nation's Attic?" Or more than a museum complex? As Wilton S. Dillon shows, the Smithsonian came to be the institution we know today under the twenty-year leadership of "Sun King" S. Dillon Ripley.

    Ripley aspired to reinvent the Smithsonian as a great university—with museums. Although little understood by the public at large, it began as a basic research center. The Smithsonian remains a key contributor to the world of higher learning and functions diplomatically as the ministry of culture for the United States. Dillon provides backstage insights into Ripley's quest for the wholeness of knowledge. He describes how he inspired its role as a "theater of ideas as well as artifacts." Under his tutelage, the National Mall became a playground for world intelligentsia, an "intellectual free trade zone" in the shadow of the nation's political capital.

    Dillon reminds us that interdisciplinary, international Smithsonian symposia foreshadowed twenty-first-century issues and trends. His descriptions of the educational rewards of balancing tradition with the avant-garde are inspiring. As Dillon reminds us, Ripley's twenty-year reign may well have helped spark the waning embers of the Enlightenment.

    Foreword by Robert D. Sullivan


    Part One Curtain Time, Stages, Characters

    1 My Smithsonian Beginning
    2 Man and Beast: Two Inquiries, 1969 and 1986
    3 The Cultural Drama: Identity and Ferment
    4 Our Simply Sensational Salon: The South Tower
    5 Savants and Muses in the Castle

    Part Two Enrichments

    6 Our French Connection
    7 Variations on Indian and Chinese Themes
    8 Space Age on the Ground
    9 Play and Inventiveness
    10 New Generations at the Smithsonian

    Part Three Interactions

    11 Encountering the White House, Congress, and Judiciary
    12 Owls and Falcons
    13 Imagining a Museum of Humankind
    14 Elizabeth Taylor and Mr. Smithson's Ghost
    15 Linking Yves Klein and Marcel Mauss

    Part Four Commemorations

    16 Celebrating Copernicus
    17 Whither "STEM" and the Liberal Arts?
    18 Einstein Redux
    19 Pax Americana: 1976
    20 Edinburgh 1984: The Enduring Scottish Enlightenment

    Acknowledgments and Epilogue

    A Harvest of Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge
    Major Symposia and Participants



    Wilton S. Dillon