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