You may have noticed an extra glow around our exhibits this past week. Perhaps a speck of frosting on the mouth of Titanoboa, or the smell of candles permeating the vases of “Women, Art, and Social Change: The Newcomb Pottery Enterprise.”
Well I guess since it’s becoming apparent we’re just going to say it - Happy birthday to us!
Yes, this week marks our 65th birthday, and we’re pretty stoked. But to understand our excitement, it helps to understand our cause.
In 1937, the United States was working to pull itself out of the Great Depression. Congress, in an effort to build the spirits of the nation, mandated the need to “foster… a growing appreciation of art” and “encourage the development of contemporary art and to effect the widest distribution and cultivation in matters of such art.”
Finally in the postwar aftermath, their vision was achieved when the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES to our friends) was established on September 19, 1951 through funding from the Alice Pike Barney Memorial Fund and a grant from the State Department.
By 1952, our first exhibition, “Contemporary Swiss Paintings”, was up and running. By the end of our first decade in service, we’d circulated 135 exhibitions throughout the country and abroad - a fine number, but only a drop in the bucket of the more than 1,500 exhibitions we’ve traveled across all 50 states and throughout the world today.
Whether enjoying art, history, science or culture, we’ve seen a lot over these 65 years. Presidents, hall of famers, monarchs, but most importantly each of you in our host venue communities have become part of our family. And we hope to keep seeing you and yours on our next birthday and another 65 (and then some) after that.