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Smithsonian Inside Out


Where can you peer into a black hole, come face-to-face with newly discovered species of fish, meet a master carver of African masks, and uncover hidden mysteries of Jamestown all in the same day?

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival invites the public behind the scenes and into an exciting dialogue with Smithsonian experts as they respond to challenges that affect us all.

A new forward-looking vision for the Smithsonian calls for workers across the institution's 19 museums, nine research centers, and numerous outreach and education programs to "shape the future by preserving our heritage, discovering new knowledge, and sharing our resources with the world."

Four grand challenges inform future work at the Smithsonian:

  • Unlocking the Mysteries of the Universe
  • Understanding and Sustaining a Biodiverse Planet
  • Valuing World Cultures
  • Understanding the American Experience

The Smithsonian Inside Out Festival program will inspire Smithsonian workers—from curators and archivists to conservators, security experts, and exhibition fabricators—to present their research, knowledge, and passion to the public. Visitors and Smithsonian staff alike will learn how projects around the institution respond to the four grand challenges while broadening research, strengthening collections, and revitalizing education across disciplinary boundaries.

Four Grand Challenges

Unlocking the Mysteries of the Universe
Learn how Smithsonian researchers take a lead in the quest to understand the fundamental nature of the cosmos, using next-generation technologies to explore our own solar system, dark matter, meteorites, the Earth's geological past and present, and the paleontological record of our planet.

Understanding and Sustaining a Biodiverse Planet
How does the Smithsonian bring together significant resources across scientific museums and centers to advance our knowledge and understanding of life on Earth, respond to the growing threat of environmental change, and sustain human well-being?

Valuing World Cultures
The Smithsonian has a presence in some 100 countries and expertise and collections that encompass the globe. These cultural connections foster mutual respect and present the diversity of world cultures and the joy of creativity.

Understanding the American Experience
America is an increasingly diverse society that shares a history, ideals, and an indomitable, innovative spirit. The Smithsonian uses resources across disciplines to explore what it means to be an American and how the disparate experiences of individual groups strengthen the whole.

Exciting behind-the-scenes activities include:

  • Caring for the Smithsonian's moon rocks and meteorites
  • Examining pre-Columbian American communities with plant biologists, anthropologists, and historians
  • Tracking the history of climate change with ethnographers and earth scientists
  • Comparing the traditional techniques of West African and Southwestern U.S. adobe builders

Support the Folklife Festival, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, sustainability projects, educational outreach, and more.