Posts tagged ‘AAG’

YES! Experience with D.C. High Schools

This summer Smithsonian Gardens (SG) joined the National Museum of Natural History and the National Zoo in an outreach program designed for high school students. Youth Engagement through Science (YES!) connected students to Smithsonian collections, experts, and training in an effort to provide them with practical experience, inspiration and encouragement to pursue science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers. The program also equipped the students with resources to help them in their next step of attending college to pursue their career interests.


Students who participated in YES! worked side by side with SG horticulturists and educators in the Smithsonian Gardens’ Greenhouse, Victory Garden and Heirloom Garden. The mentors, Tom Mirenda, Joe Brunetti and Erin Clark, worked with three students, Damani Eubanks, Kumar Madhav and Dion Anderson, from various high schools in the D.C. metropolitan area. Each mentor designed a project highlighting subjects in their area of expertise. The students worked with the mentors to complete the projects, keep a field journal and produce a poster for a special open-session presentation at National Museum of Natural History.

A special tour of the SG Greenhouse gave SG YES! students, Kumar and Damani, a chance to share their project with all 25 YES! students. Kumar and Damani demonstrated their newly gained knowledge when they explained how they measured and recorded various parts of blooming orchids.


Dion Anderson’s poster outlining his experience in the Heirloom and Victory Garden. Dion helped Joe and Erin identify hostas in the gardens surrounding the National Museum of American History.

 This fall, when the students return to school, they are required to take a leadership role among their peers and promote the YES! program in a community outreach project. The students will be ombudsmen for Smithsonian Gardens!

YES! was a positive experience for both the mentors and the students. Smithsonian Gardens is looking forward to participating in next year’s programs with the new projects for new students.

Youth Engagement Through Science site

September 10, 2012 at 9:35 am 1 comment

Capturing a Garden’s True Colors: the Autochrome Process

In the early twentieth century, gardens were predominantly documented by hand-painted glass lantern slides. The painting process was a meticulous one as it involved the painstaking application of color to the flowers and foliage captured on the black and white positive. Not surprisingly, colorists (who were not horticulturists) often applied the wrong colors; purple irises were painted pink, and orange tiger lilies were painted yellow. Garden enthusiasts yearned to have photographs that not only depicted their gardens beautifully, but accurately.

Ca Sole Garden, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1930

The earliest color photography, the autochrome process was developed by the pioneer fimmakers, the Lumière brothers. As Sam Watters writes in his book, Gardens for a Beautiful America, Frances Benjamin Johnston, the famous garden photographer, was one of the first in her business to experiment with this new additive color process. An autochrome plate consisted of a a glass plate coated on one side with microscopic grains of red-orange, green and blue-violet potato starch. Lampblack filled the space between grains and the top layer was coated wtih a black-and white panchromatic silver halide emulsion. Once the camera’s shutter was opened light went through two crucial steps; first, it would pass through an orange-yellow filter on the camera (which corrected the emulsion’s ultra sensitivity to violet and blue light); second, the light would penetrate the glass plate of colored potato starch before finally reaching the emulsion.

Western View, Virginia, 1931

The plate was reversal-processed into a positive transparency and at normal viewing distances, the individual grains of colored potato starch blended together in the eye, reconstructing the captured scene. Autochrome glass plates continued to be produced into the 1930s, falling out of style with the introduction of Lumière Filmcolor sheet film in 1931, then Lumicolor roll film in 1933. Sprinkled throughout the Archives of American Gardens’ collection, autochrome photographs not only beautifully and faithfully depict their subjects, but also testify to the intersection of garden design and photographic history.

Kristina Borrman, Katzenberger Art History Intern

August 3, 2012 at 8:00 am 1 comment

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