LBUSD News (02/22/08) Smithsonian Week Brings 1950s Era to Life Skip to main content
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Smithsonian Week Brings 1950s Era to Life

More than 5,500 local students and 700 teachers will interact with Smithsonian scholars during the Arts Council for Long Beach Smithsonian Week, March 7 to 14. This year’s Smithsonian Week theme is ‘50s Fun, Fear and Rock ‘n’ Roll. Topics include paint-by-numbers, product promotion through parade floats and window displays, and the birth of the “jet set.” Fears of the Cold War, communism and the bomb present the other side of the 1950s. Six scholars will be part of this year’s events: Tom Crouch is Senior Curator of the Division of Aeronautics at the National Air and Space Museum. Crouch has written several award-winning books and played a major role in planning exhibitions and managing museum collections. President Bill Clinton appointed Crouch to the First Flight Centennial Federal Advisory Board. Crouch is now completing his latest book, “Lighter than Air: A Concise History of Balloons and Airships.” Charlie McGovern is Associate Professor of History and American Studies at the College of William and Mary. He is formerly Curator of American Culture at the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution. His interests include modern American history, 20th-century popular culture, popular music, and the culture of American capitalism, especially consumerism. He is working on a book tentatively titled, “Only in America: Race, Citizenship and Popular Music, 1930-1977.” Alan Hess is an architect and historian who has written books documenting the architectural history of the suburban metropolis in the West. He focuses on neglected mid-century, popular, and West Coast architecture. Hess has been active in the preservation of roadside and post-War architecture, including the nation’s oldest McDonald’s drive-in. He has taught at the Southern California Institute of Architecture and at UCLA. Max Alvarez has served as Film Coordinator at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C. and has delivered dozens of lectures on cinema. He has presented seminars on iconic film figures, ranging from internationally-renowned directors to legendary screen actors, and seminars centered on such film genres and themes as film noir, Hollywood musicals, horror, censorship, set design and the origins of Hollywood studio systems. David Shayt is a specialist in the division of Cultural History at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Since 1978 his focus has been on the history of American popular culture and technology. In recent years, Shayt has pursued his interest in objects from the past including metal lunch boxes, yo-yos, Silly Putty and mousetraps. Recent projects have included a field survey of bells, clocks and lighthouses in the Republics of Guyana and Sri Lanka, and the rise of the American doughnut industry. William Lawrence Bird is Curator, Division of Politics and Reform, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution. His current work centers on the documentation of contemporary politics and popular culture. The Smithsonian exhibitions he has curated include Paint by Number: Accounting for Taste in the 1950s. He has been a Rockefeller Foundation Humanities Fellow and received the Federal Design Achievement Award. Participating schools include: Addams, Alvarado, Bryant, Buffum, Burroughs, Carver, Fremont, Garfield, King, Lafayette, Longfellow, Los Cerritos, Prisk, Roosevelt, and Signal Hill elementary schools; Cubberley, Monroe and Tincher K-8 schools; Hamilton and Hill Classical middle schools; and Lakewood, Millikan and Renaissance high schools. The Arts Council for Long Beach signed an agreement with the Smithsonian Institution on behalf of the city to bring arts, culture and scholars from the nation’s museums to Long Beach. Each year, the Arts Council presents a week of free in-school and community events and presentations. Long Beach is the only city nationwide affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution, the nation’s first museum. Visit for more information.