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Press Room


Smithsonian American Art Museum Launches Virtual Field Trips

Contact: Smithsonian American Art Museum's Public Affairs Office .AmericanArtinfo[at]
American Art's Web site:
Recorded information: (202) 633-8998

The Smithsonian American Art Museum today (Nov. 1) launches free virtual field trips for school children across the country. Museum docents will lead the field trips via online sessions and videoconferences, engaging students in grades K through 12 in the study of American history and culture by exploring the museum's extensive holdings of American art.

"American art tells the story of our nation," said Elizabeth Broun, the museum's Margaret and Terry Stent Director. "By offering virtual field trips we are able to enrich the lives and education of students across the country, teaching them about their heritage in a unique and memorable manner."

Field trips range in length from 30 minutes to one hour. They can be tailored to the objectives and needs of individual teachers and they link to national standards for education.

Virtual field trips comprise the first phase of the museum's virtual community. The community is an extension of the museum's award-winning Web site and as it evolves it will serve as a virtual meeting place offering tours, lectures, chat rooms and bulletin boards. Howard Rheingold, author of Virtual Community, is working with the museum to create this feature and to train docents to meet with the public in an online setting.

According to Woody Dowling, head of Interactive Distance Learning at the museum, "Through our work to create a community on the Web, we are uniting individuals from across the country, as well as promoting a national exchange of knowledge and ideas."

By Jan. 15, 2002 the museum will offer field trips with 10 different themes. The "Latino Art & Culture" tour is now available for all grade levels, highlighting the artistic achievements of Hispanic Americans from the 1860s to the present in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. Also available are "Do You See What I See?" an introduction to the language of art for grades K through five; "Westward Migration," an exploration of this period in American history for grades four through 12; and "Art and Literature," a comparison of literary texts with their visual counterparts for grades six through 12. "Native Americans" teaches students in all grades about the experiences of Native Americans in the United States in honor of American Indian Heritage Month.

Five new tours debut on Jan. 15, 2002. "Free Within Ourselves," suitable for all grade levels, features the works of African American artists whose contributions have had a significant impact on American art history. "Life in America" engages students in grades K through five in an examination of American artists' impressions of their homeland. Students in grades six through 12 will trace more than three centuries of America's cultural heritage through the eyes of artists in "America as Art." "The Modern Era," for grades four through 12, explores the wide range of themes, styles and media found in modern and contemporary art. "Meet the People" introduces students in grades K through 12 to American individuals, families and groups engaged in a variety of activities from the colonial period to the present.

Teachers interested in participating in and receiving more information about virtual field trips should visit the museum's Web site at

The Smithsonian American Art Museum collection began with gifts of art donated to the federal government in 1829 and has evolved into the world's most important American art holdings with approximately 39,000 paintings, sculptures, prints and drawings, photographs, folk art and contemporary crafts.

While the three-year renovation of the museum's main building—the Old Patent Office—continues, American Art offers a full program of exhibitions at its Renwick Gallery (Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street N.W.). For information about Renwick Gallery activities, call (202) 357-2700. Please visit the museum's award-winning Web site at