Smithsonian: Portrait of Shonke Mon-Thi^

From Dorothy’s ruby slippers to a speech that saved Teddy Roosevelt from assassination, this authoritative guide delivers in-depth reportage on the history of remarkable objects from the Smithsonian’s collections

For American history, pop culture, and museum enthusiasts

With charm and exuberance, The Object at Hand presents a behind-the-scenes vantage point of the Smithsonian collections. Veteran Smithsonian magazine editor Beth Py-Lieberman weaves together adaptations of the magazine’s extensive and compelling coverage and interviews with scholars, curators, and historians to take readers on an unforgettable journey through the Smithsonian museums.

Objects are grouped into the themes audacity, utopia, fierce, haunting, deception, lost, desire, triumph, scale, optimism, playful, rhythm, and revealing to engage with the emotional dimensions of each object, how they relate to each other, and how they fit into the larger American story. A sampling includes:

  • The Star-Spangled Banner
  • Frida Kahlo’s love letter to Diego Rivera
  • Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Vega 5B
  • Nat Turner’s Bible
  • An AIDS quilt panel honoring Roger Gail Lyon
  • A signpost from the Standing Rock protest
  • A glass-plate portrait of Abraham Lincoln
  • Life-sized model of a Megalodon
  • The Hope Diamond
  • Chuck Berry’s Cadillac
  • Portrait of Shonke Mon-Thi^ by Ken Gonzales-Day

Py-Lieberman reflects on the profound connections between even outwardly dissimilar objects, and offers insight and stories from Smithsonian experts. The book explores artworks, scientific specimens, historical artifacts, airplanes, spacecraft, plants, and so much more, contemplating how each item represents different facets of humanity and resonates with cultural meaning in surprising ways. Whimsical, affecting, and insightful, The Object at Hand offers an intimate and exclusive tour of the Smithsonian collections.