Reviews For Smithsonian Magazine

Smithsonian: A Change of Pace

I started receiving Smithsonian Magazine about eight months ago. My husband and I both like the magazine, as well as the idea that our subscription fee supports the Smithsonian Institute and gives us a few member perks like a discount in the museum cafes if we ever happen to be in DC, and the Institute?s wonderful catalogue.


Smithsonian?s articles run the gamut from stories about the environment to archaeology to art and architecture to astronomy to entomology to history. Usually I have a magazine with me in the car so that I can read bits and pieces when I?m stopped in traffic; however, I never take Smithsonian. The articles are longer and more in depth and require my full attention--I can?t get away with a quick scan like I do with fashion magazines. I feel as though the content of Smithsonian is something to be savored as I read, ideas to ponder, information to digest and wonder at. I like the fact that I have to think on a deeper level with this magazine that wrests my attention from my latest homework assignment, the grocery list, the need to mop the kitchen.

Smithsonian has a definite slant that favors exhibits in its own or affiliate museums, but given the quality of these exhibits, I won?t quibble about a little self-promotion. The magazine also delves into personal profiles, often linked with a current issue, such as a profile on Louis Pasteur who discovered the anthrax vaccine or a profile of Boss Tweed in conjunction with an article about the restoration of the New York City Courthouse that Tweed had built.

I did not think that the articles on insects and animals would be nearly as interesting as they are. Smithsonian has made me a believer in the cuteness of Tasmanian devils, and that humans and animals can find a middle ground together as in an article about tigers in Nepal.

I find most of the content genuinely informative, not just regurgitations of things I?ve heard before. The writers have a talent for finding new angles on current or older issues that I appreciate.

Since I always find something to criticize, my biggest disappointment with Smithsonian lies in their guest columnists for Taking Issue. For this column, an editor or writer is given the upcoming issues articles to read before press and to comment on them. Most of these guest writers seem to find more things to criticize about the articles than they find good. I sincerely hope they?re not getting paid.


The design of Smithsonian appears to be understated elegance. The pages of articles are uncluttered and clean looking. The regularly occurring features and columns are indicated by a small box with the title of the column and an appropriate graphic of some sort, but even these are unobtrusive. Articles often range from 6-9 pages, including illustrations, and are always completely together, never continued in some back page space.

The best part of the design is the magazine?s use of photography to not only enhance and illustrate articles, but in many cases to make its own statement. A recent article about tree-climbing as a recreational sport not only had the coveted centerfold spot with two climbers rappelling down the trunk of huge California coast redwood, but also the cover photo of a mosquito-netted platform hanging from the silhouetted branch of a tree with the sunset behind it. One of the recurring columns involves old familiar photos, such as those that appeared on the cover of Life, and tracking down the people in the photos and where they are today as well as including details about the photographer who captured the ?indelible image.?


Out of 110-115 pages in each issue, the magazine has 30-35 pages of advertising. Compared to other magazines to which I subscribe, this number is exceedingly low.


Smithsonian Magazine is, for me, a much-appreciated change of pace. It?s the kind of magazine that I curl up with on the couch, complete with cup of tea and fuzzy lap robe. The cat is optional.


Smithsonian Magazine--Homescholar's Resource

When I was responsible for the education of my homescholar, I subscribed to several quality magazines in order to expose her to a wide range of educated outlooks. Smithsonian Magazine was among the top in this category. If you're homeschooling, I highly recommend it.

Smithsonian is a monthly magazine. Despite the frequency of the issues, each issue is vast in its range, and lushly illustrated. Many of the magazines that I selected were quarterly, which is actually to infrequent to consistently whet a homescholar's appetite for information.

Some of the magazines that I subscribed to were more in the line of scholarly treatises, and were better suited to an academic audience. Not so the Smithsonian. The articles are written on a level that a tenth grader can understand. Although they are accessible, they don't talk down to the reader, and they do provide bibliographic links to further reading if you want to get more depth into a subject.

Links to the Web Site
Even then, they had links to their web site, where you could find and follow related threads. Now, the links are even more extensive, and the web site even more entertaining. I find this a great resource, especially if your goal is to use the magazine as a teaching tool. It's one thing to have a static tool, another to have a dynamic one which will lead to further exploration.

Excellent content
If you're using the magazine for teaching, you want the content to be the best possible. Smithsonian never let me down in this respect. The writing was always top-notch. The photography rivals that of National Geographic (another homescholar favorite). The bibliographic annotations are sometimes less extensive than I would like, but at least they exist. It will never write to sell a product (unlike so many magazines.) In short, the stuff between the covers is well worth reading.

The topics in the magazine are as varied as the Smithsonian's collection. Perfect for encouraging an inquiring mind. An issue can have an article on alternative energy, one on archeology, and one on an art technique, and the articles are placed so that they don't seem to clash with one another. (Which brings to mind the editing--which is skillful to the extreme.)

Summing up
I used this magazine as part of my approach to home schooling my daughter. It provided a wealth of well written, interesting articles which inspired, instructed, and excited. It was perfect for the goal at hand, which was to encourage my daughter to be a life long learner. If you've got a similar goal for yourself or for your children, then this is a good magazine to have around the house.

I've never been to the museum or store, so can't speak to the usefulness of these membership benefits, but I recommend the magazine without reservation.


Art Gallery, News, Modern Lifestyle all in one Magazine

The Smithsonian
What A Work of Art

Pull out the scissors, the mattes and the nice oak frames and get ready for some excellent photography that you could cut right out and hang it on your wall. Two magazines have stunned the world with their photography that I have stumbled across, National Geographic Magazine and the Smithsonian. This review is based off previous subscriptions and readings and the Smithsonian October 2000 issue.

As we glance the isles of newspapers and various magazines certain images catch the eye; I believe it is two things, sex appeal, which is highly exploited and bold simple eye catching covers. This issue of Smithsonian like so many others always seems to capture the eye, you must take a look or you will be wondering for days what that image was of.

With one striking image, the magazine will intrigue its viewers to pick up the issue and glance the pages:

1. To find out what it is on the front page that captivates them.
2. To see if there is anything else that compares to its glamour.
3. Last off, to understand the content of the magazine.

1. The cover, ?Working in silver gilt and ivory, Belgian artist Charles van der Stappen sculpted this work, Sphinx mysterieux, in 1897. ?? This singular image captivated the viewer and brought him to attention.

2. As you open to the first two pages, what else, an advertisement of course! The next two pages is also an advertisement but its content relates to the next page which is not which brings the seamlessness appeal and shows the ingeniousness of the marketer. ?Make them feel at home and they won?t even notice that they were just sold to.? As they will find out there are many stunning articles, well written, and some nice works of art (pictures that is).

3. A magazine that sells art and modern life styles brings us closer to ourselves as we learn more about everything else. The Smithsonian pulled off the eye-catching theory and kept it very simple on the front cover. Within its advertising (where they make their money), it is seamless with content that can make one think that there wasn?t many ads at all, very good thought for consumers!

The Content

Some of the articles and type of material this magazine reviews are: ?The cat that walks by itself,? ?Kudzu: Love it ? or run,? ?Art Nouveau,? ?The Bozeman Trail,? and ?A lofty tribute to barns.? There are more of course, but for the sake of length and your time I will desist. As we look at the first article, ?The Cat that walks by itself,? we are first dazzled by Charles Bergman?s photography skills. The design template used to encase the article is also quite appealing with its borders and icons. It has a little blurb that reads, ?In Mexico?s Maya jungle, the survival of the jaguar hangs on radio collars, hounds and former hunters.? This along with the picture will lure you into reading the article or make you move on, to me it sings, READ now or be ignorant.

In The End

Some of the best written works ever, excellent examples of wonderful photography, seamless design with advertisements and other media within the magazine and wonderful templates. I would recommend obtaining a copy and seeing for yourself, I am sure that you won?t be sorry.

I will obtain some more information and stick it here at the end as I update this article, a wonderful magazine that deserves even more speculation.



An old friend.

I've been a subscriber to Smithsonian for about eight years now. I don't see this changing anytime soon. This is general interest magazine with a slant towards science for the layperson.

Regular features are: A Note from the Secretary, Around the Mall and Beyond, Phenomena, Comment & Notes, Points of Interest, The Object at Hand, Smithsonian Highlights, Book Reviews, and The Last Page.

A Note from the Secretary is usually a description or sales pitch of some program that the Smithsonian is currently involved in. It reads very much like a memo from the board of directors of a large company and I guess that's what it is. I usually only skim this section because it is very dry and rarely has any connection to the contents of the magazine , although sometimes he will plug an article.

Around the mall and Beyond is also mostly concerned with the business of the Smithsonian. There are occasional profiles of people connected to or employed by the various departments of the Smithsonian. Sometimes there will be an article about a particular exhibition or collection. Sometimes the connection is a little more tenuous though, as in a recent article on a mother-daughter book club formed by the associate director of the Smithsonian's Anacostia Museum and Center for African American History and Culture. The book club itself has no official connection to the Smithsonian Institute.

Phenomena, Comment & Notes is generally a very brief (two or three pages) story on a professional scientist of one kind or another. It might be about an archaeologist's dig or a an astronomer's findings or some such thing. These are usually brief enough that they don't quite satisfy my curiosity. Although, they do consistently provoke my curiosity, and that is an accomplishment when compared to other magazines.

Points of Interest is similar to Phenomena, Comment & Notes except that it's more pure Americana. It quite often has an approach like that of Charles' Kuralt's On The Road series. It is not uncommon for it to focus on a local festival like the Kerrville Folk Festival, or Marysville, Washington's Annual Strawberry Festival, which features an adult tricycle race.

The Object at Hand is an interesting feature in that it usually gives a sort of case history of an object housed in one of the Smithsonian's museums. The range here is really staggering. From the actual Star Spangled banner, to the original MRI machine. I don't always find the subject enthralling, but on the whole this is a pleasant way to kill a few minutes and find out more about our national heritage.

Smithsonian Highlights is a calendar of events which has a brief newsy article on a featured event and two or three pages of other events. I rarely read this because I live in Arkansas and don't figure to be traveling to the Smithsonian anytime soon. If I were planning a vacation to the area though I would find the information very helpful.

The Book Reviews section features mostly nonfiction books on diverse topics like Mediterranean cuisine or the history of Basques, or tulips. There are also frequent reviews of memoirs by scientists and researchers of various types. I like this feature a lot not because I value the opinions so highly, but because I would otherwise never hear of most of these books. I'm a member of the Book of the Month Club and the Quality Paperback Book Club and frequently browse Barnes and Nobles website and they just don't highlight books like these. The reviews are typically of a length to be useful in making buying decisions.

The Last Page is my least favorite feature as it is a purportedly humorous slice of life essay and i have a very low tolerance for that sort of thing. If you like Dave Barry and Lewis Grizzard, then this is probably right up your alley. If they set your teeth on edge, don't bother with this stuff. I must say however that it is a very small part of the magazine and I can live with it even if I only rarely find it amusing.

In addition to these regular features each issue contains around five long in depth articles on a number of diverse subjects. Reappraisals of various artists seem to be recurring more and more as the years go past. I can remember seeing articles on Winslow Homer, Jasper Johns, and Vermeer. I find the biographical information highly informative and especially enjoy seeing works placed in their historical context. The features on artists have good layouts without a lot of distracting interplay between text and art. They sometimes begin an article with a full page spread that has text overlaying art but rarely do they intrude further on the graphics. I have a minor quibble though about their selection of paintings to reproduce. Very often the article will go on and on about a particular painting and I'll flip around and try to find it. As likely as not I won't find it because it simply isn't there. I find that aggravating. Otherwise these are articles that I look forward to.

Another frequent topic over the last several years is alternative farming. I can remember articles about non-chemical methods of pest control such as infrared lights, ultrasonic sounds, and ladybugs.

In addition there are also frequent photo essays and what not that I find a lot of pleasure in. Typically the magazine has outstanding production values through out, from choice of typeface to page design, but these sections are where they really go all out to make a beautiful presentation. It's hard to beat nature photography and a recent feature on insects called "Supermodels with Six Legs" is a perfect example of what I'm talking about. There is a photo of a butterfly that gets its iridescent blue color not from pigment but from scales on its wings that reflect only blue light.

The thing I like most about Smithsonian is that it is imminently re-readable. It contains enough technical information that I'm unlikely to absorb it all. Consequently, if I pick up this months's issue next year, I'll probably enjoy most of it all over again.

This is one of the few magazines that I actually save. I have every issue going back eight years and I've moved during that period. Anything that stays with me through packing and unpacking is a member of the family. I highly recommend a subscription to Smithsonian as a gift for family members. It is full of eclectic articles and gorgeous photography. Smithsonian doesn't always fascinate me, but it always interests me.


Conduit of the Wonders that make life worth living

So my subscription started a couple years ago, when upon spending a summer in the capital, (as a Whitehouse intern of all things), I had the immense guilty pleasure of spending hours in the Smithsonian museums, from the standards like American History and Air and Space, to the more obscure ones like National Building Museum, and the Newseum (that last one is not part of the smithsonian, but this small one across the bridge in virginia was my favorite by far, so I thought I should plug it).

The pleasure came from having access to a world of knowledge that just blows the mind. The guilt comes with pride of being in a country that provides this for free. I spent the summer before in Paris, where access to their treasures came at significant price (unless you knew the tricks, but that's again beside the point).

So I became a member, to thank the Smithsonian for their wonderful the museums. The magazine was a wonderful surprise.

In it, I found the same love of knowledge. The same delight in the little things that make the world such a great place to live. And it comes every month to my door step.

With reporting on the same multitudes of topics that you find in the museums, it is always a pleasure to read. It goes out of its way to find the quirky and the eccentric that other news sources would not pick up on, from the sheer linguphilia of a.w.a.d (a word a day), to the creation of a 20th century illuminated bible, to the latest advances in physics, to the great american side-show from small-town USA.

The Smithsonian Magazine constantly fascinates and informs and delights. It is something I eagerly look forward to each month.

(It also happens to be one of the visually stunningly beautiful magazines I subscribe to, or even see. It easily gives National geographic a run for its money.)


A nice little gem of a magazine

The Smithsonian magazine does a few things. One, it contains many features, similar to National Geographic, about our world, the environment, people, places, and events (both current and historical). Yet, the Smithsonian goes beyond that. A part of the Smithsonian's charm is that many of the features in the magazine could also easily be features in the Smithsonian museums and in fact some are related to the exhibits (see below). The magazine is published monthly and I await each issue eagerly. Being a teacher I also find that it is handy to use in the classroom. Students can easily read up on new developments, see some gorgeous pictures and hopefully learn something in the process. The February 2008 (most recent) issue has such features as the Parthenon, finding lost World War II art, and an article on the African-American history inaugural exhibition. This is one particular issue that I will use in my classrooms again and again.

The Smithsonian is printed in the standard magazine size (8 1/2 x 11) and format. Each issue is just over 100 pages in length with a good mixture of main articles, editorial, letters to the editor, and small feature-ettes. Since this was a gift subscription I am unsure of the cost and there is not a cover price printed on the front. For people looking to an alternative to the National Geographic magazine or as a supplement to that, look towards the Smithsonian. It is a nice little gem in a market that many don’t look to beyond the small yellow magazine. This was given to me as a gift and I would gladly keep the subscription going for a long time to come.


From our Nation's Capital...

For an all-around informative and interesting magazine, Smithsonian is one of the best you'll find. Often times it is classified as a "general interest," magazine, leading some to think it's probably boring or has no theme. It's only general because it covers so much, you just can't put neatly into one category. Americana probably describes it best, since it is the magazine of America's premier museum, the Smithsonian Institute, and also tells stories that make America, America.

The magazine usually covers art, history, people, and events. In keeping up with our rapid approach to the 21st century it keeps up with the times by covering an occasional environmental success/failure story. It features story about technology and how it affects our day-to-day lives. Sports, nature, cities, have all been covered. There are profiles of artists, writers, and performers of the past. There is a book review section and a schedule of Smithsonian's exhibits. One of my favorite sections is "The Object at Hand," which features some curiosity or ordinary thing. A couple of recent examples featured such diverse subjects as brazil nuts and lighthouse lenses. Some other recent stories that I enjoyed include: the history of salt, the story of Pocahontas, time pieces, the power of turquoise, checkers players, tracking a hurricane, the piranha, and the dairy industry. You can see that a wide variety of subjects are covered.

This is not a news magazine. It has no political agenda. It is fun, it is educational, it is entertaining. You will learn something you never knew you wanted to know.


Like a mini-museum.

I love Smithsonian magazine. Every issue is guaranteed to include at least one article that I will find interesting, and usually many more than that. Because this is the SMITHSONIAN magazine, it is much like the Institution that publishes it.

All topics are covered with the same care and there are humorous as well as serious articles. I've read about clocks and watches, Swiss Army Knives, painters and photographers, countless products, inventors, designers, and other notable people, places and, yes, things. There is always something for anybody in each issue and it is an excellent family magazine.

One thing that will appeal to kids is the fact that they do cover light hearted topics and many of the articles are 4 - 5 pages, in addition to the longer more in-depth essays. The articles are educational as well as being entertaining, and it's a good way to get started learning about some topic, without getting too much info at one time. The reader gets a taste of many different topics.

It has the one problem that so many magazines have and which we all just have to accept. To many of those little subscription cards sticking out between the pages that make it hard to just flip through. The pages always fall open to those little cards. Still, that's not much of a problem and more than compensated for by the rest of the magazine.


Big, Glossy & Great

I'm a sucker for the big glossy magazines I grew up with, like Life, National Geographic and Smithsonian. You know, the kind you never throw away and make a library out of. These are more like books than magazines.

I originally ordered it for my daughter hoping to get her interested in a variety of topics, but I think I'm the one who reads and re-reads it the most. I have quite a collection of them, and many times return to the pile, as they are an excellent resource material. And yes, my daughter does on occasion use information in for them for school projects.

These magazines are always fresh with new ideas, new discoveries and re-investigations of old ideas. They have a host of people who contribute to this magazine, and the perspective of the subjects changes from month to month. The topics are far ranging, from archeology, science, gemology, nature, space, history and people. I especially like the articles on Smithsonian history and current exhibit write ups. I can hardly wait to get to the "Castle" to see some of these wonderful things myself.


Brain Food

In every issue of the Smithsonian the reader is taken on different journeys to all the corners of this wonderful world we live in, introduced to cultures, both primitive and modern, whether it be life as a human, animal or plant. The readers brain is fed interesting and informative data and may even spark an interest in learning more on the subjects introduced.

This magazine is a must have for all coffee tables, medical offices or road trip goodie bags.

I'm sure that in time, I will have a room full of Smithsonian magazines to be used for reference material, dreaming of journeys to far away places, imagining myself as royalty or a famous botanist or showing my future grandchildren all the exciting wonders of this world.