The Smithsonian Archives has a new YouTube playlist featuring educational videos created by the Science Media Group, a collaboration between the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the Harvard College Observatory from 1989 to 2013. A main focus of the Science Media Group was creating materials to help educators in the classroom. Consequently, there are many unique videos related to science education, astronomy, information science, and more. In this playlist, you will be able to see many videos from the collection that have been made available to the public for the first time.
These videos are interesting and useful for several reasons. They exemplify what kinds of content the Smithsonian Institution Archives preserves; demonstrate how technology, culture and knowledge have changed; are helpful for research; and finally—are just fun to watch!
Why does the Smithsonian Archives preserve these videos? For one thing, they are a part of the Smithsonian Institution’s history. The mission of the Smithsonian is “the increase and diffusion of knowledge” and this collection shows how the Smithsonian has used its resources and partnerships to benefit teachers and children in the classroom and beyond.
Another reason to preserve the videos is because they contain valuable historical information in their content and the way they were made. Technology has progressed so quickly that the software, equipment, and knowledge used to make these videos has changed drastically. In some cases, we may not have the software or equipment to play some of these videos, so it is critical to understand how they were made and update them to a more sustainable format so they can be preserved into the future.
The Science Media Group contributed to a project called Visions of the Universe: Four Centuries of Discovery. This was an educational program that was the result of a collaboration between the Space Telescope Science Institute, the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, and the American Library Association, created with funding from NASA. It was originally a traveling exhibit that went to many libraries that had limited access to NASA resources across the U.S. The Science Media Group created video interviews with astronomers that could be used by educators and libraries. In the videos, astronomers talked about the projects they were working on and how they became interested in astronomy. These interviews also included still images and animations. The creators used animations to demonstrate the work astronomers were doing and the concepts they were talking about. The following animation from Visions of the Universe (2008) is related to the Chandra x-ray telescope and shows two galaxies colliding and merging.
Another project the Science Media Group collaborated on was MOSART. The Misconceptions-Oriented Standards-based Assessment Resources for Teachers website was created to help educators understand and evaluate students’ misconceptions about science and how to overcome them. The following video is from the MOSART series and demonstrates a simple, but common, misunderstanding about electricity. Do you know how to light up a light bulb using a bulb, a battery, and wire?
Subscribe to the Smithsonian Institution Archives YouTube channel to see the work of the Science Media Group. Look for relationships to what is going on in the world today and how things have changed, and get inspiration for your own research and projects.
- Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. Science Media Group Productions, 2008-2013, Acc. 17-205, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- "Archiving Born-Digital Media from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory" by Julie Goforth, The Bigger Picture, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Preservation Startegies for Born Digital Materials, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- "Born Digital Collections Holdings Survey, Smithsonian Institution Archives