Panama at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C.

The Smithsonian in Washington D.C. has held this year 22 different events including concerts, festivals and conferences honoring the long relationship between the institution and the Republic of Panama through the program “Panama at the Smithsonian”.

The Panama Passages exhibit, housed in the Ripley Center and designed to showcase the natural, cultural and political history of Panama is the highlight of this program and will be

National Bird of Panama: The Harpy Eagle

National Bird of Panama: The Harpy Eagle

on display until May 2010.  The exhibit attempts to provide a different picture of Panama by chronicling its natural history and its cultural diversity as reflected throughout its history as a path between the seas.  The exhibit contains original documents, maps, images and screens with audiovisual material.  95% of the material in the exhibit was supplied by the “Museo Interoceanico del Canal” in Panama City.  So this museum is well worth visiting when you are in Panama City.

The exhibit seems to do a wonderful job of showing Panama’s very diverse and quite particular history.  On display are Pre-Columbian pieces, original stamps and correspondence from the French Canal times, objects from the times of the Canal construction both the French attempt and the American construction as well as photos and images of daily life in the Canal Zone.  It does not omit the Noriega times nor the US invasion of Panama.

The exhibit as a whole provides a wealth of information and images for the viewer to get sense of Panamanian history and culture and maybe of Panamanians themselves.  The curator of the exhibit, historian Aims McGuiness, says that its goal is to generate a new vision of the Republic of Panama.   Maybe it will help visitors see Panama as a country with its own history and identity born of this history.

Should you not be able to visit the exhibit in person a view of it is available on-line at http://latino.si.edu.  It should not be missed by Panamanians or visitors alike.

It is quite fitting that this type of exhibit be hosted by the Smithsonian as the relationship between Panama and the Smithsonian is quite long and successful.  The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, a bureau of the Smithsonian Institution is dedicated to understanding biological diversity.  It has been established in Panama since 1923 and is now one of the leading research institutions of the world.

For more info on Panama:  PanamaQmagazine

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