Most of us know about the famous Smithsonian Institution, which includes a collection of 19 museums and galleries, most in the DC area, that house countless artifacts from American and world history. But did you know the Smithsonian also has a renowned education program? In 2015, the Smithsonian Associates celebrates 50 years of successful educational programming.

The Smithsonian Associates offers museum-based education on a wide range of topics that match the diverse collection of the museums. Their adult education center hosts evening courses taught by experts. The numerous upcoming events include a performance of English music from Shakespearean times and a course about the Italian region of Le Marche. For children of various grade levels, there are also weeklong summer camps that include educational lessons and visits to Smithsonian museums. For example, students from grades 5–7 who participate in the Playing with Printmaking program will visit the Smithsonian American Art Museum and US Botanic Garden. The Smithsonian Associates also hosts studio art classes, film screenings and guided conversations with fascinating people—from actors to politicians. They even partner with George Mason University to provide a master of arts in the History of Decorative Arts with “behind-the-scenes access” to the museums.

For their 50th year, the Smithsonian Associates are rolling out even more interesting and new programming. In January, they launched a new World Art History Certificate Program, in which students benefit from the Smithsonian’s diverse art collections as they take a personalized course load at their own pace. Also introduced was Smithsonian NewsFlash, a series of expert speakers who provide “context and insight on breaking news.” The topics are announced up to three days before an event, ensuring that the talks are timely and relevant. Some topics so far have been Cuba, the Future of Putin’s Russia and the Economics of Higher Education.

In addition to launching exciting new programs, in February, the Smithsonian Associates hosted a sold-out event featuring Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia, known for their friendship despite ideological differences on the bench. The event was moderated by NPR correspondent Nina Totenberg and included discussion about the two justices’ differences in constitutional interpretation. It is just one example of the educational cultural events hosted by the Smithsonian Associates.

As we approach the midway mark of the Smithsonian Associates’ 50th year, it’s clear that it will continue to provide enriching, timely programming that makes the Smithsonian’s vast collections accessible to people of all ages.

Did You Know?

The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, located in Manhattan, reopened in December 2014 after three years of being closed for renovation. Visiting the revamped museum is an interactive experience that includes provided stylus pens that allow visitors to save information to their personal museum collection as well as interact with touchscreen tables that can project digital images for a visitor’s perusal.