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Beth Py-Lieberman for “The Object at Hand”

October 4 @ 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm


About the Book:

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. 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 Henrietta Lacks

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.

About the Author:

Beth Py-Lieberman is Senior Museums Editor at the award-winning Smithsonian magazine, where as a thirty-six year veteran, she has frequented the halls and galleries of the Smithsonian museums, educating readers on its history, art and science collections and exhibitions. Py-Lieberman is also the editor of the “At the Smithsonian” section of Smithsonian magazine. Founded in 1970, Smithsonian magazine entertains a national audience with its stellar photography and storytelling, as part of the Smithsonian Institution’s mission to “increase and diffuse knowledge.” The magazine’s print and digital audiences number more than 120 million, curious minds looking to better understand the world and its history, science, arts and culture.

This event will be in person.


October 4
5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Event Category:


People’s Book
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People’s Book
7014-A Westmoreland Ave.
Takoma Park, MD 20912 United States
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