is2daytuesday said: Hi, Smithsonian tumblr team; A distant, grainy/ low-def image of James Smithsonian standing in front of a gigantic black bird ('Thunderbird' exhibit) image pops up on tumblr now + then but the source doesn't seem exactly reputable (not posted by "official" Smithsonian tumblr). Just curious if this is an actual exhibit and if so, where, when, etc...? If you have info (or a link) it would be great. It's posted on tumblr byamericanwizarding. (can't include image in my Q). Thanks, tuesday
Hi there, Tuesday! Thanks for asking. We did some Googling and found the photo you were referring to. First things first: That couldn’t be a photo of James Smithson. He died in 1829. The first cameras weren’t practical or useful until a few decades later. The suit and tie combo also would have been extremely fashion forward for the time.
The “Thunderbird” is a legendary animal in cryptozoology like Big Foot or the Loch Ness Monster. Just to be sure (and much to their enjoyment) we checked with Smithsonian Archives and this photo is not form our collections. We also never had any exhibition featuring a large bird like this. We’re not sure of the photo’s origins or why it has been attributed to the Smithsonian.
We also checked out the tumblr you mentioned.
And while we know we don’t have to explain there’s no secret Institute of Magical Knowledge that houses wizardry artifacts here, we do have a connection to one of the most famous wizards in popular culture.
It is true that our founder James Smithson was the illegitimate son of the Duke of Northumberland (he was not a half-blooded wizard, however). The residence of the Duke of Northumberland is Alnwick Castle, which was used as the Hogwarts School in the Harry Potter movies (reference ).
Now excuse while we consult the Library of Forbidden Books and cast a forgetting spell on all who read this.
This reply is actually seriously amazing - even though it clears up the ill tagged image issue, we may elect to think of James Smithson as fashion-forward and time-traveling until proven otherwise.
*the more you know…*
Tumblr done right.
That picture, by the way, is of Dr. Kenneth E. Campbell, currently curator of birds at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, standing with a model of the fossilized Argentavis magnificens he found in 1980. A higher quality version of this image, not photochopped to be sepia tone, can be found in this pdf from the NHM, which also includes more information about this prehistoric giant bird.