Stories From The Vaults is a humorous and peculiar series of 30-minute shows that feature a behind the scenes look at the Smithsonian Institution's museum complex. Hosted by actor Tom Cavanagh (Ed, Eli Stone), it is produced by Caragol Wells Productions. It showcases the Smithsonian's rarest treasures and features experts who meet with Cavanagh. The series premiered on Saturday, September 1, 2007 on Smithsonian Networks. Season one had seven episodes.
The Smithsonian was founded by a donation by a British scientist named James Smithson more than 150 years ago. It was founded for the "increase and diffusion" of knowledge among men. It was a hybrid public/private partnership that was signed into law on August 10, 1846.
While the vast majority of the collections in the Smithsonian have never been publicly displayed to the public, this series tries to uncover some of these treasures in order to share them with viewers.
Episode 1, "Famous Donors" explores a few of the 50,000 thousand objects that come in to the collection each year. In this episode you will see items that were donated by Teddy Roosevelt (animal), John Steinbeck (marine life), and Phyllis Diller (jokes).
Episode 2, "Superlatives" looks at what it takes to stand out in a collection that is in excess of 151 million objects. Here we look at "The Most Misunderstood," "The Best," and "The Tiniest".
Episode 3, "No Place Like Home" recounts that while the Smithsonian is the home for the collective memory of the nation, it also contains information on the homes that have been invented by everything from humans to insects, from spacesuits to roundworms.
Episode 4, "Beauty" may only be skin deep, but it has a lot to reveal about what we call beautiful. In this episode we will see from three viewpoints the beauty of orchids, advertising, and ants.
Episode 5, "Firsts" takes a look at what is meant as number one. From commercial aviation through the cockpit of a jet, to the legacy and light bulbs of Thomas Edison, and the pre-history of the video game revolution, you will see what it takes to be first.
Episode 6, "Life after Death" examines that while life and death both have a place at the Smithsonian, what exactly is the difference between the two. It is a mystery in both art and religion and the researchers take on this subject.