FAQs

Find answers to general questions about the National Museum of American History below. For more specific areas of interest, please see aditional topics listed to the right.

General Questions

Can I use an image from your Web site for a school project or other personal use?

Generally, permission is not required for personal, non-commercial, user, such as a personal Web site or school project. Appropriate credit to the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution should appear with the image. Images on our site which are credited to another person or organization may not be used without that party’s permission.

How do I get rights to use a Smithsonian image for a book or for other commercial purposes?

Anyone wishing to use any text or images for commercial use, publication, or any purpose other than fair use as defined by law, must request and receive prior written permission from the Smithsonian Institution. Read more about Smithsonian copyright and image use.

I would like to know how much an artifact is worth. Can the Museum provide appraisals?

It is against Smithsonian policy to place value on objects. If you are interested in having an item appraised, we recommend you contact the Appraisers Society of America at 703-478-2228. See here for more information.

I have an artifact that I want to know more about, or find out how to properly take care of it. Where can I find more information?

The Smithsonian has posted Web pages with information and resources for identifying and caring for historical artifacts. Local and state historical societies, libraries, and professional appraisers are also good sources of information. Questions may also be directed to the appropriate curatorial division; however, due to the volume of inquiries, we cannot promise to answer all requests.

Someone from my family has donated an object to the Museum. Is it available for viewing?

The Museum is home to more than 3 million objects. The best way to find out if a particular object is available for viewing is to contact the Museum's Office of Curatorial Affairs by email.

Who should I contact about donating items to the Museum?

Please contact the Museum's Office of Curatorial Affairs by email to obtain the proper procedure for donating items to the Museum’s collections.

I need to research some historical facts for my homework assignment. Can you help?

The Museum does not have the resources to help with general historical research. We encourage you to make use of your local library or search reputable Web sites. Questions dealing with specific areas relevant to Museum research or staff expertise should be directed to the appropriate curatorial division or staff member.

What are the opportunities for research at the Museum?
  • Libraries: Research may be done in the National Museum of American History Branch Library and the Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology which are open to the public by appointment only. Please call the Library's staff to schedule an appointment. National Museum of American History Branch Library: 202-633-3865; Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology: 202-633-3872
  • Artifact Collections: Access to collection materials generally requires making a research appointment with the appropriate curatorial division.
  • Archives Center: Researchers are invited to make an appointment and consult with a reference specialist in the Archives Center.
  • Fellowships: Fellowships at the Smithsonian Institution provide students and scholars with opportunities to pursue independent research projects in association with members of the Smithsonian professional research staff. More information.
How can I purchase Museum merchandise?

You can purchase merchandise at three stores in our museum. The mall museum store, on the second floor, stocks the “best of” the Museum’s collection of merchandise. The main museum store is centrally located on the first floor. The Price of Freedom store, on the third floor, carries a large selection of military-themed merchandise. You can also shop for selected merchandise online at www.smithsonianstore.com.

May I create a link to your site?

We welcome and encourage any links to the National Museum of American History Web site. However, use of Smithsonian logos or images as link buttons is not permitted.

Something on the Web site isn’t working or I’ve found a broken link. How can I let someone know?

Please use the comment form to notify the Webmaster. We appreciate your feedback!

Who designed your Web site?

The National Museum of American History's main Web site was designed by Mediatrope in collaboration with Museum staff.

What is the Kenneth E. Behring Center? Who is Mr. Behring, and why is the Center named after him?

California philanthropist Kenneth E. Behring made the largest single gift to the Smithsonian Institution in the fall of 2000, donating $20 million to the National Museum of Natural History and $80 million to the National Museum of American History for a total of $100 million. In recognition of this gift, the building that houses the National Museum of American History was designated as the "Kenneth E. Behring Center." The name of the Museum has not changed.

How large is the Museum?

The Museum contains 300,000 square feet of exhibition, programming and public space. Office and other non-public spaces are not included in this figure.

Why are certain popular culture objects no longer on exhibition?

With limited space and a need to conserve objects, curators and Museum executives often make decisions to remove objects, which were once on exhibit.  Lighting, humidity and many other factors may cause objects overtime to become exposed to irreversible damage.  This precaution allows the objects to last for future generations viewing pleasure.  Many objects will rotate in and out of exhibition, so always check our Web site or contact the Museum's Office of Curatorial Affairs by email for details.

This blog post provides additional explanation about why exhibitions don't last forever.

How long should I plan for my visit to the Museum?

It is difficult to say how much time it would take to visit any of the Smithsonian museums.  So much depends on the age and interests of those in your group.   We recommend that you review our list of exhibitions and our list of events to get a sense of the kinds of activities you’d like to participate in during your visit.  You may also wish to sign up for our free email newsletter for the latest information.

I am interested in becoming an exhibition designer. What should I do?

Exhibit designers have typically entered the field from a myriad of disciplines--industrial design, interior design, graphic design, and architectural design being the most common. Currently there are graduate programs in the field of museum exhibition planning and design. There are undergraduate programs that allow students to concentrate their studies in exhibit design.  A good Web site to begin your search on is run by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos090.htm. It gives a good overview of the design profession in general and you can click on FAQs for students and parents to get information on lists of accredited art and design colleges. You should also check out the professional organizations that designers and museum professionals belong to: http://www.aam-us.org, http://www.idsa.org/, http://www.segd.org/, to name a few.

I will be coming straight from the airport. Are there lockers or some way to store my bag while I visit the Museum?

The Museum has a limited number of lockers available. The dimensions are:

Small- Height 16", Width of door 8.5", Width of interior 12", Depth 16"
Medium- Height 22", Width of door 8.5", Width of interior 12", Depth 16"
Large- Height 34", Width of door 8.5", Width of interior 12", Depth 16"
 
Due to the narrow width of our lockers, carry-on suitcases most likely will not fit into even the largest lockers. There is no other facility for checking bags.
Is internet access available for visitors in the Museum?

Free WiFi access is available in the Constitution Cafe (first floor) and the Stars and Stripes Cafe (lower level).

Can I hold my wedding at the Museum?

No. Social events of a personal nature (weddings, birthdays, bar mitzvahs) at not permitted at the Smithsonian. 

Learn more about Special Events that are permitted at the Museum. 

National Mall locations where weddings are permitted can be found on the National Park Service permits page