The National Museum of American History displays three centuries of the nation's history and offers many options for reception and dinner sites throughout the Museum. Although food and beverages are restricted to non-exhibition spaces, exhibitions are chosen to customize each event to guests’ interests.
Popular Exhibitions and Event Spaces
America on the Move
The America on the Move exhibition takes visitors on a journey though the history of the United States—a history shaped by transportation. The exhibition uses multimedia technology and historical artifacts to create period settings around times and places where transportation changed American lives and landscapes. Visitors will be transported back in time and immersed in the sights, sounds and sensations of transportation in the U.S. from 1876 to 1999. Among the 300 objects in the 26,000-square-foot show are a 1950s Chicago Transit Authority mass transit car, the 260-ton, 90-foot-long "1401" locomotive and a 1903 Winton, the first car driven across the United States.
The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden
The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden exhibition explores the personal, public, ceremonial, and executive actions of the 42 men who have had a huge impact on the course of history in the past 200 years. More than 900 objects, including national treasures from the Smithsonian’s vast presidential collections such as Thomas Jefferson's writing desk, bring to life the role of the presidency in American culture. The visitor discovers the nation’s highest office through eleven sections, a timeline, and media presentations.
American Stories features an engaging mix of the famous, the familiar, and the unexpected from across the museum’s vast holdings. Joining Dorothy’s ruby slippers will be the rarely seen walking stick used by Benjamin Franklin, a sunstone capital from the Mormon temple at Navoo, Illinois, Lincoln’s gold pocket watch, Archie Bunker’s Chair, Mohamed Ali’s boxing gloves, a fragment of Plymouth rock, and Kermit the Frog.
Changing America: The Emancipation Proclamation, 1863 and the March on Washington, 1963
(Opening December 14, 2012)
In 2013 the country will commemorate two events that changed the course of the nation – the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation and the 1963 March on Washington. Standing as milestone moments in the grand sweep of American history, these achievements were the culmination of decades of struggles by individuals – both famous and unknown – who believed in the American promise that this nation was dedicated to the proposition that "all men are created equal." Separated by 100 years, they are linked together in a larger story of freedom and the American experience. To commemorate these two pivotal achievements, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in collaboration with the National Museum of American History will present an exhibition that explores the historical context of these two crucial events, their accomplishments and limitations, and their impact on the generations that followed.
The First Ladies
The First Ladies explores the unofficial but important position of first lady and the ways that different women have shaped the role to make their own contributions to the presidential administrations and the nation. The exhibition features a large display of china and more than two dozen gowns from the collection, including those worn by Frances Cleveland, Lou Hoover, Jacqueline Kennedy, Laura Bush, and Michelle Obama. For nearly a century, the First Ladies Collection has been one of the most popular attractions at the Smithsonian Institution.
Flag Hall, which is located at the entrance to the Star-Spangled Banner Gallery, showcases a unique abstract flag that shimmers wonderfully when lit and provides an excellent backdrop for speakers, bands, DJs, etc. This space is a frequent site for receptions and seated dinners.
FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950 – 2000
(Opening on November 20, 2012)
FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000 explores some of the major changes in food and wine in postwar America. From the impact of innovations and new technologies, to the influence of social and cultural shifts, the exhibition considers how these factors helped transform food and its production, preparation, and consumption, as well as what we know (or think we know) about what’s good for us. The exhibition features one of the Smithsonian’s most popular artifacts—Julia Child’s kitchen from her Cambridge, Massachusetts home. This is the kitchen where Child, the legendary cookbook author and first star of food TV, cooked for her family and friends, as well as for millions of viewers who tuned in to her three cooking shows that were taped in the kitchen in the 1990s. The exhibition will place Julia Child’s kitchen within the context of the last half of the 20th century, blending her impact on American culinary history with other significant strands of food history.
Presidential Reception Suite
The Presidential Reception Suite is available for daytime and evening events. This space can accommodate up to 90 guests for a standing reception or 70 guests for a seated lunch or dinner. It serves as the Museum’s VIP area and has been used for numerous events for celebrities including the most recent Presidents and Vice-Presidents.
Price of Freedom
The Price of Freedom: Americans at War exhibition surveys the military history of the United States, exploring ways that wars have been defining episodes in American history. Using more than 800 original artifacts, first person accounts, graphic images and interactive stations, the exhibition tells compelling stories of how Americans have fought to establish the nation's independence, determine its borders, shape its values of freedom and opportunity, and define its leading role in world affairs. The exhibition features one of the few Revolutionary War uniforms in existence; a restored Huey Helicopter, an icon of the Vietnam War; and the uniform worn by Colin Powell during Operation Desert Storm.
The Museum’s Rooftop Terrace has a fabulous view stretching from the Capitol to beyond the Lincoln Memorial and is available for evening events with up to 350 guests.
Tis the Star-Spangled Banner, o long may it wave, o’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.
Francis Scott Key wrote these inspiring words on September 14, 1814 when he saw the United States flag still flying over Fort McHenry after the British bombardment of Baltimore, Maryland. His poem, which became the country’s national anthem, changed the way Americans looked at their flag and the Star-Spangled Banner has become one of the most important symbols of American patriotism.
Within these Walls
Within These Walls tells the history of the house that stood at 16 Elm Street in Ipswich, Massachusetts, and five of the many families who occupied it from the mid-1760s through 1945. Through this history, the exhibition explores some of the important ways ordinary people, in their daily lives, have been part of the great changes and events in American history. Within the house from Ipswich, American colonists created new ways of living, patriots sparked a revolution, an African-American struggled for freedom, community activists organized to end slavery, immigrants built new identities for themselves, and a grandmother and her grandson served on the home front during World War II.