Only a few days after the passing of James Cotton, one of the country's greatest blues harmonica players, we lost one of our greatest...
Phyllis Diller is widely considered the first female stand-up comic to perform as a solo act. While she is mainly known for her career in...
We asked Eric Jentsch, deputy chair and curator in our Division of Culture and the Arts, for his NCAA bracket picks. Then he disappeared...

Blog

A saucer with geometric patterns and shades of blue, green, and red. There is a prominent lotus decoration.
An encounter with ancient Egypt touches most of us at some point in our lives and leaves few of us unmoved by its remarkable culture. The...
Beer bug with a chubby middle and large handle. It is brown/tan in color. In white, an Aztec head illustration/cartoon and block letters K C O R.
Embarking on a research trip is always an exciting time for a historian, but this trip is especially important to me because it's the...
A red object that looks like a bobsled with a ski attached to the bottom and two arm braces on the sides
One of the best parts of my job as a curator at the museum is to develop exhibitions. To come up with an idea, collect objects, and write...
A woman in a historical outfit (high collared white shirt with elbow-length sleeves, long burgundy skirt, boater hat) and a bike speaks to two museum visitors
For nearly a decade, the museum has used theater as a means of enlivening the visitor experience and engaging the public in dialogue on...
A work of art portraying a face in the fore and a red and black design in the back.
Did you ever cut a linoleum block in art class? While rolls of linoleum were used for floor covering from the 1860s, artists only began to...
A piece of light colored paper. At the top reads PI = 3.* in typewriter typeface. Below are blocks of numbers sorted into rectangles in rows
Many Americans write dates in numerical form, with the first digits for the month, the second for the day of the month, and the third for...
Black and white photo of man laying face-down on medical instrument
Imagine walking into your doctor's office for your diagnostic ultrasound for ovarian screening, rounding the corner to the procedure...
Young woman with curly red hair and a blue button-down shirt smiles, posing beside a filing cabinet, which is beige with white labels and metal handles.
This is the second post in the series. If you missed the previous post introducing the large file in which comedian Phyllis Diller...
A view of a brown filing cabinet. One drawer is pulled out slightly with the label "Phyllis Diller" and a small metal handle with an ID card stuck inside. A small note card with typed script is pulled out slightly.
"You talk about making waves—did you ever get hiccups in a waterbed?"Phyllis Diller kept Americans in stitches throughout...
The tails side of a standard quarter. It is a Puerto Rico quarter, with a bay and flowers and the year 2009
What do Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, legendary baseball player Roberto Clemente, salsa icon Tito Puente, actor Raúl Juliá, and...
A playing card on which a man wearing boxing clubs in a fighting stance stands against a green background made to look like a large hall with many seated people
In 1908, Texan Jack Johnson (1878–1946) defeated Canadian Tommy Burns to become the first African American world heavyweight boxing...
Still from a black and white movie. Movie poster in background. A young, nicely dressed African American woman and man stand together, smiling.
The Reverend Harold Mose Anderson was always fascinated by the movies. Anderson saved his money and bought a home movie camera from a...
(Detail image) Black and white photo of an African American man in military uniform. His arms are gently crossed, a watch o his wrist. His head is slightly tilted to the right, with a serious but gentle look on his face. The uniform has pockets, buttons, and a fairly high collar.
Offered in celebration of Black History Month and in recognition of the 100th anniversary of America's participation in World War I, the...
During the "Innovative Lives" event, curator Peter Liebhold (left) interviewed scientists Mary-Dell Chilton (center) and Robert Fraley (right).
The fall of 2016 was an important milestone in the history of agriculture—the 20-year anniversary of the first large-scale harvest of a...
A wooden box filled with various tools that include blades and scissors
A 19th-century medical student brought to school a number of things, including scientific texts and a hope to one day relieve the suffering...
Black and white posed photo of women, each with their hair piled on top of their head and high-collared blouses.
On February 13, women everywhere (we hope!) will be gathering together to celebrate Galentine's Day. First introduced in 2010 by character...
black metal device that looks like a typewriter. All the keys, however, have numbers on them and they are yellow, green, and red.
Over the past few months, I’ve read Margot Lee Shetterly’s book Hidden Figures and seen the movie with the same title. These...
Photo of a large space with high ceilings. Tables in the center include space for inventing. Cabinets on both sides contain cases with museum objects, including what looks like a guitar. Above, in lights, is a sign that says "Spark Lab."
Around age eight I decided I wanted to play the violin. Fortunately, my parents had the access and money to buy a new instrument for me....
A black patch with a white helmet sewn on the front
As a kid, Leonard W. Miller secretly tinkered with his parents' car for almost a year before they noticed he'd been replacing parts under...
A color portrait of a woman in a coral shirt and dark blazer. She sits outside.
Last summer, the National Museum of American History announced that we were hiring a brewing historian to join the team working...
A journal with yellowed pages and dark cursive script laying open. There is a small sandbag next to it.
Thanks to the help of online volunteers, the Smithsonian Transcription Center has completed a project to transcribe the second volume of...
A coin with two bearded men on it along with text and a small cross
I have never seen my father's chin. The man has worn a beard since well before I was born, and my brother quickly followed in his tradition...
Card from from the show "The West Wing." Presidential Seal and blue border.
As the fanfare leading up to the 2017 inauguration swirls around the Smithsonian and Washington, D.C., at large, I cannot help but think...
Three gold coins on a black surface. The are bright and shiny. Two are heads up showing a woman wearing a crown with stars ringing the border of the coin and "1959." One is the same with "1960" as the year listed. The third coin is tails-up and says "Nation of Celestial Space 1 Gold Celestron" with some laurel leaves
Have you ever looked up at the night sky and wondered, "Who owns all of that?" Well, that's exactly what James Thomas Mangan did. He even...
I'm a native New Englander. Sometimes I feel like I've been to Boston more times than Samuel Adams. When one grows up in New England, it is...
A red program for an inauguration with the statue of liberty and a golden star in the center
On January 20, when he delivers the 58th inaugural address, Donald Trump will join a long line of orators inspired by George Washington....
Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald sit in front of a microphone
Within the Ella Fitzgerald Papers collection, a hidden gem reveals a surprising connection between Fitzgerald and President John F. Kennedy...
Old photograph of a group of people. Several women are dressed up and one is very, very tall
Irene Siewert was born in a small town in Alberta, Canada, in 1925. Siewert looked just like any other little girl until she hit 13, when...
Black and white illustration on beige paper, showing portrait of man wearing suit and black tie with mustache and a stern/serious face. He is partially bald.
The 2016 presidential election brought renewed discussion about the way Americans vote for presidential electors, those who will then cast...
White button features a drawing of two students sitting next to each, one turns to the other and says "May 17th!." Around the button's border the text reads: "Keep the Buses Rolling...March on Boston."
On September 9, 1974, over 4,000 white demonstrators rallied at Boston Common to protest the start of court-ordered school desegregation in...
This October 9, 1944, advertisement for Whitman's chocolate boxes shows a woman embracing a soldier in uniform kissing her cheek. On the bottom right is a box of Whitman’s Chocolate Sampler. The bold font reads, “A WOMAN NEVER FORGETS THE MAN WHO REMEMBERS,” and, “BUY MORE WAR BONDS.” In fine print below the box of chocolates reads, “If you can’t always get your favorite Sampler, remember it’s because millions of pounds of Whitman’s Chocolates are going to all our fighting fronts.”
Our blog covered a cornucopia of food history topics in 2016, but a few dishes rose to the top. Here are ten of our most-read blog posts of...
Detail: Postcard with photo of two young children wearing ballet shoes. Little boy holds top hat in his raised hand and an over-sized coat. The little girl strikes a pose with a fancy fan and wears a full-skirted tea length dress and a hat with many bows.
2016 was a stupendous year for the museum's blog! Many thanks to the staff, volunteers, interns, and guest writers who shared their...
Detail of image: Black and white snapshot. A woman sits in a chair, her legs crossed and her hands on knee. She smiles, eyes closed and mouth open to show her teeth. She wears a smart suit with white collar. The man balances on one of the arms of the chair, gesturing toward her, also with a smile. He wears a suit and black/white shoes.
What does a world-famous musician put under the tree for the woman he loves . . . when he happens to be married to someone else?In the case...
A silver coin with a woman's likeness on the front. Reads "Liberty" at the top and "1979"
Recently there has been a significant debate about how and where to feature a woman on United States currency. In April 2016, Secretary of...
Detail of card showing two stick figures. They sit at a table with serious-yet-not-unhappy expressions. Each rests his head on his hand.
A cheerful holiday greeting sent during the Great Depression? Isn't that somewhat contradictory? 1933 was a difficult year. Unemployment...
Detail of: "One Hundred Trillion Dollars" bank note from "Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe." It is blue, turquoise, and tan in color. The central image appears to be a mountain or rock outcropping made of three large stones. Palm trees and other vegetation appears tiny at its base. Geometric patterns are included in the bill, mostly triangles.
When my friend Trish got her first paycheck from her part-time job in high school, it was for $50,000. "It was enough to buy a pair of...
A portrait of a man sitting behind a curtain drawn partially back to show a church spire. His hair and moustache are unkempt and he looks directly at the viewer, his head seeming to hang low.
I was exploring storage one day with Larry Bird, emeritus curator in the museum's Division of Political History, when a very curious self-...
An award on a short wooden base of a young tiger with its paw on what appears to be a golf ball painted light blue with the world on it.
The Division of Culture and the Arts at the museum collects a wide variety of awards and trophies. We have iconic awards such as Oscars,...
Detail of: Bill with dark gray and blue and portrait of man set in oval
When we joined the museum's National Numismatic Collection team this summer to rehouse a collection of international banknotes, we expected...
A pin, presumably for a woman. There is a gold eagle perched on top with its wings outstretched. It stands on top of a red banner saying "Remember" which is over a blue banner that says "Harbor" Between the banners is a pearl.
December 7, 2016, marks the 75th anniversary of the bombing of the Pearl Harbor naval base by the Japanese Imperial Navy. In commemoration...
A photo from the museum of the installed portion of the counter from the Greensboro diner. It includes the countertop, four chairs, and part of the back wall with a mirror on it.
We often remember the civil rights movement as a few iconic events that took place at famous landmarks—the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the...
A graphic, black and white illustration of a stylized man in a top hat and cane pointing to the word "REM" in the sky. It appears to be storming, as trees are blown sideways. It says "Cough?" in the upper lefthand corner
What does it take for an advertisement to capture the attention of a potential consumer?It takes aesthetically pleasing simplicity, vibrant...
Two men in dress uniform stride forward carrying flags, one for the army and one for the navy. The program says "Army-Navy" and "1941 Fifty Cents" on the cover
Growing up the child of a World War II Navy veteran who happened to love football, it was easy to know who to root for in the Army-Navy...
A cubed machine that is beige and brown in color. It has a switch near its base and a plug. Some features protrude from it, including a white piece on the top that has slats in it.
One of our favorite food history collecting trips over the last year started with a predicament we are all familiar with—the frustration of...
An old photograph in sepia tones showing a number of people sitting on stairs outside of a building. Some are women and some are men, many of whom are wearing uniforms.
Wolves, rattlesnakes, floods, fire, and stampedes—these are just some of the many dangers faced by women on the American frontier of the...
A black and white photograph of a man in a patterned jacket and wire-rimmed glasses hovering over a boy with an Afro. The man holds a pair of scissors and a wide-toothed comb over the boy's hair as he looks off.
This Thanksgiving, education specialist Ariel Gory reflects on an experience for which she is thankful: the opportunity to inspire future...
A pair of dark leather books that are higher than ankle-length. They lace up the front. They have seen wear, as some of the seams look worn and the soles look like they're coming apart. On the ground in front of the shoes is a notebook. It looks to be made of dark leather and has rings like a modern binder, with pages covered in dark cursive.
Update: Thanks to you, our Kickstarter campaign to "Keep Them Ruby" was a success and we have the support we need to conserve and display...
A pair of replica ruby slippers sit inside of a display case. They are positioned so that the toes are pointed slightly away from one another, and one of the shoes has its heel places on a small box covered in blue gingham wrapping paper.
 Update: Thanks to you, our Kickstarter campaign to "Keep Them Ruby" was a success and we have the support we need to conserve...

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