Collections by Subject

The diverse collections of the National Museum of American History reflect a wide variety of subjects relating to the history of the United States as well as the history of science, medicine, and technology. Select from the subject list below to learn more about the Museum's holdings and view selected objects. You can learn more about particular types of objects by browsing our Object Groups.

Subjects
Ivory Soap Ad

Advertising

Advertising is meant to persuade, and the themes and techniques of that persuasion reveal a part of the nation's history.

John Deere Model D Tractor

Agriculture

From butter churns to diesel tractors, the Museum's agricultural artifacts trace the story of Americans who work the land.

Panorama of the Army of the Cumberland

Art

The National Museum of American History is not an art museum. But works of art fill its collections and testify to the vital place of art in everyday American life.

Women's Gown (cheong sam) ca. 1930

Clothing & Accessories

Work, play, fashion, economic class, religious faith, even politics—all these aspects of American life and more are woven into clothing.

$100,000 U.S. Gold Certificate

Coins, Currency, and Medals

The Museum possesses one of the largest numismatic collections in the world.

WANN Microphone

Communications

Tools of communication have transformed American society time and again over the past two centuries. The Museum has preserved many instruments of these changes, from printing presses to personal digital assistants.

Apple II Personal Computer

Computers & Business Machines

The last few decades offer proof positive of why museums must collect continuously—to document technological and social transformations already underway.

Cleveland Many Peoples One Language Poster

Cultures & Communities

Furniture, cooking wares, clothing, works of art, and many other kinds of artifacts are part of what knit people into communities and cultures.

Tiffany Floor Lamp

Domestic Furnishings

Washboards, armchairs, lamps, and pots and pans may not seem to be museum pieces. But they are invaluable evidence of how most people lived day to day, last week or three centuries ago.

Gasoline Pump

Energy & Power

The Museum's collections on energy and power illuminate the role of fire, steam, wind, water, electricity, and the atom in the nation's history.

Engine Room From Coast Guard Buoy Tender Oak

Engineering, Building, and Architecture

The engineering artifacts document the history of civil and mechanical engineering in the United States.

Bennet Family Record

Family & Social Life

Donations to the Museum have preserved irreplaceable evidence about generations of ordinary Americans.

Photo of McCall's Cheese

Food

Part of a nation's history lies in what people eat. Artifacts at the Museum document the history of food in the United States from farm machinery to diet fads.

March on Washington Handbill

Government, Politics, and Reform

The roughly 100,000 objects in this collection reach beyond the possessions of statesmen to touch the broader political life of the nation—in election campaigns, the women's suffrage movement, labor activity, civil rights, and many other areas.

Iron Lung

Health & Medicine

The Museum's collections of medical science artifacts represent nearly all aspects of health and medical practice.

Eli Terry Mass-Produced Clock

Industry & Manufacturing

The Museum's collections document centuries of remarkable changes in products, manufacturing processes, and the role of industry in American life.

Vernier Compass

Measuring & Mapping

Where, how far, and how much? People have invented an astonishing array of devices to answer seemingly simple questions like these.

Frank Brownell's Medal of Honor

Military

The Museum's superb military collections document the history of the men and women of the armed forces of the United States.

Jesse Fuller's Silvertone Guitar

Music & Musical Instruments

The Museum's music collections contain more than 5,000 instruments of American and European heritage.

Lithograph of

Natural Resources

The natural resources collections offer centuries of evidence about how Americans have used the bounty of the American continent and coastal waters.

Leica 35mm Camera

Photography

The millions of photographs in the Museum's collections compose a vast mosaic of the nation's history.

Elvis Presley Record

Popular Entertainment

This Museum's popular entertainment collections hold some of the Smithsonian's most beloved artifacts, such as the ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz and the Muppet character Kermit the Frog,

Page from the Koran

Religion

One hallmark of the American experience captured in the Museum's collections is the nation's broad diversity of religious faiths.

Chemical Balance

Science & Mathematics

The Museum's collections hold thousands of objects related to chemistry, biology, physics, astronomy, and other sciences. The mathematics collection holds artifacts from slide rules and flash cards to code-breaking equipment.

Tennis Racket

Sports & Leisure

The nation's passion for sports is obvious every day—at NASCAR races, kiddie soccer matches, and countless other contests.

Coverlet

Textiles

The 50,000 objects in the textile collections fall into two main categories: raw fibers, yarns, and fabrics, and machines, tools, and other textile technology.

1955 Ford Country Squire

Transportation

Americans have always been a people on the move—on rails, roads, and waterways (for travel through the air, visit the National Air and Space Museum).

Gilbreth Stopwatch

Work

The tools, rules, and relationships of the workplace illustrate some of the enduring collaborations and conflicts in the everyday life of the nation.