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.
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It is against Smithsonian policy to provide appraisal or valuation services. If you are interested in having an item appraised, we recommend you contact the American Society of Appaisers.
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.
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 websites. Questions dealing with specific areas relevant to Museum research or staff expertise should be directed to the appropriate curatorial division or staff member.
- 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.
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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.
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.
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 to become exposed to irreversible damage over time. This precaution allows the objects to last for future generations. Many objects will rotate in and out of exhibition, so always check our website or contact the Museum's Office of Curatorial Affairs by email for details.
This blog post provides additional explanation and a case study.
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 daily event calendar 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.
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. 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.
The Museum has a limited number of lockers available. The dimensions are:
Free Wi-Fi access is available throughout most public areas of the museum. Look for the 'si-visitor' network.