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This building opened to much fanfare 50 years ago as the Smithsonian's Museum of History and Technology (MHT). The Washington Evening Star praised the new museum as a “Palace of Progress.” At the opening ceremony on January 22, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson charged “every doubter who hesitates before the onrush of tomorrow" to "spend some time in this great Museum.”

Emerging from the enthusiasm of the 20th-Century Modern Movement and affirming a deep faith in technology as the basis for societal progress, the Museum was the first modern building on the National Mall. The “Big Marble Shrine,” as it was labeled, became the premier venue for bringing “the history and technology of a Nation” to the American people.

The Museum’s name was changed in 1980 to the National Museum of American History (NMAH), but its founding ideals—modernism, optimism, and reflection—continue to resonate in the 21st century.

This exhibition is dedicated to the memory of Benjamin W. Lawless and Frank A. Taylor.

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