Overview

“We base all our
experiments on the
capacity of mankind
for self government.”

JAMES MADISON
1776 

 
Democracy is still a work-in-progress, but one that is at the core of our nation’s political, economic, and social life. 
 
While no single exhibition can bear the full breadth of the topic of American democracy, visitors to the Museum’s 7,000-square-foot Hall of Democracy will leave with a powerful sense that America’s democratic ideals have long sustained and challenged our society and culture. 
 
The National Museum of American History will explore the democratic commitment that continues to shape the American nation in a new exhibition opening in 2016. Covering the American past from the Revolution to the present, American Democracy: The Great Leap of Faith will trace the unfolding of America’s experiment with government “of, by, and for the people,” and illustrate that democracy involves civic engagement and participation. 
 
American Democracy will feature such national treasures as the desk Thomas Jefferson used while writing the Declaration of Independence, the lamp used by George Washington while writing his farewell address, the inkstand Lincoln used to draft the Emancipation Proclamation, and the table Elizabeth Cady Stanton used while writing the Declaration of Sentiments. The exhibition will showcase an array of campaign material, protest signs, and a host of items from everyday life that reflect and express the promise and challenges of American democracy throughout the nation’s history. Additionally, American Democracy will include a range of interactives and audio visuals that will reinforce the themes of participation, engagement, and debate. 
 
Adjacent to American Democracy will be the new Unity Square overlooking the National Mall. Here, visitors will have the opportunity to debate, discuss, and reflect about the history and future of democracy in America through active and engaging public programs. 
 

The exhibition will be divided into five major sections, including Foundations, The Machinery of Democracy, Suffrage, The Right to Petition and Citizenship.