Preview Case: Our American Journey

At the heart of this nation is a great search for balance between unity and pluralism.  Our American Journey: Many Voices, One Nation presents the five hundred year journey of how many distinct peoples and cultures met, mingled, and created the culture of the United States. Migrations brought new peoples, new languages, new religions, new ideas, and new technological innovations into the American experience.  The result was a dynamic society embodied in cultural and technological innovations.  As the people (populus) change, the one (unum) also changes to incorporate the newest members of the nation, including those just arrived and those just born.  From its earliest beginnings to the 21st century, Our American Journey maps the cultural geography of those unique and complex stories that animate the Latin emblem on the Great Seal and our national ideal  E pluribus unum, “Out of many, one.”


Columbia, 1860s

This figure decorated the pilothouse of the Hudson River side-wheel steamboat Mary Powell for more than a quarter-century.  "Columbia" was widely recognized as the female personification of the United States.  The name derived from the Latin for "land of Columbus."  By 1920 the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor replaced Columbia as the symbol of America, welcoming waves of immigrants to new lives in a new homeland.


Apache violin, 1989

The apache violin, or fiddle, was played particularly for ceremonials, but also for personal enjoyment and expression.  National Heritage Fellowship Award winner Chelsey Wilson crafted this instrument and presented it to the Smithsonian.  The origins of the tsii'edo'a'tl (Apache for "wood that sings") are unclear.  It may be modeled after European violins, which appeared with Spain's colonization efforts in 18th- and early-19th-century Alta California and the American Southwest.


Menorah, late 1980s

Manfred Anson left Nazi Germany in 1939 for Australia, and immigrated to the United States in 1963.  To mark the centennial of the Statue of Liberty, Anson combined symbols of his new nation with those of his Jewish religious and cultural heritage.  Each small Staue of Liberty is engraved with the name of a person or an event of liberation central to Jewish history.