“Everything changes, nothing is lost.”
This saying is particularly relevant to history museums. At the National Museum of American History, we are not ”saving the past” as it has not disappeared, but we are celebrating, probing and understanding the past, with the best intentions of comprehending it. As the ninth director of this incredible national museum, I take this job very seriously and am also keenly aware that it is our past and our future, together, that has to be integrated into this American story and shared.
Our history, like all histories, has many stories, many peoples, many periods and many dreams. It is not a simple story and must be told with vigor and honesty. And to present history, our challenge is to translate it into an active, not passive, visitor experience while always keeping to the highest standard of care for the national collection and our mission.
If you have visited us recently you will have experienced some changes as we work to find ways to showcase additional objects and experiment with more color. A majestic blue and red Conestoga wagon with its distinctive sloping lines and white sheltering bonnet of a canvas top now greets visitors on our first floor. Look for additional surprises when you visit us next.
Visitors will also find that our building is undergoing a renovation to improve our gallery and program spaces. During this time, I promise that our staff will continue to work to present amazing objects and programs, both in the museum for those who can walk through our doors and online for those who experience us virtually.
I invite you to experience our shared history at the National Museum of American History through our many portals: walk through our doors on the National Mall, visit a local Smithsonian affiliate, explore our website, upload photos to our Flickr site, open Smithsonian magazine, see our stories on Smithsonian Channel, follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and let me know what you think.
John Gray began his appointment as director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History on July 23, 2012.