FAQs for Media

The Office of Public Affairs answers frequently asked questions from the media. Visit the Press Room for contact information, press releases, and more.

How do I get more information and/or images for an article I’m writing about one of your exhibitions?

Please contact the Office of Public Affairs at 202-633-3129 for detailed information and images about all of the museum’s exhibitions. Images are usually available on a special FTP site. The Office of Public Affairs can provide you information on accessing this site.

Does your museum have experts available for interviews?

From lunch boxes to trains, elections to knitting, and sports to computers, the National Museum of American History staff has expertise in the nation’s social, political, scientific and technological history. If you are looking for an expert on a particular topic, please contact the Office of Public Affairs to see if an interview can be arranged. Please allow plenty of lead time for these interviews.

How do I get rights to use a Smithsonian image for a book or for other commercial purposes?

Anyone wishing to use any text or images for commercial use, publication, or any purpose other than fair use as defined by law, must request and receive prior written permission from the Smithsonian Institution. Read more about Smithsonian copyright and image use.

How can I obtain permission to film museum exhibitions or programs for a documentary, television special, or similar program?

The Office of Public Affairs handles all filming requests for the Museum. Producers/directors should contact the office at 202-633-3129 with complete information about what and when they want to film, and if possible, a treatment of the script. The Smithsonian has a film policy in place which includes access fees for filming on the premises and additional fees for security and other expenses. Because of staff availability, not all requests may be accommodated.

May I take pictures in the museum?

Photography is permitted in the Museum with the exception of a few exhibitions (such as the Star-Spangled Banner) that are clearly marked. Public use of a tripod or lights is not permitted. News photographers and videographers need to make arrangements with the Office of Public Affairs by calling 202-633-3129. Because of staff availability, not all requests may be accommodated.

Who should I contact about donating items to the museum?

Please contact the Museum's Office of Curatorial Affairs by email to obtain the proper procedure for donating items to the Museum's collections.

I would like to know how much an artifact is worth. Can the Museum provide appraisals?

It is against Smithsonian policy to place value on objects. If you are interested in having an item appraised, we recommend you contact the Appraisers Society of America at 703-478-2228. See here for more information.

How big is the Museum?

The National Museum of American History has three floors of exhibition space, or about 200,000 square feet devoted to gallery space.

How many visitors come to the Museum on an annual basis?

The Museum has approximately four million visitors per year.

How many objects are on view?

The National Museum of American History has approximately 3 million objects in its collections, and about 5–8% of the collection is on view at any one time.

What are the most popular exhibitions?

Among our most popular exhibitions are:

though certainly every exhibition and object has its fans.
What is the Kenneth E. Behring Center? Who is Mr. Behring, and why is the Center named after him?

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.