The 194th anniversary of the Star-Spangled Banner

Today is the anniversary of Francis Scott Key’s writing of the “Star-Spangled Banner.” In light of this important occasion, I’m going to admit something to you hundreds of blog readers.

I used to think history was really boring.

I’m not alone in this, I know. With the exception of a single fantastic American history class in high school, my historical education involved a whole lot of memorization and very little understanding. I thought that because I hated learning dates and the names of battles, I didn’t like history.

Celebrate Defender's Day!

If you’re in the Baltimore area this weekend, head to Fort McHenry to check out their amazing Defender’s Day celebration. It’s a commemoration of the anniversary of the Battle of Baltimore, and they have all kinds of special events and family activities going on. If you’ve never been there before, it’s a wonderful place to learn more about the Star-Spangled Banner and the War of 1812 (and take in some gorgeous views of the Patapsco River, to boot!).

To Thinkfinity....and beyond!

When I started my new job at the museum in the spring of 2007, we had just received a grant from the Verizon Foundation and had joined their Thinkfinity Consortium. is an online portal that provides access to tens of thousands of free, standards-based educational materials produced by Thinkfinity’s content partners.

The beauty of everyday history

The Archives Center supports the mission of the National Museum of American History by preserving and providing access to documentary evidence of America’s past. With more than 1,000 collections, the Center contains paper-based textual records, photographs, motion picture films, videotapes, and sound recordings.

Here’s what Archives Center intern Kiley Orchard had to say about a project that, for her, is truly bringing history to life.

Passing the 90-day mark

We talk a lot about the structural improvements to the museum, and we’ve mentioned a bit of how operations will be improved, but everyone knows that the real heart and soul are the exhibits. I’m sitting at my desk in the New Media office looking at a construction work plan for the next few weeks, and these entries caught my eye:

Back(side) to the future

When the museum reopens, one of the more notable visitor amenities will be the renovated Stars & Stripes Cafe. Every aspect of the cafe on the lower level will be updated, from the kitchen to the menu to the chairs. When we selected these chairs we discovered that we had stumbled upon an all-American classic.

Yes, we really do think about everything...

The new chamber that we’re building to display the Star-Spangled Banner is intended to be a permanent home for the fragile flag. So we’ve put a huge amount of thought and work into designing every inch of the space. This will give you an impression on par with visiting one of our neighboring monuments—we want you to leave feeling like you’ve had a personal experience with a national treasure.

Don't try this at home

When I try to build things, it usually involves a lot of trial and error. If you are a fellow amateur do-it-yourselfer, you probably know what I’m talking about. Whether it’s lack of skills, or planning, or patience, there is always some piece I put on backwards, or something that doesn’t quite fit, requiring me to backtrack and do over (usually accompanied by yet another trip to the local home improvement store).

Wag more, bark less

I saw that slogan on a bumper sticker this morning on my way to work and I thought it was a pretty great description of the changes we’re making to our public programs for reopening. We’re calling our new programmatic focus “Conversational Interpretation,” which means: “we want to talk less at you and give you more opportunities to talk back.” We want to wag more, bark less.

It’s taking shape before our eyes - but what is it?

The "Bird's Nest" National Stadium in Beijing?  A new death-defying roller coaster?