Artifact Walls and Landmark Objects: Part One

From the Everyday to the Extraordinary
Two innovative new features, the Artifact Walls and the Landmark Objects, will offer exciting opportunities to showcase our collections when the Museum reopens November 21, 2008.


E. Stratton Tavern sign, about 1815; Toy tool chest, about 1910; Time clock, 1912; Vassar College Orrery, late 1800s early 1900s  

The Artifact Walls
Have you ever seen a carpet beater? Did you know that highly skilled glass workers once made glass canes to carry in Labor Day parades? Or that the Museum has a collection of dozens of types of barbed wire?

The Artifact Walls will offer 275 linear feet of glass-fronted cases displaying these and many other artifacts from throughout the Museum. Lining the first and second floors of the Museum’s central corridors, the Artifact Walls will showcase an enormous variety of objects, from the everyday to the extraordinary, to convey the astonishing depth and breadth of the Museum’s collections.

Teams of curators have spent months looking at hundreds of objects in order to select artifacts for display in the new cases. Many objects will be familiar to visitors, such as children’s toys and an early electric vacuum. Others, such as an early 1800s surveyor’s compass and chain or the 1970s inventor’s model of a CT scanner, will be less familiar. But, all are being chosen to help visitors understand that the Museum collects, studies, cares for, and exhibits objects that help tell the stories of the rich and diverse history of the United States.

Landmark Objects
The newly renovated Museum will also feature a Landmark Object in each wing. Each of these large, iconic artifacts will highlight key themes of the exhibitions in that wing. For example, the John Bull, the oldest operable steam locomotive in America, will anchor the east wing of the first floor alerting visitors that the transportation exhibition is at that end of the building. The Landmark Objects will be visually dramatic and visible from a distance, and will serve as meeting and directional points for visitors.


Locomotive, John Bull


George Washington, sculpture by Horatio Greenough, 1840

Read Part Two

Read Part Two of the sneak peek to find out which objects have been selected to anchor each wing and learn more about the artifact walls that will line the center of the first and second floors.

Learn More about the Renovation
TThe Museum closed in 2006 for a major architectural transformation focusing on three areas: architectural enhancements to the museum’s interior, constructing a state-of-the-art gallery for the Star-Spangled Banner and updating the 42-year-old building’s infrastructure (mechanical, electrical, plumbing, lighting, fire and security systems.) It reopened November 21, 2008. Learn more.