Director: John L. Gray
Total Full-Time Employees: 236
FY 2013 Federal Budget: $20.8 million
Approximate Number of Artifacts and Archival Materials: 3.3 million
Visitors: 5 million in 2013
Opened in January 1964 as the National Museum of History and Technology, the museum was renamed the National Museum of American History in October 1980 to more accurately reflect its scope of interests and responsibilities. The museum is located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., near the Washington Monument.
The transformation of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History continues with a major project to renew the building’s 120,000-square-foot west exhibition wing. The plans feature new galleries and exhibitions on business, democracy and culture, an education center, interior public plazas and performance spaces as well as modernizing the infrastructure, including wireless environments. A new panoramic window on the first floor will give a sweeping view of the Washington Monument and connect visitors to the National Mall. In 2008, the museum completed a two-year, $85 million renovation of the building’s center core, transforming the museum’s architectural appeal.
The museum is responsible for the acquisition, care and preservation of more than 3 million objects and archival materials, representing the nation’s heritage in the areas of science, technology, sociology and culture. The collections include the Star-Spangled Banner, First Ladies gowns, a Samuel Morse telegraph, locomotives, tools, Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers, an Alexander Graham Bell telephone, flags, American-made quilts, Muhammad Ali’s boxing gloves, Duke Ellington’s sheet music and presidential artifacts.
Selected Permanent Exhibitions
- Star-Spangled Banner: An abstract flag, 40 feet long and up to 19 feet high, soars above the entrance to the Star-Spangled Banner gallery. Inside, the 30-by-34 wool-and-cotton flag that inspired the national anthem is displayed in a setting with floor-to-ceiling glass windows, designed to evoke the “dawn’s early light.” The museum will mark the bicentennial of Francis Scott Key’s song and the flag with a major commemorative event on Flag Day, June 14, 2014.
- America on the Move: This 26,000-square-foot exhibition features more than 300 artifacts—from the 1903 Winton that was the first car to traverse the United States to the 199-ton,
92-foot-long “1401” locomotive—showcased in period settings.
- FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950 – 2000: This exhibition explores how new technologies and various social and cultural shifts in the second half of the 20th century influenced major changes in food, wine and eating in America.
- Price of Freedom: Americans at War: A survey of the U.S. military history from the Colonial era to the present, this 18,000 square foot exhibition explores ways that wars have been defining episodes in American history.
- The First Ladies: This exhibition looks at the ways first ladies have shaped their role as the role of women in society evolved. This display features more than two dozen gowns, including those of Michelle Obama, Barbara Bush, Nancy Reagan and Jacqueline Kennedy. Four cases provide in-depth looks at Dolley Madison, Mary Lincoln, Edith Roosevelt and Lady Bird Johnson and their contributions to their husband’s presidential administrations.
- The American Presidency: This exhibition explores the personal, public, ceremonial and executive actions of the 44 men who have had a huge impact on the course of history in the past 200 years.
- American Stories: With more than 100 objects, this exhibition showcases historic and cultural touchstones of American history through more than 100 objects from the museum’s vast holdings, including Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers, the rarely displayed walking stick used by Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln’s gold pocket watch, Muhammad Ali’s boxing gloves and a fragment of Plymouth rock.
The museum has an innovative and successful digital outreach program. From its websites to its blog and social-networking presence, millions of visitors experience the museum on-screen. Digital interaction has become increasingly integral to the museum’s outreach activities, and a natural extension of its educational goals and philosophy.
About the Museum
Through incomparable collections, rigorous research and dynamic public outreach, the National Museum of American History explores the infinite richness and complexity of American history. The museum helps people understand the past in order to make sense of the present and shape a more humane future. For more information, visit http://americanhistory.si.edu. The museum is located at 14th Street and Constitution Avenue N.W., and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free. For Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000.