Smithsonian’s History Collection Hits the Road

October 15, 2006
In collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES), exhibitions from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History showcasing sports history, American first ladies and photography will visit more than 10 U.S. cities during the next 2 years. Future collaborations will explore the meaning and history of the American flag and the yo-yo as a pop culture icon, and present exhibits drawn from the Museum’s extensive maritime and photography collections. The National Museum of American History's building is closed for renovation and will re-open in summer 2008. “Traveling exhibitions have always been imperative in helping to bring American history and our collections to diverse communities and museums across the country,” said Brent D. Glass, director of the Museum. “Now that the Museum is closed for renovation, our traveling shows represent an even greater opportunity for Americans to explore our nation’s history from sporting struggles and triumphs to the enduring legacy of the first ladies.”

“Athletes have a unique ability to inspire, motivate and exhilarate.” —William F. “Bill” Russell

As a Celtics basketball legend and the first African American coach in the NBA, Russell exemplifies the athlete as definer of a sport—one who takes it to the next level. His story and those of 34 other athletes in different sports are told in “Sports: Breaking Records, Breaking Barriers." Artifacts selected emphasize such issues as women’s changing roles, racial and ethnic integration, the emergence of sports celebrities and superstars, nationalism, perceptions about human physical limitations and handicaps, and technological breakthroughs that enhanced performance and participation. A handball used by Abraham Lincoln, Bill Russell’s 10,000 rebound basketball, Gertrude Ederle’s English Channel swim goggles, Roberto Clemente’s batting helmet and a “Miracle on Ice” hockey shirt are among the dozens of artifacts featured. Spotlighting the National Museum of American History's sports collection, the exhibition is on view at The Oakland Museum of California through Jan. 6, 2007. It will then travel to museums in Columbus, Ohio; Portland, Ore.; and Spokane, Wash. Audi is the exclusive national sponsor of the exhibition.

“Being first lady is a man-sized job” —Mamie Eisenhower, New York Times Magazine, May 10, 1953

The truth in Eisenhower’s words is explored in “First Ladies: Political Role and Public Image.” The exhibition—featuring first ladies’ gowns and clothing, personal belongings, White House furnishings, political campaign materials and other historical items—examines the demanding duties of the presidential partner and national hostess; explores how her role has evolved from ceremonial partner to one of international celebrity and recognized political power; and illustrates the importance of the first lady’s public image to the success of a presidential administration. The exhibition is made possible by A&E Network. Based on one of the National Museum of American History's most visited permanent exhibitions, “First Ladies” is on view at the Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center until Dec. 17, and it will conclude its 3-year, national tour at the Ohio Historical Center in Columbus.

“I made up my mind years ago that photographers see, they don’t hear.” —Diana Walker

Photographer Diana Walker has documented the public and private lives of America’s presidents and first families for more than a quarter century. As she tried to blend into the setting to capture her images, Walker understood that special access requires a high level of trust. “Diana Walker: Photojournalist” features some of Walker’s iconic photographs from the pages of magazines, such as Time, as well as seldom-published, behind-the-scenes images. The 82 black-and-white and color photographs depict national figures, such as President Ronald and Nancy Reagan and world figures, such as Nelson Mandela. This exhibition highlighting Walker’s intimate and recognizable photography is on view at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum in Atlanta until Nov. 26. It will then travel to venues in Louisville, Ky., and Kennesaw, Ga., among others. SITES has been sharing the wealth of Smithsonian collections and research programs20with millions of people outside Washington, D.C., for more than 50 years. It connects Americans to their shared cultural heritage through a wide range of exhibitions about art, science and history, which are shown wherever people live, work and play. For more information, including exhibition descriptions and tour schedules, visit Information on the National Museum of American History can be found at