Appendix F: NMAH's Initial Vision for Transforming
the National Museum of American History (2001)
NMAH staff under the direction of Dr. Spencer R. Crew prepared
the following document. It was completed in June 2001.
National Museum of American History
Conceptual view of the Constitution Avenue entrance,
showing the restored fountain
In response to the commitment of Smithsonian Secretary Lawrence Small
and our donors to transforming the Museum, the National Museum of American
History, Behring Center, has reviewed both the larger goals of our exhibition
program and the array of exhibition concepts currently under consideration.
What should a new NMAH look like? What should our priorities be? What
history should we interpret to the public? What kinds of experiences should
we offer our visitors?
These are the questions we will explore as we seek to transform the Museum.
Concept drawing of the Digilab exhibition
NMAH has identified five basic goals for transforming
- We want visitors to come away from their Museum experience thinking
about the simple yet complex question, "What has it meant to be an American?"
That question is at the heart of "American Identity," the thematic focus
for our new exhibitions, programs, and other activities.
- We want visitors to feel a part of the Museum -- to be engaged and
challenged; to connect with the past and find places for their own experiences
and memories; to experience fun and wonder; and to feel at home. Toward
that end, we recognize the need to be advocates for our visitors, not
just for history.
- We want to lead the Smithsonian in the development and use of leading-edge
exhibition techniques and experiences. Toward that end, we need to assess
the range of techniques available internally and externally.
- We want the Museum to be an active and changing place. We are committed
to providing opportunities throughout the Museum for the changing and
temporary exhibitions and active programming essential to keeping the
Museum fresh and stimulating. Toward that end, we must commit resources
to more than just opening new exhibitions.
- We must lead the Institution in fostering affiliations and promoting
outreach. Toward that end, we will aggressively pursue opportunities
to forge and strengthen relationships with other museums and cultural
These goals provide the context for the discussion that follows.
Testing and prototyping activities for the Lemelson
exhibition, Invention At Play
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F.2. Interpreting History -->