American History (After Hours)

Join us at the National Museum of American History…after hours.

About | Upcoming Schedule | September 2017 | October 2017 | Past Programs


American History (After Hours) is a regular evening series that presents evenings of food, drinks, and dynamic conversation that connect with the past to make sense of the present and shape the future. Each evening focuses on a different, unexpected topic and mixes historical connections with modern-day approaches for a unique experience for all curious minds. Cheers to history!

For the most up-to-date information on American History (After Hours) and regular reminders, sign up for program and event emails from the museum.



Collage of photographs and white text on a purple background

September 19: The Sound of Memphis
6:30 p.m. • Wallace H. Coulter Plaza, 1 West

Online ticket sales are now closed. A limited number of tickets will be available for purchase at the door tonight for $40 CASH ONLY (Please note: There is no ATM on site)

What is the sound of American music, and from where does that sound originate?  How does music both reflect and shape the place and people from which it springs forth? How can music build community? Where does American music come from?

Join us for a special Memphis and Mississippi Delta-themed evening as we join forces with the team behind the documentary Take Me To The River (2014) and the Soulsville Foundation (STAX Records) to explore how Memphis and the Mississippi Delta region generated some of the most exciting music in American history. Through conversation and live performances with multiple generations of iconic musicians from the region, we will celebrate the profound legacy of Memphis's extraordinary musical community and chart the musical evolution of the region from blues to soul to hip hop.

The evening will start with a panel discussion with clips from Take Me To The River to explore the unique collaborative musical environment that has thrived in the Memphis area for decades featuring speakers:

  • William Bell, singer, songwriter, producer, and Grammy Award-winner
  • Bobby Rush, blues musician, composer, singer, and Grammy Award-winner
  • Boo Mitchell, musician, songwriter, audio engineer, record producer and owner of Royal Studios in Memphis, Tennessee
  • Martin Shore, filmmaker and Grammy Award-nominee
  • Al Bell, STAX Records former owner and chairman
  • Deanie Parker, STAX Records former PR director, Soulsville Foundation president

After the discussion we’ll open up to a reception and—in an American History (After Hours) first—a live concert featuring Bell and Rush, as well as performances from Academy Award-winner Frayser Boy, Critics Choice-winner Al Kapone, Boo Mitchell, backed by the Hi Rhythm Section, who have 27 Gold and Platinum albums to their name (including all of Al Green’s classics). Additional performers to be announced soon.

Tickets include entry to the panel discussion, reception, and concert; as well as food and drink. This is a 21+ event.

Take Me to the River is a feature documentary film celebrating the inter-generational and inter-racial musical influence of Memphis in the face of pervasive discrimination and segregation. The film brings multiple generations of award-winning Memphis and Mississippi Delta musicians together, following them through the creative process of recording a historic new album, to re-imagine the utopia of racial, gender and generational collaboration of Memphis in its heyday. 

White and teal text on blue background
October 28: The Smithsonian Food History Weekend After Hours
6:30 p.m. • Wallace H. Coulter Plaza, 1 West

Tickets include food and drink

Serving up a flight of beer history with a little help from our friends. 

Toast to the end of the third annual Smithsonian Food History Weekend with us at this evening exploration of the history of American brewing. Through tastings and stories about people, migration, and beer-making, explore how brewing techniques and ingredients have moved around the country and inspired today's resurgence in brewing culture. How did individuals, techniques, and ingredients arrive and move around the country? How does this history of beer and migration help create today’s resurgence in brewing culture? 

The experts (and their world-class breweries) who will join us to serve up brewing history and tastings include:

  • Celeste Beatty, founder of Harlem Brewing Company, New York, NY
  • Uli Bennewitz, founder of Weeping Radish Farm Brewery, Manteo, NC
  • An Bui, founder of The Answer Brewpub, Richmond, VA
  • Oscar Wong, founder of Highland Brewing Company, Asheville, NC

Tickets are $40 and include: a complimentary Smithsonian Food History tasting glass, beer tastings at all four brewery stations, a hearty plate of appetizers by the museum's chef, and more activities to be announced soon.

Please note: This event is for guests 21+; valid I.D. will be required to enter.

This event is part of the Museum’s American Brewing History Initiative.  



American History (After Hours): 2014-15 Season

Beer stein January 23: Brewing Up History
Warner Bros. Theater

How are today’s brewers inspired by history? On January 23rd we held a beer talk and tasting featuring Bluejacket brewery’s Greg Engert and beer historian Mike Stein as they discuss the art and science of brewing. Engert and Stein shared their story of creating new beers inspired by beer styles of the early 19th century and we explored the connections between Washington, DC’s craft beer scene today and the DC beer world of the past. Browse through pictures from the evening or watch the video. 

Watch the talk here: Brewing Up History



Gibson's pure rye whiskey bottle and boxFebruary 26: The Craft Distilling (Re)Revolution
Warner Bros. Theater

Ever taken a trip to your local distiller? On February 26, author James Rodewald, author of American Spirit: An Exploration of the Craft Distilling Revolution, joined DC’s own Derek Brown and Michael Lowe of Green Hat Gin as they explored the current and historic revolutions in American distilling. Browse through pictures from the evening or watch the video.

Watch the talk here: The Craft Distilling (Re)Revolution



Julia Child and friendsMarch 16: The French Chef, American-Style

What happened after America mastered French cooking? Starting in the late 1960s, Julia Child and her editor Judith Jones, as well as countless food-loving Americans, began to look away from Europe and toward their own country for inspiration, exploring the rich heritage of American regional cooking. Food history writers Alex Prud'homme (co-author of My Life in France) and Sara Franklin (oral historian for Jones) discussed the renewal of American regional food culture after Julia's debut as The French Chef. Browse through pictures from the evening.

Watch the talk here: The French Chef, American-Style


Chicken AdvertisementApril 8: What the Cluck?
Warner Bros. Theater

How did chicken become America's go-to white meat? On April 8, farmers and Smithsonian historians joined for a conversation on the past, present, and future of chicken in America. From large-scale chicken production to backyard coops, from food safety to chicken marketing, how has American agriculture changed over time? The evening also featured live bluegrass from By & By and chicken coop demonstrations from Rent a Coop. Missed it? Want to relive it? Read the blog post, browse through pictures from the evening, or watch the video.

Watch the talk here: What the Cluck?



Sushi kitMay 13: Sushi for Sale
Warner Bros. Theater

How did a Japanese delicacy become an American favorite? On May 13 we explored the history of sushi in America with an award-winning chef Kaz Okochi, Bonny Wolf of American Food Roots, and FoodStory founder Yoko Isassi. The evening also featured sushi-making demonstrations. Missed it? Want to relive it? Read the blog post or browse through pictures from the evening. 


Food in the garden logo

August 20: FOOD in the Garden - Seeds of Innovation
Victory Garden at Constitution Ave and 12th Street NW

From heirlooms to biotech, how have seeds fed us in the past and how will seeds feed the future? Scientists, researchers, and historians discussed the impact of seeds, seed saving, and seed technology on our historic and modern food systems. This event was part of FOOD in the Garden 2015 - where we explored innovations in American food and gardens with tastes, talks, and tours outside in the Smithsonian Gardens’ Victory Garden



Food in the garden logoSeptember 17: FOOD in the Garden - How Does Your Garden Grow?
6:00 - 8:00pm, Victory Garden at Constitution Ave and 12th Street NW

What do the kitchen gardens of our founding father, Victory gardens of WWII and edible rooftops have in common? Good design of course. From soil to sun, how do plant needs, space, and aesthetics influence the design of a garden? Historic and modern garden designers reflected on the past, present, and future of edible garden design and we gathered inspiration for our own unique spaces. This event was part of FOOD in the Garden 2015 - where we explored innovations in American food and gardens with tastes, talks, and tours outside in the Smithsonian Gardens’ Victory Garden



American History (After Hours): 2015-16 Season 

Seasoned Pass logoThe Seasoned Pass
October 2015 - May 2016

 Make sure you don’t miss a single American History (After Hours) event and get The Seasoned Pass to After Hours 2015-2016. Inject your year with innovations in beer, the (tasty) history of tailgating, Korean food, and the unforgettable Paris Wine Tasting of 1976. The Seasoned Pass is $195 and guarantees you a spot at all six programs of the 2015-2016 season. On sale until October 24.


Beer bottle and advertising pieceOctober 24: Brewing Up Innovation
6:30 - 8:30pm, Coulter Performance Plaza

The story of American craft beer is one of innovation- from business and entrepreneurship to styles and technologies, craft beer is constantly evolving. Join Maureen Ogle, historian and author of  Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer, Kim Jordan, co-founder of New Belgium Brewing Company, and Dick Cantwell, of the Brewers Association as they reflect on the history of brewing and the resurgence of the modern craft beer movement. How has American beer innovated and what will the craft beer of the future look like?  Conduct some innovative beer research of your own as you sample brews from a mix of local and national breweries and check out some history brewing objects from the museum's collections. This event is part of the Smithsonian Food History Weekend.


Whiskey bottleNovember 11: Blown Away - The Art and Science of Glass
6:30 - 8:30pm, Coulter Performance Plaza

From cocktail glasses to beakers, glass is part of American life. But how is glass made today? And how was glass made throughout American history? Enjoy food, drinks, and an exploration of the art and science of glass.  Join a conversation with scientific and artistic glass blowers, enjoy custom cocktails and samples from Pittsburgh’s historic Wigle Whiskey, check out the museum’s newest exhibit “Science Under Glass,” and learn about how we use glass in art and in the laboratory. 




Steelers stamp January 14: The Great American Tailgate
6:30-9:00 pm, Coulter Performance Plaza

Tailgating at sporting events is a time-honored American tradition. But how and why did we as Americans eat and drink their way into celebrating sports? Join a conversation with historians, researchers, and sports fans on why and how we tailgate. Explore unique collections objects on display that tell the story of American ingenuity including  the Igloo cooler, unique tailgating advertising and brands, sports-history objects, and more. 
Image source: NPM



Cooking Korean in America text over a green bowl on white backgroundMarch 10: Cooking Korean in America
6:30-9:00 pm, Coulter Performance Plaza

From the Korean Taco to Kimchi Burgers, Korean food is making itself known on American menus. what is the history of Korean food in America? 

Join us on March 10 and explore the (delicious) history of Korean cooking in the US and its impact on American cuisine. The evening will start out with a cooking demonstration and continue with a panel discussion and interactive reception featuring:

  • Deuki Hong and Matt Rodbard, authors of Koreatown: A Cook Book
  • Maria Godoy, senior editor at NPR and host of The Salt
  • Live cooking demonstrations and storytelling with Danielle Chang, founder of LuckyRice and author of the cook book, Lucky Rice
  • Delicious Korean-American-inspired food
  • Koreatown: A Cook Book and Lucky Rice book signings
  • Themed drinks and snacks

Image courtesy of the Freer Sackler Gallery


The Judgment of Paris text over an image of three people drinking wine

May 16: The Judgment of Paris & American Wine
6:30-9:00 pm, Coulter Performance Plaza

An evening of wine tasting, food, and dynamic conversation! Forty years ago, American winemakers surprised a panel of French wine experts (and the world) by placing first in a blind tasting that pitted the new American wines against the best of France. Join us for a conversation about the legacy of the Judgment of Paris and American wine history from the people who were there and then test your own wine tasting skills and more in an interactive reception. Listen and learn from the experts themselves:

  • Steven Spurrier – The organizer of the 1976 Judgment of Paris.
  • George Taber – The only journalist to cover the tasting and author of The Judgment of Paris.
  • Warren Winiarski – The winemaker of the winning 1973 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon and founder of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars
  • Bo Barrett – The current owner of Chateau Montelena and son of the late Jim Barrett who owned Chateau Montelena at the time of the Judgment of Paris.
  • Violet Grgich – The daughter and co-proprietor of Mike Grgich, the winemaker of the winning 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay and founder of the winery, Grgich Hills.
  • Ted Baseler – The CEO of Ste. Michelle Estates and CEO of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars.

The reception will include tastings, activities, and original winemaking objects and artifacts from our collections. Tickets include wine tastings and a hearty plate of appetizers.

Image courtesy of Bella Spurrier. American History (After Hours): The Judgment of Paris & American Wine is made possible through generous support from: Altria Group and Wegmans Food Market, Inc.


Food in the Garden with title text and date overlayed on image

August 10: FOOD in the Garden - Gardens & Community
6:00 - 8:30 pm; Victory Garden

American History (After Hours) goes outside with Smithsonian Gardens for an evening in the museum’s Victory Garden! Join us for FOOD in the Garden, an evening of food, cocktails by Green Hat Gin of New Columbia Distillers, and dynamic conversation exploring the connection between communities and nature. On August 10, we'll explore how gardens and public green spaces have brought people together to build community, learn, and heal throughout American history. From parks, to victory gardens, to community plots, these green spaces have offered not only beautiful and calming spaces but also a place for civic engagement during critical times. Join us as we celebrate the history of public gardens and try to answer the question: How do gardens foster community and change? 

The evening will include a panel discussion featuring

  • Tom Kanatakeniate Cook, Running Strong for American Indian Youth
  • Pam Hess, Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food & Agriculture
  • Elin Haaga, George Washington University landscape design program
  • Dr. Frederick Foote, The Green Road Project, a natural healing environment for wounded service members and their family members

And an interactive garden party-themed reception with

  • Custom cocktails by Green Hat Gin of New Columbia Distillers
  • Tours in the Victory Garden
  • Delicious food by our own Chef Jose Diaz
  • Croquet games in the lawn
  • Arcadia activity station
  • Story-sharing with Community of Gardens by Smithsonian Gardens
  • Groundwork Anacostia station


The Great History of American Brewing  
Saturday, October 29 • 6:30 - 9 p.m.

It’s a fact: beer history is American history, and tonight we’re serving up a flight of brewing history with the help of historians, experts, and breweries. Join us for four tasty tales of brewing, beer, and policy from the Colonial era, 19th century, Prohibition, and the 1970s. Then dive deeper into the tastes, stories, politics, and history of each era by talking with experts, viewing museum collections and archival materials, and tasting some historically inspired brews at each station.

The exhibitions American Enterprise and Object Project will be open and we’ll be holding a scavenger hunt with prizes for the first three teams to hunt down all the correct answers. This event is part of the museum’s new American Brewing History Initiative and Smithsonian Food History Weekend 2016.


January 26: Myths, Memory, and the "Wild West"
6:30 – 9:00 p.m. • Coulter Performance Plaza, 1 West

The “Wild West” provides some of America’s most powerful and iconic imagery. Many popular culture figures shaped perceptions of this dynamic time in American history, but most of those portrayals were largely inaccurate. So why do these stories endure? And what are the true stories behind these well-known fictions? Join us at the next American History (After Hours) as we use these questions to dive into the story of Buffalo Bill’s "Wild West" and its impact on American culture. Over the course of the evening we explored the history of America’s Wild West, from the myth to reality, from the 19th century to today. The evening started with an expert panel featuring:

  • Michelle Delaney
    Author of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Warriors, Smithsonian Institution
  • Jeremy Johnston
    Chair and Curator of Western American History, Buffalo Bill Museum
  • Cécile R. Ganteaume 
    Associate Curator, National Museum of the American Indian
  • Ryan Lintelman (moderator)
    Associate Curator of Entertainment, National Museum of American History

After the discussion, we'll open up to an interactive reception where we can dive deeper into this complex story with rarely-seen objects out of storage, experts on hand, as well as appetizers and themed drinks and activities courtesy of our friends at Wigle Whiskey


April 13: Women in WWI
6:30 – 9:00 p.m. • Coulter Performance Plaza, 1 West

To mark the centennial of the United States’ entry into World War I, American History (After Hours) dedicated this evening to the women of WWI. This pivotal time in world history was also a pivotal moment for women’s history.

During WWI, droves of American women donned uniforms and volunteered to help the war effort in both religious and secular civilian organizations, and as members of the U.S. military. From the Army Signal Corps “Hello Girls,” who operated the phone lines close to front, to the Salvation Army “Doughnut Girls,” who provided much needed respite for soldiers, to the Army and Navy nurses who cared for the wounded at home and abroad, these women pushed the boundaries of traditional roles and expectations of women. Their actions ultimately helped pave the way for woman’s suffrage. Join us as we explore these expanding roles of women, the continued limitations they had to work within, and the lasting results of their efforts. 

The evening started with a discussion and Q&A before opening up to an interactive reception featuring:

  • Curator-led tours of new WWI displays at the museum
  • Rarely-seen objects, WWI posters, and artifacts out of storage
  • French, English, German, and US canteen-inspired drink stations
  • WWI reenactors 
  • Thematic era-inspired appetizers (no rationing though, we promise!)
  • Hands-on activities 
  • Doughnuts! 
  • Scavenger hunt with prizes for the first 5 people

Tickets include food and drink.  Rum tastings at the English canteen-inspired station provided courtesy of D.C.'s own Cotton & Reed. Beer tastings at the German canteen-inspired station provided courtesy of von Trapp Brewing of Stowe, Vermont.

About the image: “The Girl on the Land Serves the Nation's Need” Y.W.CA. Land Service Committee poster by Edward Penfield, circa 1918. Produced by the United States Printing & Lithograph Company, New York. Gift of Chamberlain Ferry to the National Museum of American History.


May 15: Rooted in Family - Wine and Stories from Mexican American Winemakers

May 15 was a lively American History (After Hours) that explored the wine and stories from five acclaimed Latino winemakers from California.

The history of viticulture and winemaking in California cannot be told without recognizing the significant contributions of Mexican and Mexican American families who have been planting, nurturing, and harvesting California’s wine grapes for generations. The Sonoma, Napa, and Lake County districts now bear multiple Latino winemaking estates, many run by second-, third-, and fourth-generation families. Each winery participating this evening has made a significant contribution to the legacy of American winemaking, while still honoring the rich and complex culture and cuisine of Mexico.

The evening started with a panel discussion featuring members of these family-owned wineries and opened to an interactive reception with tastings from participating wineries. Participating wineries included:

  • Gustavo Wine
  • Ceja Vineyards
  • Mi Sueño Winery
  • Maldonado Vineyards
  • Robledo Family Winery

This event was in conjunction with the 2017 Winemakers' Dinner


August 10: FOOD in the Garden - Flavoring America
6:30 p.m.-9:00 p.m. • Second Floor Terrace, West • Entrance on Madison Drive between 12th and 14th Streets NW

Join us outdoors in the museum's newest garden space this summer for evenings of food, drinks, and dynamic conversation. On August 10 we will explore how the historical movements of people and their culinary traditions influenced foodways in America. Focusing on how herbs and spices from around the world and across the country introduced new flavors and textures, the evening will feature a panel discussion with experts and historians and an interactive reception with:

  • Panel discussion with experts Cindy Brown, Smithsonian GardensIvan Fitzgerald, Bazaar SpicesAshley Rose Young, New Orleans food historian; and Lauren Safranek, National Museum of American History
  • Custom cocktails courtesy of New Columbia Distillers
  • Tours of our new garden space, Common Ground, and one of our newest exhibitions, Many Voices, One Nation
  • Herbs and spices Q & A with Smithsonian Gardens experts
  • Chocolate history
  • Make-your-own spice blend station
  • Garum history (the grandfather of modern condiments)
  • Chardonnay pours for anyone who needs an alternative to cocktails
  • A hearty plate of appetizers by the museum's chef, Kristy Cleaveland

August 17: FOOD in the Garden - Fermentation Nation

Join us outdoors in the museum's newest garden space this summer for evenings of food, drinks, and dynamic conversation. On August 17 we will dive into the long (and tasty) influence of fermentation in American culinary history. From beer and wine, to pickling and preserving, how have Americans used this chemical reaction to a delicious advantage throughout history? The evening will feature:

  • Discussion with experts Dr. Gretel Guest, biology and microbiology instructor at Durham Technical Community College; Yi Wah Roberts, founder of Number 1 Sons of Arlington, VA; Nathan Zeender, head brewer at Right Proper Brewing Company; and Susan Evans McClure, National Museum of American History
  • Custom cocktails courtesy of New Columbia Distillers
  • Craft brews on tap courtesy Right Proper Brewing Company
  • Tours of our new garden space, Common Ground, and one of our newest exhibitions, Many Voices, One Nation
  • Pickle samples from Number 1 Sons
  • Herbs and spices Q & A with Smithsonian Gardens experts
  • Fermentation collections objects from the Museum’s Medical and Science Division
  • Cheese tastings by Laura Chenel Cheese
  • Yeast through the Microscope station
  • Garum history (the grandfather of modern condiments)
  • A hearty plate of appetizers by the museum's chef, Kristy Cleaveland