American Democracy

Madam Speaker: A famous first joins the national collection

Museums are full of “firsts.” Today we welcomed a new first into our collection, with objects donated by Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who in 2007 became the first woman to serve as Speaker of the United States House of Representatives.

Artifacts of assassination, Pt. 2

The best documented presidential deaths in the Political History collections are those associated with assassinations. In part 1 of this post, we examined some of the many objects in our collections connected to the death of Abraham Lincoln. In this post, we’ll be looking at objects tied to later presidential assassinations in U.S. history.

Artifacts of assassination, Pt. 1

The best documented presidential deaths in the Political History collections are those associated with assassinations. Though the nation has mourned when presidents died of natural causes (our collections include many mourning ribbons and broadsides commemorating this fact), those deaths did not produce quite the level of intimate, personal collecting as the unnatural ones.

Unique souvenirs of death kept to remember U.S. presidents

Tucked among the festive campaign mementos and first ladies’ gowns in the Division of Political History’s collections storage are a group of objects that people saved from somber moments: souvenirs of presidential deaths.

Commemorating a president's life, in stationery and floral arrangements

For most of us, traditions are private and reserved for friends and family. But when you are the president expectations change, and everything, especially your funeral, becomes larger and more public.

I Pledge Allegiance

Since October 1892, countless schoolchildren across the nation have begun their school day by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance as a daily patriotic ritual. Few students, however, could tell you when the tradition began, or even who wrote the words that so many of them have memorized.

Coffee cups, chairs, and jackets: Presidential last moments preserved

Last moments of famous people fascinate us. This is why compendiums of last words are so popular. It’s also why we have a handful of objects in our collection that are purported to be from the last moments of the lives of several presidents.

How first families have memorialized and mourned

Just in time for Halloween, your favorite collections managers from the Division of Political History bring you a new blog series: "Death in the Presidential Collections." Today's post discusses mourning clothing and jewelry worn by first ladies.

The father of our country?

Several decades after the American Revolution, George had come to be known to many of his countrymen as “pater patriae,” or “the father of his country.” No, not that George! I am speaking, instead, of George III, the king who had once held the loyalty of Britain’s North American colonists but who lost their allegiance when they chose independence in 1776.

Smithsonian Secretary Skorton's introduction to our new wing, The Nation We Build Together

I had the pleasure of participating in the grand opening of the museum’s impressive new wing, The Nation We Build Together. The design of the displays brings the exhibition themes to life, allowing visitors to learn, see, hear, and experience how Americans have come together over time to create our country. I wanted to share a few of my early impressions, both for those planning to visit in person and also for those who will experience these stories through our websites, blogs, and social media.