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.
In 1832, to mark the centennial of George Washington’s birth, the U.S. Congress commissioned a statue of the first president. The classically inspired sculpture honored Washington as a leader in war and peace—the victorious general who voluntarily handed his power, symbolized by the sword, back to the people. The unconventional statue of the bare-chested and sandaled president was installed in the rotunda of the U.S.
This preview case introduces the public to the Museum’s 2017 theme: “The Nation We Build Together.” The predominant feature is a nine-foot-tall LEGO Statue of Liberty displayed on a platform alongside images of objects that represent new exhibitions opening June 28. The statue is made of sand green LEGO bricks and weighs 125 pounds without its steel support.
Centered around the ideas and ideals of America, the museum’s newly renovated second floor in the west wing will feature:
This rectangle of yellow cloth is small, only seven by nine inches, but it tells a much larger story. It begins in January 1917, when the National Woman's Party (NWP), led by Alice Paul, set up a silent picket outside the White House gates. After years of meetings with President Woodrow Wilson that had failed to produce results, suffragists decided to use the White House building as a stage to influence the man inside.
This display juxtaposed historic voting devices with contemporary candidate rally signs to encourage our visitors to reflect on the relationship between the nation’s democratic traditions and the current swirl of election news, and draw visitors into conversations on the importance of civic engagement. Large voting machines from the late 19th century and an assortment of 19th and 20th century voting boxes and rally signs from current candidates were included in the exhibit.
What happens when a people decide to govern themselves? America’s national treasures come to life in this compelling exhibition that examines the bold experiment to create a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”
The west wing exhibition spaces of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History are about to undergo an extensive $37 million renovation beginning this month. The construction work on the 127,000-square-foot space will be completed by Grunley Construction Company Inc. of Rockville, Md. The Philadelphia-based architectural firm EwingCole prepared the design and engineering plans for the museum. During the estimated two-and-a-half-year construction project, the center core and east wing of the museum will remain open.