The Division of Political and Military History collects, studies, and cares for the material culture of American democracy and the nation’s military.
The political history team gives particular attention to the political principles, practices, and institutions that have shaped the political culture of the United States. It focuses on political relationships between groups and interests; institutions of government; and changing practices of representative and participatory democracy in a nation of diverse people and cultures. The team is especially interested in changing definitions of citizenship and political rights; contested political ideologies; governmental policies and their impact; the role of political parties; elections; protest and reform movements; varied and changing expressions of nationalism; predictive opinion and media effects; and traditional political techniques and forms of communication.
The military history team collects the material culture of the American military experience from the French and Indian War to the contemporary War on Terrorism. Notable elements of the museum’s military collections include the Japanese American internment experience during WWII, and the September 11 attacks on the United States, women’s military history, and firearms technology. Collectively, the team works uses the materials and interprets these in relation to the country's social and cultural history. The division's collections, exhibitions, public programs, research, and writing put America's armed forces into historical context.