About The American Scene: A National Culture Collecting Project


Why does entertainment matter in American history? The American Scene is a study of the history of American entertainment through oral history interviews with some of America’s culture makers. This site presents a series of excerpts from interviews conducted between October 2016 and April 2018, with the goal of sharing established contributions to the history of our entertainment industries. The National Museum of American History is committed to updating the website and adding new interviews over the next two years, leading up to the opening of an entire floor of the museum devoted to the history of American entertainment.

These conversations are helping our curators and future researchers shape the ways we understand how arts, sports, and entertainment create shared experiences where we express, challenge, and question our individual, community, and national identities. Insight from these American Scene participants will allow curators and researchers to bring further context and nuance to new and existing collections, as well as deepen our thinking about how national culture is created and is meaningful.

The American Scene is one of the projects supporting the museum’s work to open a floor dedicated to sharing the power of entertainment with millions of visitors and audiences across the world. Set to open in late 2021, the entertainment wing will feature a major exhibition that takes a deeply moving, provocative, and exciting look at theater, music, movies, sports, and broadcast media.

We hope the stories found here, in addition to being compelling and fun, inspire readers to think about how entertainment addresses our national values and identity. Success in art, sports, and entertainment is hard won and not always easy. It’s a process that is shaped by individual determination and skills, but also external forces that include politics, gender and race bias, economics, beliefs, and opportunity. From the unique perspective of the culture makers themselves, these stories reveal why entertainment matters to them personally and to the nation.

Unedited transcripts of these oral histories will soon be available for scholarly research through the Archives Center of the National Museum of American History. For additional information about The American Scene: A National Culture Collecting Project or the upcoming exhibition, please contact Stephanie Johnson, Office of External Affairs, at 202-633-0398 or by email.