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Welcome from the Director

Anthea Hartig
Anthea M. Hartig, Ph.D.
Elizabeth MacMillan Director
National Museum of American History

Warmest Greetings! I am privileged to serve as the Elizabeth MacMillan Director of the National Museum of American History as the 10th director, and the first woman to hold this position since the Museum opened in 1964.  

I like to say that if you have been in America 10 minutes or 10,000 years, you’re welcome here. The great motto of our great nation e pluribus unum—out of many, we are one—resonates and comes to life here. I so look forward to getting to know the museum, its communities, and its family and to get to know you, our visitors who walk through the doors and the millions of you who access us online. I hope that when you come to the museum, you will find a story that resonates with you, and that you will see yourself and your communities reflected in the exhibitions, collections, and programs in this incredible nation’s history museum.

My first trip to Washington from California was shortly after the 1976 Bicentennial. Some of my earliest memories are of the Smithsonian museums, including this one, which was then known as the National Museum of History and Technology (our name changed in 1980). Of course, we saw the First Ladies gowns, the gigantic statue of George Washington, and the Star-Spangled Banner. Those beloved national treasures are still here and there is so much more to explore.

Now our nation moves towards another significant milestone, as we shall celebrate its 250th birthday as a nation in 2026. I am eager to explore the many ways we can honor and mark this landmark achievement and look at the deep and rich complexities of our past, so we can create a more dynamic, informed, and just future together.

Anthea M. Hartig first visited the Smithsonian around the U.S. Bicentennial in the 1970s. This video explores the inspiration and career path that led to her naming as the Elizabeth MacMillan Director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History.

The video includes behind-the-scenes footage, with Helen Keller’s watch, c. 1880, and an early 1950s KCOR radio microphone, as well as scenes from Spark!Lab, the First Ladies gowns, Horatio Greenough’s George Washington Statue, the Price of Freedom, the Gunboat Philadelphia, the Star-Spangled Banner and more.

Watch on YouTube