The National Museum of American History welcomes all visitors to create a just and compassionate future by exploring, preserving, and sharing the complexity of our past.
In preparation for your visit, please find the answers to your questions in the sections listed below. For additional information, please call 202-633-3717 or email. Once in the museum, questions about accessibility may be directed to security personnel or to staff at the Information Desks.
Service dogs are welcome. The Smithsonian follows the U.S. Department of Justice’s ADA requirements for service dogs. The dog must be trained to provide assistance to a person with a disability. Visitors are not allowed to bring emotional support animals into Smithsonian museums or onto Smithsonian properties.
You may carry sealed containers of food or beverages within the museum—but please do not eat or drink outside the cafeterias, unless necessary for medical reasons.
Visitors with mobility disabilities
Arriving and parking
The Smithsonian’s accessibility map locates accessible entrances, curb cuts, designated parking, and other features at and around Smithsonian museums. Barrier-free entrances to the National Museum of American History are located on Madison Drive and Constitution Avenue.
Vehicles with state-issued disability placards or license plates may park for a charge in metered, designated parking spaces on the streets surrounding the museum. For information about parking in metered spaces, visit the National Park Service website and District Department of Transportation website.
Accessible parking spaces are available, for a charge, in nearby parking garages. Reserved parking near the National Museum of American History can be purchased ahead of time through Parkwhiz.
If you are using MetroAccess Paratransit, please use 1300 Constitution Avenue, NW, as the address for the museum.
Getting around the museum
All levels of the museum are accessible by elevator, including exhibition spaces and all public facilities.
All restrooms and water fountains are wheelchair accessible. Companion care restrooms are available on the first floor in the east and west wings opposite the escalators, and on the second floor in the east wing only.
The museum's private lactation room, located on the second floor in the Welcome Center, is wheelchair accessible. This room is meant for single-use only and includes a cushioned chair with arms, two small tables, a locking door, and an electrical outlet. Please note that this room does not have running water or diaper changing facilities, but both can be found in restrooms located close to the Welcome Center in the museum's East and West wings.
Manual wheelchairs are available free of charge on a first-come, first-served basis while visiting the museum. Visitors may ask for assistance from Security officers at either entrance. Wheelchair locations and companion seating are available in the Warner Bros Theater.
Benches are located throughout the museums.
Museum stores, dining facilities, and self-service lockers are all accessible.
Visitors who are deaf or have hearing loss
Sign language interpretation of public programs and tours is available upon request. Real-time captioning of public programs is also available upon request. Because the museum does not have interpreters or captioning reporters on staff, two weeks’ notice is preferred. Please call 202-633-3717 or email.
An induction loop assistive listening system is available at both information desks. The Warner Bros. Theater has an assistive listening system. Please ask staff for a receiver.
Assistive listening devices are available upon request for Highlights Tours and events in the Warner Bros Theater, the Hall of Music, Unity Square, and the Performance Plaza. Assistive listening equipment is made possible through a grant from the Smithsonian Women’s Committee.
All narrated videos playing within exhibitions are open-captioned.
Visitors who are blind or have low vision
The museum offers Aira Access mobile information and verbal description service onsite, free of charge. Visitors can download the free Aira app on a smartphone, connect to the museum’s free Wi-Fi, and use the app to speak to an Aira agent using minutes provided courtesy of the Smithsonian. Visit Aira Access for more information, or download and read this Aira guide.
Visual descriptions of select highlight objects are available on the website. Some exhibitions offer more extensive visual descriptions that can also be accessed through QR codes in the gallery space. Tactile markers (bars) on the floor indicate the location of QR codes. Instructions for using QR codes are available on our website. The following exhibitions feature QR Codes for accessibility:
- Dave’s Dream
- Entertainment Nation / Nación del Espectáculo
- ¡Presente! A Latino History of the United States
- (re) Framing Conversations: Photographs by Richard Avedon (1946-1965)
- We Belong Here
Tactile elements are included throughout the museum.
Docent-led visual description tours with sighted guide assistance and tactile elements are available upon request. Two weeks’ notice is preferred. Please call 202-633-3717 or email.
Braille and large-print brochures produced by the museum and the Smithsonian are available at the Information Desks.
Visitors with cognitive disabilities
The National Museum of American History participates in Access Smithsonian’s Morning at the Museum program. Morning at the Museum is a sensory-friendly program for families of children with disabilities in which a museum opens early on a Saturday or Sunday morning. Families register for the program in advance. To learn more about Morning at the Museum, please contact Ashley Grady by email or 202-633-2921.
Quieter times to visit and quiet spaces in the museum
December, January, February, September, and October are usually less busy, quieter times of year to visit.
Visitation will vary depending on holidays, school vacations, weather, and other factors. Generally, the museum is more crowded in the afternoon. For more information, call 202-633-3717 or email.
There are quieter places and exhibits throughout the museum. Sound levels can vary depending on the time of day, time of year, and show schedules. Lighting a Revolution and Power Machinery, both located on the first floor of the west wing, tend to be quieter.
Exhibition pre-visit materials
Find tip sheets, sensory maps, social narratives, and visual schedules designed to help people with cognitive and sensory processing disabilities and their families enjoy a visit online for the following exhibitions: Spark!Lab, America on the Move and The Star-Spangled Banner.
Light, noise, and crowds vary widely throughout the building.
Consider bringing noise reducing headphones.
Upon entering the museum, all bags are screened by security. Please be prepared to open your bag for inspection.
If you would like more information, please contact the museum at 202-633-3717 or email.
For younger visitors and teenagers
Spark!Lab, located on the first floor of the west wing and geared toward children age 6 and older, is a good place to begin introducing a child to the museum. It offers multiple tactile experiences and limits its number of visitors to prevent overcrowding (though a wait for admission may be necessary). Resources to help you prepare for your visit to Spark!Lab are available here.