Archives Center Exhibitions

Archives Center exhibitions are presented in 1 West.

April 5, 2019-Ongoing
"More Doctors Smoke Camels"
Today we know that tobacco products cause cancer, but, from the 1920’s to the 1960’s, advertisers used representations of medical professionals to make the case that smoking was healthy. Tobacco companies sought to exploit the influence of doctors, dentists, and nurses to ease consumers’ anxiety over the health risks of smoking. The focus of the “More Doctors Smoke Camels” exhibit will be on examining these period advertisements and showing contemporary audiences how advertisers worked to promote cigarettes in the face of the health problems they caused.

July 27, 2018-January 2019
Let’s Get It Right: Work Incentive Posters of the 1920s 
The Exhibit will explore how employers encouraged their workforce. The display will feature 16 posters from the early 20th century including a World War I poster and posters from Mather and Co. and the Parker-Holladay Co. with images and sayings designed to influence attitudes, reduce conflict, and increase efficiency.

April 1, 2017-July 2018
First Lady of Song: Ella Fitzgerald at 100

One of America’s most accomplished singers, Ella Fitzgerald (1917–1996) was an American artist who set a new standard for jazz vocalists. She sang her way to the top of a field dominated and controlled almost completely by men. See awards, letters, sheet music and costumes from her archives as well as videos of her performances. 


Universal design has its roots in the disability rights movement of the post-World War II era. At that time, the number of Americans with disabilities increased due both to the influx of veterans and to medical advances enabling longer lifespans. The “barrier-free” movement of the 1950s arose from veterans’ demands to participate fully in the same educational and employment opportunities as people without disabilities. Over the next decades, activists raised public awareness about disability rights, leading to incremental legal and legislative changes and culminating in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. New legal standards and regulations meant the need to design barrier-free environments for people with disabilities. Proponents of universal design extended the idea to design environments that benefit everyone. A pioneer of this movement was Massachusetts educator Elaine Ostroff (1933—) who has advocated on behalf of people with disabilities throughout her career. Her work has improved the lives of people with disabilities—especially children—and the general population as well.  

July 1, 2016 to November 30, 2016
Cyrus Field and the Trans-Atlantic Cable

Cyrus W. Field (1819-1892) gained fame for organizing the effort to successfully lay an underwater telegraph cable across the Atlantic Ocean from Europe to North America. Success in 1866 came after a decade’s worth of effort and several earlier failures. To complete the cable Field marshalled financial, political and technical support on both sides of the Atlantic. He helped create companies to undertake the project and found investors willing to gamble on the new technologies involved. He negotiated with the British and American governments for material support in the form of ships and equipment, and for commitments to use the cable when it was finished. He obtained the assistance of leading scientists and engineers. In all this, the entrepreneurial skills and integrity he had demonstrated as a successful businessman, combined with his boundless enthusiasm, stood him in good stead. The resulting cable was the first means of fast trans-Atlantic communication and one of the foundations of today’s telecommunications network.


Previous exhibitions

April 1, 2016 to July 1, 2016
Blue Note Photographs of Francis Wolff

Natives of Berlin, Germany, Francis Wolff and Alfred Lion became friends in 1924 when they discovered they both had an interest in jazz. Like many Europeans in the 1920s, they embraced this new American art form more than most Americans did. Lion was so enthusiastic, in fact, that he moved to New York City in 1928 to be at the center of the jazz world. Wolff remained in Berlin and became a commercial photographer. Lion founded Blue Note Records in 1939 and asked Wolff to go into business with him. Wolff hesitated at first, even though as a Jew in Nazi Germany his life was in danger. But he soon joined Lion in New York and the two released their first jazz recording by the end of 1939. At first, Blue Note Records emphasized traditional jazz artists. However, it quickly became known for recording the innovative modern jazz and avant-garde styles of musicians who dominated jazz in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Lion and Wolff were known for the respect they showed their artists and Blue Note became known for its atmosphere of creativity and excitement. 

January 19, 2016 to March 31, 2016
George Sidney: Creativity and Innovation in Golden-Age Hollywood

George Sidney (1916-2002), was an Oscar-winning director of musicals, dramas, and comedies during the Golden Age of Hollywood from the 1930s through the1950s. Sidney was under contract to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) for fifteen years and later directed films for both Columbia Pictures and Paramount. In many of his motion pictures Sidney pioneered new techniques such as filming underwater, combining live action with animation, shooting on location, and filming in 3-D. This exhibition commemorates the 100th anniversary of George Sidney’s birth and salutes his career as a film innovator. For more information about Hollywood as a place of invention, please visit the Places of Invention exhibition on the first floor of this museum.

October 2, 2015 to January 18, 2016
Billy Strayhorn: A Lush Life

William “Billy” Strayhorn (1915—1967) was an innovative composer, lyricist, arranger, pianist, and performer. Developing an early interest in music, he taught himself to play the piano. After moving to Pittsburgh, the rigorous music program at Westinghouse High School further shaped his talent. While still in high school he became known around the local jazz scene as an accomplished pianist, performer, and composer.


May 2015 to September 2015
Watching Mr. Wizard: Innovation in Science Education

Don Herbert (1917-2007) was the creator and host of Watch Mr. Wizard (1951–1965) an educational television program for children devoted to science and technology. Born in 1917 in Waconia, MN, Herbert graduated from the LaCrosse State Normal College (WI) in 1939 with a degree in English and drama. After war-time service in the Army Air Force, Herbert wrote for radio shows and acted, which prepared him for the role of Mr. Wizard, a persona he embraced throughout his career, even after Watch Mr. Wizard was cancelled. Herbert said, “I have never regretted this decision to become a home workshop scientist with TV peering over my shoulder.”


March 2011 to May 2011
Women and Jazz: The International Sweethearts of Rhythm, 1937-1949

The International Sweethearts of Rhythm was the country’s first racially integrated, all-female big band.  The band overcame gender and race discrimination to become the foremost female band of its time.  Composed primarily of African American and mixed-race women in their teens and early twenties, the Sweethearts also included Chinese American, Mexican American, Native American, Hawaiian, and Caucasian women.


December 2010 to March 2011
The Experience of a Lifetime: The Maid of Cotton Story, 1939-1993

The Maid of Cotton program was created by the National Cotton Council in 1939 to promote the American cotton-growing and textile industries.  This attractive, intelligent young woman served as a goodwill ambassador whose fashion shows, public appearances, and meetings with government and industry officials focused attention on the industry.  The first Maid of Cotton, selected in 1939, was Alice Hall of Memphis, Tennessee.


September 2010 to November 2010
The View From Up North: Americans Experience Mexico, circa 1890-1945

In the years prior to World War Two, most Americans had limited first-hand experience of their southern neighbor.  Mexico was known primarily as a place for financial investment and economic opportunity, as a tourist destination for the wealthy or those living along the border, and as a land of frequent political turmoil.  These examples from the Archives Center’s collections illustrate the ways in which most Americans learned about Mexico – without ever leaving home. 


June 2010-August 2010
Solomon “Sol” Adler: Restless Inventor

Although engineer and inventor Solomon “Sol” Adler (1901-1990) worked in many areas, he is best known for his work with sewing machine technology.  Adler grew up on the Lower East Side of New York City, the son of Isaac Adler, a tailor.  He apprenticed in machine shops and attended the City College of New York, learning and honing the skills needed to become an expert machinist, toolmaker and draftsman. Adler began working on sewing machine design and improvement in the late 1930s.  From 1954-1959, he worked in Japan as an engineer for the Brother International Company, designing sewing machines and other small appliances for the U.S. market.


April 2010 to May 2010
Jazz at the Philharmonic: Bringing Jazz to the World

In 1944, a young jazz enthusiast named Norman Granz organized a single concert at the Philharmonic Auditorium in Los Angeles.  That event evolved into “Jazz at the Philharmonic,” an internationally recognized program of concerts, tours, and recordings.  From 1949 to1959, Granz organized over twenty-five concert tours of North America, Europe, and Asia, bringing together dozens of popular jazz musicians to play in hundreds of concerts.  Included among the JATP performers were such prominent figures as Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson, Dizzy Gillespie, Coleman Hawkins, Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa, Lester Young, Ben Webster, Ray Brown, and Benny Carter.  Although the performers varied from tour to tour, JATP proved to be universally popular among jazz fans world-wide. 


January 2010 to March 2010
Recent Acquisitions: Selections from the Lockwood Greene Engineering Records, 1871-2004

The engineering firm that became Lockwood Greene was founded in 1832 by David Whitman, a mill engineer.  Amos D. Lockwood, a consultant, succeeded Whitman and entered a partnership with Stephen Greene in 1882.  The firm specialized in industrial engineering and construction; they designed and oversaw construction for a wide range of industries and industrial communities in the United States and worldwide.  It was one of the oldest industrial engineering, construction, and professional services firm in the United States until its acquisition by CH2M HILL in December 2003.  The Lockwood Greene Records are a comprehensive range of documents related to the appraisal, construction, evaluation, and engineering of facilities for a variety of domestic and international clients.


November 2009 to January 2010
New Acquisition: Bobcat Company Records, 1940s-2009

The Bobcat Company Records document the evolution of the Bobcat skid-steer loader from a simple agricultural machine into a versatile and widely recognized tool.  The Company’s loaders, mini track loaders, and product attachments improved productivity in many industries such as shipping, landscaping, and construction.  Today, the company manufactures approximately 40,000 loaders annually and the Bobcat name is synonymous with the compact construction equipment industry. The collection contains advertising and marketing records, newsletters, correspondence, photographs, posters, and audio and video materials.


June 2009-August 2009
Stonewall: Fortieth Anniversary, 1969-2009

The modern gay rights movement began on June 28, 1969, with rioting at the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village, New York City.  Precipitated by a police raid, the initial riot led to five days of protest.  These protests helped motivate the gay community to seek equal rights under the law and acceptance by society.  The movement has since grown to address the civil rights of lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons.  The Archives Center’s collections document diverse aspects of the history and culture of the United States. 


August 2009-November 2009
Addison Scurlock’s Portrait Studies of Women

After opening his U Street studio in 1911, African American photographer Addison N. Scurlock became well-known as a talented craftsman who produced elegant, distinguished portraits of Washington’s African Americans.  The “Scurlock look” was eagerly sought by customers. In what apparently was a phase of his personal, non-commercial portraiture, Scurlock created a series of pictures of attractive young women during the 1920s.  His “studies” offer a soft, romantic image of womanhood.  The photographs use techniques such as soft focus, romantic lighting, and hand coloring to provide an idealized view of feminine beauty.  Note that the subjects’ names were not recorded by the photographer: each picture is simply a numbered “Portrait Study.” 


April 2009 to May 2009
Claude “Fiddler” Williams, 1908-2004

A native Oklahoman, Claude “Fiddler” Williams developed an early interest in music.  By age ten, he was playing guitar, mandolin, banjo, and cello in a string band.  Around the same time, from behind the fence at a segregated outdoor concert, Williams heard—but did not see—improvisational jazz violinist Joe Venuti.  Williams was so inspired that he asked his parents for a violin.  This was the beginning of an eight-decade career with what Williams preferred to call the “fiddle.”


March 2009

Celebrated in song and story, a prized commodity, enjoyed in many edible forms, and sometimes used as a racial metaphor, chocolate is a part of the cultural landscape of the United States.  These examples from the Archives Center’s collections illustrate America’s love affair with chocolate. 


November 2008 to March 2009
The Civilian Conservation Corps Experience, 1933-1942

The Civilian Conservation Corps was a work relief program established in March 1933 as the first of President Franklin Roosevelt’s “New Deal” programs to counter the effects of the Great Depression.  The CCC recruited unemployed young men, organized them into companies, and sent them to battle the erosion and destruction of the nation’s natural resources.  CCC “boys” improved forests, prevented soil erosion, drained swamps, fought forest fires and floods, built roads and buildings in National Parks, and planted over a billion trees.  Between 1933 and 1941, over 3,000,000 men served in CCC camps established in every state and territory.  These display cases highlight different aspects of the CCC experience, using materials donated by the National Association of Civilian Conservation Corps Alumni (NACCCA).