An American timeline

If you are planning a visit to the museum, please stop in at the Nina and Ivan Selin Welcome Center to see our new addition, “An American Timeline.” The timeline is a multitouch application on a tabletop computer that features 101 moments of consequence in American history. With so many significant events in the history of the United States how did we pick just 101?

It started with a long list of events that I personally believe to be integral to the identity of the American people.  I asked for comments and criticism from our staff at the museum as well as prominent public historians like David McCullough.  After a few rounds of (sometimes) intense debate, I trimmed the list down to where it stands at 101. 

100_1908 I think this is the final draft but I am still tempted to make changes. As you can imagine, it is not an easy task. But I want visitors to have a chance to see the variety of events—political, military, economic, technological, social, and cultural—that have shaped our national experience and our national identity.

When you sit down at the table, you will see a long, scrollable timeline with numerous points that can be selected.  Touch one and it will open up to reveal a description of why this event was important along with a related image. If you want to read more about your selection, simply press a button and you will see more images and text to explore. 

For example, when you touch “Declaration of Independence,” you can see eight screens that provide background about people and events that shaped the American Revolution. You can also enlarge the document and read it for yourself. And you can see objects from our collection including the writing table on which Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration and a rare ceramic teapot, made in England, that says “No Stamp Act” and “American Liberty Restored” dating from the mid-1760s when the controversial tax was repealed. For some events on the timeline, for example the Model-T Ford, we have even included a silent movie!

Remember to stop by the Welcome Center when you come to your National Museum of American History. Take a look at what I think are the 101 most important events in American history.  If you disagree—or have something to add—be sure to let us know either by phone, or here on the museum blog in the comments.

Brent D. Glass is Director of the National Museum of American History.