Collections by Subject
The diverse collections of the National Museum of American History reflect a wide variety of subjects relating to the history of the United States as well as the history of science, medicine, and technology. Select from the subject list below to learn more about the Museum's holdings and view selected objects. You can learn more about particular types of objects by browsing our Object Groups.
Advertising is meant to persuade, and the themes and techniques of that persuasion reveal a part of the nation's history.
From butter churns to diesel tractors, the Museum's agricultural artifacts trace the story of Americans who work the land.
The National Museum of American History is not an art museum. But works of art fill its collections and testify to the vital place of art in everyday American life.
Work, play, fashion, economic class, religious faith, even politics—all these aspects of American life and more are woven into clothing.
Tools of communication have transformed American society time and again over the past two centuries. The Museum has preserved many instruments of these changes, from printing presses to personal digital assistants.
The last few decades offer proof positive of why museums must collect continuously—to document technological and social transformations already underway.
Furniture, cooking wares, clothing, works of art, and many other kinds of artifacts are part of what knit people into communities and cultures.
Washboards, armchairs, lamps, and pots and pans may not seem to be museum pieces. But they are invaluable evidence of how most people lived day to day, last week or three centuries ago.
The Museum's collections on energy and power illuminate the role of fire, steam, wind, water, electricity, and the atom in the nation's history.
The engineering artifacts document the history of civil and mechanical engineering in the United States.
Donations to the Museum have preserved irreplaceable evidence about generations of ordinary Americans.
Part of a nation's history lies in what people eat. Artifacts at the Museum document the history of food in the United States from farm machinery to diet fads.
The roughly 100,000 objects in this collection reach beyond the possessions of statesmen to touch the broader political life of the nation—in election campaigns, the women's suffrage movement, labor activity, civil rights, and many other areas.
The Museum's collections of medical science artifacts represent nearly all aspects of health and medical practice.
The Museum's collections document centuries of remarkable changes in products, manufacturing processes, and the role of industry in American life.
Where, how far, and how much? People have invented an astonishing array of devices to answer seemingly simple questions like these.
The Museum's superb military collections document the history of the men and women of the armed forces of the United States.
The Museum's music collections contain more than 5,000 instruments of American and European heritage.
The natural resources collections offer centuries of evidence about how Americans have used the bounty of the American continent and coastal waters.
The millions of photographs in the Museum's collections compose a vast mosaic of the nation's history.
This Museum's popular entertainment collections hold some of the Smithsonian's most beloved artifacts, such as the ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz and the Muppet character Kermit the Frog,
One hallmark of the American experience captured in the Museum's collections is the nation's broad diversity of religious faiths.
The Museum's collections hold thousands of objects related to chemistry, biology, physics, astronomy, and other sciences. The mathematics collection holds artifacts from slide rules and flash cards to code-breaking equipment.
The nation's passion for sports is obvious every day—at NASCAR races, kiddie soccer matches, and countless other contests.
The 50,000 objects in the textile collections fall into two main categories: raw fibers, yarns, and fabrics, and machines, tools, and other textile technology.
Americans have always been a people on the move—on rails, roads, and waterways (for travel through the air, visit the National Air and Space Museum).
The tools, rules, and relationships of the workplace illustrate some of the enduring collaborations and conflicts in the everyday life of the nation.