Event Spaces and Popular Exhibitions

The National Museum of American History displays three centuries of the nation's history and offers many options for reception and dinner sites throughout the Museum. Although food and beverages are restricted to non-exhibition spaces, exhibitions are chosen to customize each event to guests’ interests.

Event Spaces

Flag Hall

Flag Hall, located at the entrance to the Star-Spangled Banner Gallery, provides your guests with access to see our most treasured object – the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the poem that became our National Anthem. With reception capacity at 500+, or a seated dinner capacity at 350, this venue, which serves as the museums “town square,” provides a shimmering space for your guest to enjoy their evening. Flag Hall is also surrounded on three side by our third floor balcony, which is an excellent cocktail reception space providing sweeping views of Flag Hall.

The Wallace H. Coulter Performance Plaza

The Performance Plaza is located in the Museum’s Innovation Wing. This wing celebrates innovation and business in America. Exhibitions include American Enterprise and The Value of Money, among others, that would provide your guests with a well-rounded view of the history of business and invention in America. This space can host a cocktail reception for 500, a seated dinner for 250, or a theater style event for 275. The Performance Plaza features a built-in stage and demonstration kitchen that can be used for remarks, musical performances, cooking demonstrations, and much more, making this space perfect for seated dinners, cocktail receptions, and presentations.

Presidential Reception Suite

The Presidential Reception Suite is the Museum’s most formal and intimate space. The Suite has been used as a holding space for numerous celebrities and government officials including past Presidents, Vice Presidents, and Cabinet Members. This space can be used for daytime meetings, luncheons, and evening events. The reception capacity is 80 and the seated dinner or lunch capacity is 70. 

SC Johnson Conference Center

The SC Johnson Conference Center is available for daytime rentals and can seat up to 40 guests for your next meeting. Located on the 1st floor West Wing of the building, the SC Johnson Conference Center would make a great space for your next meeting with projector, screen, white boards, and other A/V capabilities. Available for daytime rentals only.

The Wallace H. Coulter Unity Square

Unity Square is part of our new wing celebrating “the nation we build together.” This wing features exhibitions focusing on this theme – American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith and Many Voices, One Nation. This venue showcases one of the Museum’s most famous objects – a section of the lunch counter at the Woolworth’s store in Greensboro, North Carolina that started the sit-in movement in the fight for civil rights. In addition, the space features a wall of windows along with access to the outdoor Mall Terrace providing guests with views of the Washington Monument, National Mall, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture.  With a capacity of 300 for a cocktail reception, 200 for a seated dinner, or 180 for a seated breakfast or lunch, Unity Square is an unforgettable setting for your next special event.

Warner Bros. Theater

The Warner Bros. Theater is available for a variety of evening programming including film screenings, movie premieres, concerts, and lectures. The theater seats 264. 

Rooftop Terrace

The Museum’s Rooftop Terrace provides guests with a fabulous view stretching from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial and is available for daytime events for 250 guests and evening events for up to 350 guests.

Popular Exhibitions

American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith

2 West

American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith explores the history of citizen participation, debate, and compromise from the nation’s formation to today. Through objects such as Thomas Jefferson’s portable desk, used to draft the Declaration of Independence; the inkstand Lincoln used to draft the Emancipation Proclamation; and the table on which Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote the Declaration of Sentiments, the exhibition focuses on the changing political ideals and principles of the nation, citizenship in a pluralistic society, and political participation and engagement.

America on the Move

1 East

The America on the Move exhibition takes visitors on a journey though the history of the United States—a history shaped by transportation. The exhibition uses multimedia technology and historical artifacts to create period settings around times and places where transportation changed American lives and landscapes. Visitors will be transported back in time and immersed in the sights, sounds and sensations of transportation in the U.S. from 1876 to 1999. Among the 300 objects in the 26,000-square-foot show are a 1950s Chicago Transit Authority mass transit car, the 260-ton, 90-foot-long "1401" locomotive and a 1903 Winton, the first car driven across the United States.

The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden

3 East

The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden exhibition explores the personal, public, ceremonial, and executive actions of the 42 men who have had a huge impact on the course of history in the past 200 years. More than 900 objects, including national treasures from the Smithsonian’s vast presidential collections such as Thomas Jefferson's writing desk, bring to life the role of the presidency in American culture. The visitor discovers the nation’s highest office through eleven sections, a timeline, and media presentations.

American Stories

2 East

American Stories features an engaging mix of the famous, the familiar, and the unexpected from across the museum’s vast holdings. Joining Dorothy’s ruby slippers will be the rarely seen walking stick used by Benjamin Franklin, a sunstone capital from the Mormon temple at Navoo, Illinois, Lincoln’s gold pocket watch, Archie Bunker’s Chair, Mohamed Ali’s boxing gloves, a fragment of Plymouth rock, and Kermit the Frog.

The First Ladies

3 East

The First Ladies explores the unofficial but important position of first lady and the ways that different women have shaped the role to make their own contributions to the presidential administrations and the nation. The exhibition features a large display of china and more than two dozen gowns from the collection, including those worn by Frances Cleveland, Lou Hoover, Jacqueline Kennedy, Laura Bush, Michelle Obama, and Melania Trump. For nearly a century, the First Ladies Collection has been one of the most popular attractions at the Smithsonian Institution.

FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950 – 2000

1 East

FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000 explores some of the major changes in food and wine in postwar America. From the impact of innovations and new technologies, to the influence of social and cultural shifts, the exhibition considers how these factors helped transform food and its production, preparation, and consumption, as well as what we know (or think we know) about what’s good for us. The exhibition features one of the Smithsonian’s most popular artifacts—Julia Child’s kitchen from her Cambridge, Massachusetts home.  This is the kitchen where Child, the legendary cookbook author and first star of food TV, cooked for her family and friends, as well as for millions of viewers who tuned in to her three cooking shows that were taped in the kitchen in the 1990s.  The exhibition will place Julia Child’s kitchen within the context of the last half of the 20th century, blending her impact on American culinary history with other significant strands of food history.

Price of Freedom

3 East

The Price of Freedom: Americans at War exhibition surveys the military history of the United States, exploring ways that wars have been defining episodes in American history. Using more than 800 original artifacts, first person accounts, graphic images and interactive stations, the exhibition tells compelling stories of how Americans have fought to establish the nation's independence, determine its borders, shape its values of freedom and opportunity, and define its leading role in world affairs. The exhibition features one of the few Revolutionary War uniforms in existence; a restored Huey Helicopter, an icon of the Vietnam War; and the uniform worn by Colin Powell during Operation Desert Storm.

Star-Spangled Banner

2 Center

Tis the Star-Spangled Banner, o long may it wave, o’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.

Francis Scott Key wrote these inspiring words on September 14, 1814 when he saw the United States flag still flying over Fort McHenry after the British bombardment of Baltimore, Maryland. His poem, which became the country’s national anthem, changed the way Americans looked at their flag and the Star-Spangled Banner has become one of the most important symbols of American patriotism.

Within these Walls

2 West

Within These Walls tells the history of the house that stood at 16 Elm Street in Ipswich, Massachusetts, and five of the many families who occupied it from the mid-1760s through 1945. Through this history, the exhibition explores some of the important ways ordinary people, in their daily lives, have been part of the great changes and events in American history. Within the house from Ipswich, American colonists created new ways of living, patriots sparked a revolution, an African-American struggled for freedom, community activists organized to end slavery, immigrants built new identities for themselves, and a grandmother and her grandson served on the home front during World War II.

Ruby Slippers Gallery and American Culture Displays

3 West

Dorothy's Ruby Slippers from The Wizard of Oz return to view as one of eight installations displaying American history through culture, entertainment, and the arts. For a few months, the red shoes from the iconic 1939 movie will be joined by Scarecrow's hat, worn by actor Ray Bolger. Other artifacts on view include jazz and classical instruments and cases for new acquisitions. A stained glass window from the Victor Company’s headquarters in Camden, New Jersey, featuring “Nipper,” the iconic dog listening to his master’s recorded voice, is the culture floor’s landmark object.