American Experiments in the Wallace H. Coulter Unity Square


Under the theme of The Nation We Build Together, the National Museum of American History will open the newly transformed wing of the museum’s second floor. The Wallace H. Coulter Unity Square is the floor’s new program space dedicated to immersive activities and performances that richly illustrate America’s participatory democracy. “American Experiments,” is a set of new activities designed to playfully engage the public in conversation about American civic life. Visitors will explore four experiments that bring to life the themes of the floor’s signature exhibitions—participation, commitment, negotiation, voting, protest, and pluralism.

Each station is designed to engage multiple visitors in a game-like activity that promotes conversation and discussion. Visitors will reflect on this history of the nation we build together and consider their own role in creating the nation of tomorrow.

“American Experiments” was developed by the National Museum of American History in collaboration with the Exploratorium of San Francisco, and was made possible by the generous support of The Julie and Greg Flynn Family Fund. A fifth experiment will launch in September.

Descriptions of the four stations:

  • “Ideals and Images”

Do Americans share a common set of ideals? Through a multiplayer card game, visitors match words commonly associated with American ideals with images they feel best represent them. A fascinating dialog emerges when players compare and contrast their selections.

  • “People Power”

Some goals can only be achieved when people work together. Visitors join hands to complete a circuit and trigger iconic American songs. As the music plays, visitors enjoy the monumental vista of our National Mall and learn about the historic celebrations and protests that have taken place there.

  • “#MyFellowCitizens”

After exploring the U.S. Naturalization Oath of Allegiance taken by candidates for citizenship, visitors reflect on what it means to be a good citizen and share their thoughts via social media using #myfellowcitizens.

  • “Head to Head”

What food is more American? Who changed America more?  Through an oversized sports playoff-style bracket, visitors form teams, persuade, negotiate, and vote to come to a single answer. This simple activity reveals a complex set of beliefs, stories, and perspectives that color our sense of who we are as a nation. 

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