Calendar of Events November 2015

October 19, 2015

Editor’s Note: All listings are subject to change. Programs are free unless otherwise noted. For a complete schedule of activities, check

Opening Displays

Toys and Childhood
Nov. 20, 2015 Jan. 3, 2016
East Corridor, First Floor

In time for the winter holidays, this showcase presents a selection of cast-iron and tinplate toys from the museum’s collection dating from the 1870s to the 1950s, illustrating the ever-evolving nature of American childhood and home life and bringing to light aspects of play. Included in the display will be a variety of vehicles, from boats and airplanes to horse-drawn wagons, as well as fanciful toys relating to the American circus – acrobats, clowns and a miniature Ferris wheel.

Frank Sinatra at 100
Artifact Walls, First Floor
Nov. 20, 2015 - April 30, 2016

The National Museum of American History will mark the centennial of one of the giants of the entertainment world, Frank Sinatra (1915-98), with a display focused on his popular music, jazz and motion picture career. This display will showcase Sinatra's contributions to America's songbook and film history through photographic portraits by Herman Leonard and archival photos from Director George Sidney's collection, sheet music, album covers and posters. The key artifacts illustrating Sinatra's career include the trench coat worn by him in the 1957 movie Pal Joey and bow ties made by his first wife, Nancy, to throw at concerts.

Wolverine and C-3PO costumes
Nov. 23, 2015 Feb. 2016
American Stories, East Wing, Second Floor

The Wolverine costume and claws which actor Hugh Jackman wore in the X-Men film series and Anthony Daniels’ C-3PO costume from Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi will be on special display in the “American Stories” exhibition. “American Stories” features an engaging mix of artifacts from the museum’s vast collections to tell the stories about the country’s history.

Closing Displays

Don Draper Suit and Hat
Closes Nov. 23
American Stories, East Wing, Second Floor

The suit and hat worn by actor Jon Hamm in the TV series Mad Men will come off view.

Hall of Power Machinery
Closed for renovation through Jan. 2016

The Hall of Power Machinery holds models and machines including pumps, boilers, turbines, waterwheels and engines that illustrate the development of increasingly efficient power machinery throughout American history.

Featured Events

Book Signing: Days of our Lives: 50 Years, by Greg Meng
Nov. 4, Noon-1 p.m. 
Warner Bros. Theater Lobby

Cast members from NBC’s longest-running scripted program, Days of Our Lives, will greet fans and sign the new book, Days of our Lives: 50 Years, by Greg Meng, the show’s co-executive producer. The book provides a photographic journey of the show’s history, including rare black-and-white historical images and a wealth of full color photos as well as highlighting the iconic characters and beloved stories from Salem, the fictitious Midwestern town the show is set in. The book will be available for sale through the museum’s shop.

What It Means to Be American
What Does American Ingenuity Look Like?
Friday, Nov. 13; 6:30 p.m.
Wallace H. Coulter Performance Plaza, First Floor, Registration required*

Human beings are perpetually brainstorming better ways to build a mousetrap. But there is something particularly American about celebrating ingenuity. We transform our inventors, from Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell to Steve Jobs, into celebrities. What are the characteristics that define American ingenuity? How has the U.S. inspired generations of creators and innovators? Winners of the 2015 Smithsonian Ingenuity Awards, presented by Smithsonian magazine, will discuss America’s peculiar mix of creativity and pragmatism.
*For tickets, go to:

History Film Forum
Nov. 19-22
Warner Bros. Theater, First Floor
Free, registration required:

Join filmmakers, historians, and political leaders at the museum for the inaugural History Film Forum, presented by the Smithsonian and National Endowment for the Humanities, to examine the state of narrative and documentary film. For a full schedule of events and registration, go to:

  • Thursday, Nov. 19; 7 p.m.: In the Heart of the Sea screening and discussion with Nathaniel Philbrick, author of the award-winning book about the Essex whaling ship on which the film is based
  • Friday, Nov. 20; 7 p.m.: The Pilgrims screening and discussion with documentary filmmaker Ric Burns
  • Saturday, Nov. 21; 7 p.m.: See a preview of The Free State of Jones followed by a discussion with writer/director Gary Ross (The Hunger Games) and scholars David Blight of Yale University and Steven Hahm of the University of Pennsylvania
  • Sunday, Nov. 22; 5 p.m.: The American History Guys, hosts of the popular public radio show “BackStory,” lead a discussion on The Birth of a Nation to mark the 100th anniversary of D.W. Griffith’s seminal, controversial film


Axelrod String Quartet Series Concert & Lecture
Saturday, Nov. 7 and Sunday Nov. 8
Pre-concert lecture 6:30 p.m.; Concert 7:30 p.m.

Hall of Music, Third Floor

In the first concert of the season the Axelrod String Quartet, comprised of Mark Destrubé (violin), James Dunham (viola), Marilyn McDonald (violin), and Kenneth Slowik (violincello), present Haydn’s Quartet in G Major, Op. 76, No. 1, and Dvorak’s Quartet in D Minor, Op. 34. Guest artist Deborah Dunham (double bass) will then join the quartet in a performance of Dvorak’s String Quintet in G Major, Op. 77.

Food History

Food Fridays
Nov. 6, 13, 20, and 27; 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Wallace H. Coulter Performance Plaza, Demonstration Kitchen

“Food Fridays” showcase a guest chef and a Smithsonian host who prepare a recipe while discussing its ingredients, culinary techniques, and history. The food cooked ties into the museum’s exhibitions, collections, and research, providing insight into the role of food, identity, tradition, and innovation in American society over time. After a 45-minute demonstration, visitors will have the opportunity to purchase a dish inspired by the demonstration at the Stars & Stripes Cafe. For more information, visit:

American History (After Hours)
Blown Away: The Art and Science of Glass
Wednesday, Nov. 11; 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

Wallace H. Coulter Performance Plaza, First Floor, Ticket purchase required*

From cocktail glasses to beakers to windows, glass is a major part of American life. Enjoy custom cocktails and samples from Pittsburgh’s historic Wigle Whiskey while chatting with glass blowers about the art and science of glass today and throughout history. Visit the museum’s newest display “Science Under Glass.”
*Tickets $40 each:; Each ticket includes two drinks and an appetizer. Must be 21 years of age or older.

Book Signings

Inside the President’s Helicopter: Reflections of a White House Senior Pilot  and
Logan: The Honorable Life & Scandalous Death of a Western Lawman by Jackie Boor
Sunday, Nov. 15; 12 p.m. – 4 p.m.
Mall Store, Second Floor

Author and freelance journalist Jackie Boor signs copies of her two books, Inside the President’s Helicopter: Reflections of a White House Senior Pilot and Logan: The Honorable Life & Scandalous Death of a Western Lawman. Each nonfiction work tells the story of an American man caught in the fabric of a tumultuous society: retired U.S. Army LTC Gene T. Boyer, who flew President Nixon from the White House the day he resigned, and Sheriff Thomas Logan, whose 1906 death outside a house of ill-repute shocked Nevada and coincided with the decline of the Wild West.

Events and Daily Programs

Lace Collection Demonstration
Thursday, Nov. 19; 1 p.m. 2:30 p.m.
Second Floor, Center

As part of its expansive textile collections, the National Museum of American History has numerous laces, including some made in Belgium during World War I. This demonstration gives visitors the opportunity to not only explore selections from the museum’s collection but also learn about the process and tools involved in lacemaking and the material’s importance throughout American history.

Wallace H. Coulter Performance Plaza, First Floor

How Do You Fix a Broken Heart?
Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays; 2 p.m.

When the strongest muscle in the body stops working, how do Americans solve that problem? They innovate. The quest to develop a successful artificial heart spanned decades, involved many competing researchers and technologies and is still a work in progress. By looking closely at key moments in this history, visitors experience the persistence, collaboration and vision that is necessary for innovation.

Ask a Farmer
Saturday, Nov. 14; 2 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 21; 2 p.m.

Join in a conversation with American farmers about their stories and hear directly about what motivates them, what challenges them and how they are innovating American agriculture. Using modern technologies to transcend the limitations of geography, this program brings together visitors with farmers to facilitate a discussion and broader understanding of the American agricultural world.

The Business of Chocolate: From Bean to Drink
Thursdays; 2 p.m.

Did you know that chocolate in the colonial era was consumed as a drink, and not as we eat it today?  Making chocolate in the colonial era was a complex, global business and a multi-step process from tree to drink. Through demonstrations of colonial chocolate making, visitors will gain a deeper understanding of the role of chocolate in American history and American life.

Meet the Wheelwoman
Tuesday-Saturday; 11:30 am, 12:45 p.m., and 2 p.m.

Talk with a wheelwoman – a female bicycle rider from the 1890s – as she pedals around “Object Project” and The Wallace H. Coulter Performance Plaza on her safety bicycle, and find out how women of that era used bicycles to change their lives.

Open daily, except Tuesdays, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

“Spark!Lab” is where museum visitors become inventors. The Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation invites children between the ages of six and 12 to create, collaborate, explore, test, experiment and invent. Activities for children and families incorporate traditional science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) with art, museum and creativity. 

Object Project Docent Demonstrations
Daily, 10:30 a.m. - 3 p.m. (subject to docent availability)

“Object Project” features “everyday things that changed everything.” It will present familiar objects in a new light, exploring how people, innovative things and social change shaped life as we know it. Visitors will have the opportunity to see and handle objects, and explore their significance through demonstrations and docent-led activities. 

About the Museum

The National Museum of American History explores the infinite richness and complexity of American history through its collections and research. The museum helps people understand the past in order to make sense of the present and shape a more humane future. The museum is located on Constitution Avenue N.W. between 12th and 14th Streets, and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). To learn more about the museum, visit Admission is free. For Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000.

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