Grand Opening Week: Experience The Nation We Build Together

June 2017 Calendar of Events

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History is transforming how its audiences will experience history beginning June 28 when it opens signature exhibitions, and interactive experiences centered on the theme of “The Nation We Build Together.” The second floor of the museum’s West Wing will open with 30,000-square-feet featuring exhibitions that explore the history of American democracy, religion in early America, the cultural geography of the nation and five families who shaped the history of one house over 200 years.

On June 28, visitors will celebrate America’s civic spirit with special activities, demonstrations and music. The festivities will begin with a 10 a.m. performance by the United States Marine Corp Jazz Trio, followed by a Lego Statue of Liberty make-and-take activity at 12:30 p.m. Conjunto and blues musical performances and demonstrations will take place throughout the day.

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

Grand Opening of “The Nation We Build Together”
Second Floor, West Wing
Wednesday, June 28


Flag Hall
Second Floor, Center

  • 10 a.m.                         United States Marine Corp Jazz Trio performance
  • 11 a.m.                        Official opening remarks by Smithsonian Secretary David Skorton
                                        and Museum Director John Gray, followed by Ribbon Cutting
  • 11:30 a.m.                   Second Floor, West Wing Opens to Public   
  • Noon                           “Los Texmaniacs” performance
  • 12:30                           LEGO Statue of Liberty make-and-take activity (First Floor, Center)
  • 1 p.m.                          Blues performance by Rick Franklin and Jay Summerour

Wallace H. Coulter Unity Square

“American Experiments” activities

  • 11:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.

 “The Nation We Build Together” Greensboro Lunch Counter performance

  • 2 – 2:30 p.m.; and 3:30 - 4 p.m.


Landmark Object: 2 West
George Washington Statue

Horatio Greenough’s 12-ton marble statue of George Washington, modeled on the classic statuary of ancient Greece, serves as the landmark object for the second floor’s west wing. The statue was commissioned in 1832 by the U.S. Congress and transferred to the Smithsonian in 1908. The National Museum of American History’s building was designed to display the statue upon its opening in 1964.

“American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith”
Opens June 28

The Pete and Linda Claussen Hall of American Democracy

“American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith” explores the history of citizen participation, debate and compromise from the nation’s formation through today. The nation’s revolutionary decision to end monarchy and base its government solely on a sovereign “people” left each generation that followed to answer fundamental questions: Who are the people and how should they participate? 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 for women’s political rights illuminate different generations’ continuing engagement with these vital American questions.

“Many Voices, One Nation”
Opens June 28

Hall of the American People

“Many Voices, One Nation” takes visitors on a chronological and thematic journey that maps the cultural geography of the unique and complex stories that animate the Latin emblem on the country’s Great Seal and our national ideal: E pluribus unum, Out of many, one.  Through almost 200 museum artifacts and about 100 loan objects, this exhibition shows how the many voices of the American people have contributed to and continue to shape the nation and its communities, from its earliest beginnings to the present.

A visual mosaic of faces graces the entrance wall, with images moving from the present to the past, leading visitors into the earliest chronological section of the exhibition (1492- 1776) which includes objects such as a Southwest painted Elk hide, circa 1693 and a 1729 Dutch bible. The exhibition continues chronologically as it helps visitors understand the never-ending process of becoming one nation. Objects such as a Norwegian bowl brought by 19th century immigrants, a gold miners trunk, symbols of union and liberty such as Uncle Sam and Columbia, a baseball helmet used by Boston Red Sox player Carl Yastrzemski in the 1970s and a soccer jersey worn in 2013 by a player for a Georgia team composed of young refugees. The center of the exhibition provides a thematic look at where Americans negotiate their place in a community: in the workplace, on the playing field, in schoolrooms, in places of worship, and in the military. The exit experience is lightly interactive with a large map of the U.S. and territories made out of heat responsive tiles – which when touched – record for a few seconds a visitors’ presence as a handprint.

“Religion in Early America”
Opens June 28
The Nicholas and Eugenia Taubman Gallery

The role of religion in the formation and development of the United States is at the heart of this one-year exhibition which explores the themes of religious diversity, freedom and growth from the colonial era through the 1840s. National treasures from the museum’s own collection will be on view, such as George Washington’s christening robe from 1732, Thomas Jefferson’s The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, which is also known as “The Jefferson Bible,” Wampum beads and the cloak worn by abolitionist Quaker minister Lucretia Mott. Significant objects on loan from museums, institutions and private individuals include Massachusetts Bay Colony-founder John Winthrop’s communion cup, circa 1630; a Torah scroll on loan from New York’s Congregation Shearith Israel, founded in 1654; a chalice used by John Carroll, the first Roman Catholic bishop in the U.S. and founder of Georgetown University; and a first edition of the Book of Mormon. A new acquisition on view in the exhibition is an 800 pound Revere and Son bronze bell made in Boston in 1802 for a Maine Unitarian church. It later hung in the tower of the Stevens textile mill in North Andover, Mass. The bell is a gift of J. P. Stevens & Co., Inc., through the American Textile History Museum Collection. The exhibition represents the diverse range of Christian, Native American and African traditions as well as Mormonism, Islam and Judaism that wove through American life in this era.

“Within These Walls”

“Within These Walls,” showcases 200 years of American history as seen from the doorstep of one house that stood from Colonial days through the mid-1960s in Ipswich, Mass.  This 4,200-square-foot exhibition highlights five ordinary families whose lives within the walls of the house became part of the great changes and events of the nation’s past. The largest artifact in the museum, the Georgian-style, 2 ½ - story timber-framed house was built in the 1760s, just 30 miles north of Boston and stood at 16 Elm Street until 1963 when efforts by Ipswich citizens saved it from destruction. Inside this house, American colonists created a new genteel lifestyle, patriots set out to fight the Revolution, and an African American struggled for freedom. Neighbors came together to end slavery, immigrants made a new home and earned a livelihood, and a woman and her grandson served on the home front during World War II. First opened in 2001, the exhibition is being updated in 2017-18 to reflect new research, including insights about the former enslaved man originally known only as Chance. This research will add to the understanding of slavery and liberty in Revolutionary-era New England.

“Common Ground: Our American Garden”
Opens June 28
Second Floor, Terrace
Smithsonian Gardens

The museum’s Terrace Gardens, which extend around the perimeter of the building, will feature “Common Ground: Our American Garden.” Smithsonian Gardens staff will share stories of memory, healing, discovery and ingenuity. These gardens include plants that were found here, brought from other countries or passed down by seed or shared with neighbors.

Through this living exhibition, Smithsonian Gardens helps visitors see the impact of people and their plants on the American landscape.

“Wallace H. Coulter Unity Square”
The Greensboro Lunch Counter

American Experiments

The “whites only” Greensboro Lunch Counter where four African American students sat beginning Feb. 1, 1960, at the Woolworth’s store in Greensboro, N.C., will be the centerpiece of Unity Square. Their request for service was refused, and the students remained seated in protest, beginning a six-month protest and boycott. The counter was desegregated that July and the sit-in was a watershed moment in the civil rights struggle. The lunch counter will feature a “magic mirror” that will transform into a video screen featuring a History Channel film with archival footage.

Visitors to the space can engage with several hands-on experience stations, designed to inspire the public to actively engage in American civic life. The activities will address the themes of the signature exhibitions and bring to life the interplay and participation necessary for a healthy democracy. Each station can engage multiple visitors in a game-like activity that promotes conversation and discussion as well as a way to reflect upon democracy through each individual’s personal perspective.


New Exhibition

Sounding American Music
June 21 – TBD
Artifact Wall, First Floor, Center

From acoustic guitar to keytar – this display looks at musicians representing diverse genres who have innovated, invented and inspired as they contributed to America’s songbook. Guitars from Steve Cropper, Elizabeth Cotten, and Jesse Fuller demonstrate decades of ingenuity, while Herbie Hancock’s keytar reflects the continuous evolution in American music-making.


Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra presents:
International Influences in Jazz: Rhythm and Tradition

Saturday, June 10; 7:30 p.m.; doors open at 6:45 p.m.
Wallace H. Coulter Performance Plaza
Tickets Required: $25 standard seat, $40 table seat; visit

American society has always been greatly impacted and influenced by cultures from around the world. The diverse backgrounds, countries, and traditions are what make American culture so unique. Jazz music has and continues to embody this by being influenced by the diversity and traditions of international communities. From the big band fox trot to modern jazz’s complex rhythmic and harmonic structures, the SJMO’s 2016-27 season finale will explore jazz’s compositional forms and stylistic elements and their origins.

Star-Spangled American Music Series
June 22 and 29; Noon, 1 p.m., 2 p.m.
Wallace H. Coulter Performance Plaza

The U. S. Armed Forces will present live performances in the performance plaza, the last two Thursdays in June.

June 22            U. S. Air Force Strolling Strings
June 29            U. S. Army

Smithsonian Sleepovers

Smithsonian Sleepovers at American History
Friday, June 2 and Saturday, June 17; 7 p.m.
Presidential Reception Suite, First Floor
Tickets Required: Visit:

This Smithsonian Associates program invites children ages 8 to 12 and their grown-up companions to for a night that features tours, games, crafts, a film and more. For information, call (202) 633-3030.

Book Signings

American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith
Saturday, June 24; 2 – 4 p.m.
Wednesday, June 28; 1 – 3 p.m.
First Floor, Center

Museum curator emeritus and author, William Bird, will sign copies of the exhibition companion book “American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith,” that tells of the bold and radical experiment to test a new form of government. Democracy is still a work in progress, but it is at the core of our nation’s political, economic, and social life. “American Democracy” co-curator and co-author of the companion book, Lisa Kathleen Graddy, will join William for the June 28 book signing.

Many Voices, One Nation
Saturday, June 24; 2 – 4 p.m.
Wednesday, June 28; 1 – 3 p.m.
First Floor, Center

Margaret Salazar-Porzio and Lauren Safranek will sign copies of “Many Voices, One Nation,” which explores U. S. history through a collection of artifacts and stories from America’s many peoples. Sixteen essays, composed by Smithsonian curators and affiliated scholars, offer distinctive insight into the peopling of the United States from the Europeans’ North American arrival in 1492 to the near present.

Free Frank: A Black Pioneer on the Antebellum Frontier
Saturday, June 24

First Floor, Center

Juliet E.K. Walker, professor of history at the University of Texas at Austin will sign her book, “Free Frank: A Black Pioneer on the Antebellum Frontier.” Walker is a direct descendant of Free Frank McWorter who founded the town of New Philadelphia, Ill. In 1836 and who was able to purchase freedom for many of his family members. New Philadelphia is featured as a case study in the museum’s new exhibition, “Many Voices, One Nation.”

Food History Programming

Cooking Up History: The Chinese Kitchen Garden in America
Friday, June 30; 2 p.m.
Wallace H. Coulter Performance Plaza
For more information, visit:

Gardner and author Wendy Kiang-Spray will join a Smithsonian host to prepare a few dishes from her book, “The Chinese Kitchen Garden.” During the demonstration Kiang-Spray will discuss the ways her parents and grandparents grew food in their own traditional Chinese kitchen garden in Shandong and Hong Kong, using techniques that she then incorporated into her own Maryland garden. The program will also explore the many ways Chinese vegetables, herbs and spices have held significance and symbolic meaning, and how the process of planting food for one’s family is key to preserving a sense of tradition. Following the demonstration, Kiang-Spray will sign copies of her book.

Trunk Show

Underground Movement Clothing
Veteran-owned apparel company
First Floor, Outside Main Store
June 30; 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.

The Underground Movement (TUM) offers apparel inspired by our past heroes and historical events. TUM co-founder Jason R. Beardsley, a Green Beret and Special Operations Forces veteran, has created a brand that celebrates rugged individualism with unique graphic designs on custom T-shirts and other wearable pieces.

About the Museum

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

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Media only:

Amelia Avalos
(202) 633-3129

Valeska Hilbig
(202) 633-3129