Grand Opening Week: Innovation Wing July 1 - 5 Calendar of Events

June 12, 2015

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History is transforming how its audiences will experience history beginning July 1 when it opens exhibitions, learning places and programming spaces all centered on the theme of innovation. The first floor of the museum’s West Wing will open with 45,000-square-feet featuring exhibitions that explore the history of American business, showcase “hot spots” of invention and put the spotlight on the National Numismatic Collection.

On July 1, visitors will celebrate America’s innovative spirit with special activities, demonstrations and music. The festivities will begin with a 10:30 a.m. ribbon cutting, followed by a “Build the Flag” activity with Lego master builders beginning at 11 a.m. Jazz and Hip Hop D.J. spun music and demonstrations will take place throughout the day.

The celebration will also debut the museum’s new living history theater presentation - an 1890s wheelwoman with a period-appropriate “safety” bicycle. The first two inaugural demonstration programs on the Wallace H. Coulter Performance Plaza will feature The Business of Chocolate: From Bean to Drink and How Do You Fix a Broken Heart? Museum docents will “spotlight”  key objects and stories for visitors in the “Place of Invention” and “American Enterprise” exhibitions and visitors will find hands-on activities in the Draper Spark!Lab. “Food Fridays” kick off on July 3 with Chef Curtis Aikens.

All listings are subject to change. Programs are free unless otherwise noted. The museum will operate extended hours, staying open until 7:30 p.m.; except on July 4. For a complete schedule of activities, check

Wednesday, July 1

Coulter Performance Plaza

  • 10:15 am – 10:30 am:             Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra Quintet
  • 11:00 am – 12:00 pm:             DJ Will Eastman
  • 12:00 pm – 12:30 pm:             Break
  • 12:30 pm - 1:30 pm:               How Do You Fix a Broken Heart?
  • 1:30 pm – 2:00 pm:                 DJ Will Eastman             
  • 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm:                 The Business of Chocolate: From Bean to Drink

Spotlights: American Enterprise & Places of Invention

  • 11:00 am – 3:00 pm


  • 11:00 am – 4:00 pm

Object Project

  • 11:00 am - 4:00 pm

Meet the Wheelwoman

  • 1:30 – 2:00 pm
  • 2:30 – 3:00 pm
  • 4:00 - 4:30 pm

Program subject to change.

Thursday, July 2

Coulter Performance Plaza: The Business of Chocolate: From Bean to Drink

  • 10:30 am – 12:00 pm
  • 2:00 - 4:00 pm

Spotlights: American Enterprise & Places of Invention

  • 11:00 am – 3:00 pm


  • 10:00 am – 4:00 pm

Object Project Carts and Docents on Duty

  • 10:30 am - 3:00 pm

Meet the Wheelwoman

  • 10:30 am
  • 12:30 pm
  • 2:30 pm
  • 4:00 pm

Friday, July 3

Wallace H. Coulter Performance Plaza

“Food Fridays” Inaugural cooking demonstration of Kitchen Stage with Chef Curtis Aikens preparing recipes from his native Georgia.

  • 11 a.m. – Noon and 1 p.m. - 2 p.m.

Spotlight Tours: “American Enterprise” and “Places of Invention” exhibitions

  • 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.


  • Open 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.

“The Object Project” Docents Assisting With Hands on Activities

  • 10:30 a.m. - 3 p.m.

“The Wheelwoman” Historic Interpreter

  • 10:30 a.m.; 12:30 p.m.; 2:30 p.m.; and 4 p.m.

Saturday, July 4

Note: Museum closes at 5:30 p.m.

Wallace H. Coulter Performance Plaza: “How Do You Fix a Broken Heart?”

  • 11 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.                    

Spotlight Tours: “American Enterprise” and “Places of Invention” exhibitions

  • 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. (subject to docent availability)


  • Open 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.

“The Object Project” Docents Assisting With Hands-on-Activities

  • 10:30 a.m. - 3 p.m.

“The Wheelwoman” historical interpreter

  • 10:30 a.m.; 12:30 p.m.; 2:30 p.m.; and 4 p.m.

Sunday, July 5

Wallace H. Coulter Performance Plaza

  • 10:30 a.m. - 3 p.m.: Demonstration Carts

Spotlight Tours : “American Enterprise” and “Places of Invention” exhibitions

  • 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.


  • Open 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.

“The Object Project” Docents Assisting With Hands-on-Activities

  • 10:30 a.m. - 3 p.m.


Gateway to the Innovation Wing

The Johnson-Louis Gateway to Innovation will introduce visitors to the theme of innovation and is located in the concourse area leading to the wing. Here, in collaboration with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, “Inventing in America” will focus on inventions and innovators of the past and present, including Samuel Morse, Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison. The displays will feature early patent models, trademarks as well as showcase inventions of National Inventors Hall of Fame members.

Landmark Object: 1 West
Ralph Baer’s Inventor’s Workshop

Ralph Baer, known as the inventor of the home video game, donated his workshop to the museum where it will serve as the signature artifact or “landmark” that introduces the theme of “Innovation Nation” that is explored throughout the floor. On a monitor adjacent to Baer’s workshop, visitors may watch an excerpt from an original color video tape the inventor made of the “Brown Box,” the first video gaming system.

American Enterprise
Mars Hall of American Business

“American Enterprise” chronicles the tumultuous interaction of capitalism and democracy that resulted in the continual remaking of American business - and American life. Visitors will be immersed in the dramatic arc of labor, power, wealth, success and failure in America in an 8,000-square-foot space focused on the role of business and innovation from the mid-1700s to the present.

Through captivating objects and engaging interactive displays, visitors can trace the country’s development from a small, dependent agricultural nation to one of the world’s most vibrant economies. Within the exhibition’s exploration of the merchant, corporate, consumer and global eras of business history are woven stories on advertising history and a biography wall with capsule histories of inventors, entrepreneurs, marketers, regulators and others who transformed American life. In the concluding “Exchange” section, visitors can try to manage a farm, run a cat food business, resolve tough ethical dilemmas and scale the tower of business success through cooperation or competition.

Places of Invention
Jerome and Dorothy Lemelson Hall of Invention and Innovation

“Places of Invention,” will take visitors on a journey through time and place across America to discover the stories of people who lived, worked, played, collaborated, adapted, took risks, solved problems, and sometimes failed—all in the pursuit of something new. The exhibition features six communities representing what can happen when the right mix of inventive people, resources, and inspiring surroundings come together. The story of precision manufacturing in Hartford, Conn. in the late 1800s shows how a factory town puts the pieces together in explosive new ways; Technicolor in Hollywood, Calif. in the 1930s puts the spotlight on the young town that gave birth to the movies’ Golden Age; In the 1950s, cardiac innovations in Medical Alley, Minn. examines how a tight-knit community of tinkerers keeps hearts ticking; Hip-hop’s birth in the Bronx, NY, in the 1970s looks at how neighborhood ingenuity created  new beats and the rise of the personal computer in Silicon Valley, Calif. in the 1970s-80s adds up how suburban garage hackers plus lab researchers equaled personal computing; and clean-energy innovations in Fort Collins, Colo. demonstrates how a college town combines its energies for a greener planet.

A large interactive map will feature text, images and video highlighting innovative communities across the country. Visitors, both on-site and online, will be able to explore and discuss case studies as well as contribute stories about their own communities.

Inventive Minds
Jerome and Dorothy Lemelson Hall of Invention and Innovation

“Inventive Minds,” is a gallery within the Lemelson Hall of Invention and Innovation and adjacent to “Places of Invention,” which will introduce visitors to the mission and work of the Lemelson Center, particularly its efforts to document invention. Brief video interviews, complemented by archival materials and artifacts, will put the focus on the inventors and their processes, telling their stories in their own words. The gallery will also highlight the inventive creativity of Jerome Lemelson, and the vision of Lemelson and his wife Dorothy in founding the Lemelson Center at the Smithsonian in 1995.

The Value of Money
Gallery of Numismatics

A vault door will mark the entrance to the new Gallery of Numismatics and the inaugural exhibition, The Value of Money. This exhibition will delve into the National Numismatic Collection to explore the origins of money, new monetary technologies, the political and cultural messages money conveys, numismatic art and design, and the practice of collecting money. Visitors will uncover links between American history and global histories of exchange, cultural interaction, political change and innovation. Featuring more than 400 objects from the collection, including some of the rarest in the world, the exhibit will include a storied 1933 Double Eagle, a personal check signed by President James Madison in 1813, a 1934 $100,000 dollar note, and a depression-era one-dollar clam shell.

Mr. Wizard
Archives Center
July 1 - Sept. 1, 2015

The museum’s Archives Center shows highlights from its collections in its three showcases. This display centers on “Mr. Wizard” showing a selection of personal papers, files and other items belonging to the late Don Herbert (Mr. Wizard) will shed light on this television educator from the 1950s-80s who used ordinary household items to explain scientific principles.

Fantastic Worlds: Science and Fiction 1780-1910
Smithsonian Libraries Exhibition Gallery
July 1 - Oct. 30, 2016

“Fantastic Worlds: Science and Fiction 1780-1910,” will be the first exhibition to debut in the newly renovated Smithsonian Libraries Exhibition Gallery. Visitors will learn about this fascinating period in history through the very works that taught an eager and curious public new ideas ranging from newspaper hoaxes, works of popular science, novels and much more. The exhibition serves as a tour of imaginative tales and the scientific discoveries that inspired them when the science fiction genre was just beginning to come into its own. Top hat and goggles are not required to take this trip to a world revolutionized by technology, populated with inspired minds (perhaps even a few mad scientists) and transformed by discovery.

EV1 Electric Car
July 1 - Sept. 30, 2015
First floor, center

The EV1, by General Motors, was the first modern electric car developed for commercial use. GM built 1,117 of the cars between 1996 and 199; the EV1 was never mass produced. This EV1 is a first-generation 1997, with serial number 660, the last "Generation I" car produced. The vehicles were leased to drivers and GM ended the consumer test project in 2004.

Display: The Americans with Disabilities Act, 1990-2015
July 20 - December 17
Second Floor, Mall entrance

As part the Smithsonian’s commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the museum features objects from the national collections that capture the significance and legacy of the ADA through the stories of four people.


Patrick F. Taylor Foundation Object Project

“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. From refrigerators and bicycles, to ready-to-wear clothing and household conveniences as diverse as window screens and deodorant, visitors will have the opportunity to see and handle objects, and explore their significance through historic documents and compelling activities. Encompassing almost 4,000 square feet, “Object Project” will feature more than 300 objects, as well as a “magic” scrapbook, an opportunity to virtually try on clothing, and a special version of “The Price is Right.”

Jerome and Dorothy Lemelson Hall of Invention and Innovation

“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.

SC Johnson Conference Center; Display Cases
Engaging Minds—American College Mathematics Teaching Circa 1915

The SC Johnson Conference Center provides a space for the museum’s national education outreach through teacher workshops and other distance learning initiatives. The conference center will feature display cases with an educational focus. In the early 20th century a growing use of numbers, combined with burgeoning high school enrollments and expanding technical education, encouraged the expansion of teaching math in American colleges. In 2015, the Mathematical Association of America marks its centennial.

Wallace H. Coulter Performance Plaza and Schedule of Events

Against the backdrop of a dramatic new first floor panoramic window, this performance space and demonstration stage with a working kitchen will highlight Americans’ quest for the new. Programming will be linked to the ideas of innovation presented on the floor as well as through the portals of food, music and theater through which visitors can better understand American history. Daily schedules will be available at

How Do You Fix a Broken Heart?
Sundays and Mondays; 2 p.m.
Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays; 11 a.m. and 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
Wednesday, July 15; 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; 10:30 a.m. and 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.

Food Fridays
Fridays; 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

“Food Fridays” will showcase a guest chef and a Smithsonian host preparing a recipe while discussing its ingredients, culinary techniques and history. In July, “Food Fridays” will explore cuisine around the theme of “Summertime in America.” Program partners Wegmans Food Markets, Sur La Table, L’Academie de Cuisine and Restaurant Associates will be on the stage July 10, 17, 24 and 31. After a 45-minute demonstration, visitors will have the opportunity to purchase a dish inspired by the demonstration in the museum’s Stars & Stripes Cafe.

  • July 3, Chef Curtis Aikens will kick off the program with recipes from his native Georgia.
  • July 10 Llewellyn Correia and Krystal Register of Wegmans Food Markets will showcase grilled meats and vegetables.

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 at 14th Street and Constitution Avenue N.W., and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). To learn more about the museum, check Admission is free. For Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000.