National Museum of American History Opens “Hooray for Politics!”

Museum To Collect From Iowa and New Hampshire Early Voting

To mark the 2016 presidential election year, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History will open the exhibition “Hooray for Politics!” Feb. 1. At the museum’s Constitution Avenue entrance, mannequins, surrounded by historic voting machines and ballot boxes, will hold aloft rally signs from the 2016 presidential campaign.

 The signs were provided by the campaigns of declared presidential candidates in the running as of Jan. 25 and who have the support of more than 1 percent in a recognized national poll. During the course of the election, raised signs in the display will indicate contenders still in the 2016 race. As candidates suspend or end their campaigns, their signs will be lowered.

Other objects in “Hooray for Politics!” include an automated voting machine invented in 1898, a glass ballot box, a glass ballot box from the 19th century and a bank of three wooden voting booths from the 1940s.

In 2016, the museum is organizing its exhibitions, programs and outreach around the theme “America Participates” to set the stage for a 2017 opening for four programmatic spaces based on the ideal of the nation Americans build together. “American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith” will be a cornerstone exhibit centered on the country’s founding principles, including political participation and engagement. The future show will include an array of campaign materials from the 19th century to the present.   

“It is through participation that Americans contribute to our democracy in a multitude of avenues, including voting” said John Gray, the museum’s director. “This year we aim to highlight the many ways Americans effect change and we hope to inspire a new generation to participate.”

Collecting from the Primaries and Party Conventions

Continuing a long-standing tradition, curators from the museum’s division of political history will collect campaign materials and memorabilia from the Feb. 1 Iowa Caucuses and the Feb. 9 New Hampshire Primary. Lisa-Kathleen Graddy, deputy chair of the museum’s Division of Political History, and Jon Grinspan, an associate curator of political history and Jefferson Fellow, will collect on behalf of the museum. The curators are seeking the material culture that represents political engagement, including posters, badges, buttons, ribbons and advertising novelties, as well as materials used by the media and other individuals associated with the political process.

In addition to Iowa and New Hampshire, both will attend the July Republican and Democratic National Conventions in July.

Today, the museum’s political history collection includes objects related to presidential history and political campaigning, as well as the history of the White House and first ladies; civil rights, women’s suffrage and reform movements; the World War II home front; and labor history. The political history collection includes some of the country’s most important national treasures, including the small portable desk on which Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, the top hat President Abraham Lincoln wore the night he was assassinated, small metal buttons made to celebrate George Washington’s inauguration in 1789 and items from recent presidential elections.

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. The museum is continuing to renovate its west exhibition wing, developing galleries on democracy, immigration and migration and culture. 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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Melinda Machado             
Valeska Hilbig