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New Exhibitions 2020

February 3, 2020
“Creating Icons: How We Remember Women’s Suffrage”
Nicholas F. and Eugenia Taubman Gallery; Second Floor West
Opening March 6, 2020 - through March 2021
To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which recognized women’s right to vote, the museum will open “Creating Icons: How We Remember Women’s Suffrage.” Highlighting women’s achievements in winning suffrage, it invites audiences to explore how the country celebrates milestones, what people as a nation remember, what (and who) has been forgotten or silenced over time and how those exclusions helped create the cracks and fissures in a movement that continue to impact women’s politics and activism.
Using a jewel box approach, the museum will display a group of artifacts in conjunction with graphics and media, interweaving stories of the famous and the forgotten. The centerpiece of the exhibition will be a 6-foot-tall portrait of Susan B. Anthony. Painted by Sarah J. Eddy in 1900, the work depicts an idealized Anthony being presented with flowers by young boys and girls on her 80th birthday. The exhibition will also feature items donated between 1919 and 1920 by the National American Women’s Suffrage Association (now the League of Women Voters), materials related to Adelaide Johnson and Alice Paul, and contemporary items from the 2017 Women’s March as well as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s gavel.
“Who Pays for Education?”
Thematic Case in “Giving in America”
Third Floor West
Opening March 18, 2020; Closes March 2021
Philanthropy to support education is the focus of the updated exhibition “Giving in America,” which looks at the historical role of philanthropy in shaping the United States. Since the nation’s beginning, Americans have grappled with who gets educated and who pays for education. The update will feature objects from women educators like Nannie Helen Burroughs, who founded the National Training School for Women and Girls in 1909 in Washington, D.C., and an Oklahoma teacher who made headlines for her roadside fundraising sign in 2017.
“The Muppets Take American History”
Changing locations
Opening April 1, 2020; Ongoing
This “pop-up” installation will draw from the museum’s significant and historic collection of Jim Henson’s Muppets which ranges from his pioneering program “Sam and Friends” to “Fraggle Rock.” In this series of special pop-up displays, the Muppets will be appearing in unexpected places in some of the museum’s best-loved exhibitions, inviting visitors to look at the national collections through a fun new lens. Two Muppets will be displayed with exhibitions offering related content. Look for Miss Piggy to debut within “First Ladies” and Count von Count in the “Value of Money” exhibitions. Muppets will rotate 2-3 times per year, check for updates.
“The Only One in the Room”
New Perspectives Case in “American Enterprise”
First Floor West
Opening April 16, 2020 - through March 2021
“American Enterprise chronicles the tumultuous interaction of capitalism and democracy that resulted in the continual remaking of American business—and American life. The “Only One in the Room” in the exhibit’s New Perspectives case will illuminate eight businesswomen and female entrepreneurs who broke through tremendous barriers in their industries to create, innovate and provide an opening for others to follow. This case offers an opportunity to explore the trials and triumphs and contexts of women such as Lillian Vernon, founder of a major mail-order business; Sara Sunshine, part of the first wave of Hispanic advertising executives in the early 1960s; and geneticist Mary-Dell Chilton, who battled sexism in science. 
“Picturing Women Inventors”
Lower Level, Corridor
Opening May 22,2020 - through June 2021
Featuring stories of contemporary and historic women, this display of photos and graphics is dominated by lively, larger-than-life images of female inventors. For many, the word “inventor” recalls images of men like Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell, but inventors come from every demographic and segment of society. Challenging pre-conceived notions about gender and innovation, “Picturing Women Inventors” looks at women inventors, visionaries and scientists at work. The stories of inventive women have been overlooked, undervalued and sometimes lost, not least because they have lacked the support and backing necessary to secure patents and develop inventions into marketable products or services. The display is meant to inspire with stories about what women inventors have accomplished and how their breakthroughs are part of people’s daily lives.
“Girlhood (It’s Complicated)”
Second Floor East
Opening June 12, 2020; Closes Jan. 2, 2023
The history of girlhood is not what people think; it is complicated. Young women are often told that girls are “made of sugar and spice and everything nice.” What is learned from history is that girls are made of stronger stuff. They have changed history. From Helen Keller to Naomi Wadler, girls have spoken up, challenged expectations and been on the frontlines of social change. Through their lives, what it means to be a girl—and a woman—has always been part of the American conversation. “Girlhood (It’s Complicated)” will showcase unexpected stories of girlhood, engaging the audience in timely conversations about women’s history.
With a design inspired by zines, the 5,000-square-foot gallery will have five story sections: Education (Being Schooled), Wellness (Body Talk), Work (Hey, Where’s My Girlhood?), Fashion (Girl’s Remix), plus seven biographical interactives stories, “A Girl’s Life.” The design will feature custom murals and illustrations by artist Krystal Quiles. The exhibition will tour the country through the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES)from 2023-25.
“Winning with Words” (working title)
Third Floor, Center East
Opening July 3, 2020 – through June 2021
The words of politics are an important tool wielded by presidential candidates to influence and shape campaigns. This display aims to share the value and role of words and language, allowing audiences to consider why candidates use certain rhetoric in their major speeches such as acceptance and inaugural addresses. It will feature historical images and an array of words in a super-graphic as well as a podium from the 1976 presidential debate as a focal point. Other objects on display include a speech timer from the 2012 convention and campaign material from 1896, 1964 and 1992. Words themselves will be considered as “objects.”
“Really Big Money”
First Floor East
Opening August 14, 2020; Ongoing
This new exhibition will present young visitors with really big money; that is, money that is large in size, quantity or denomination. It will feature striking objects from the National Numismatic Collection, such as Swedish plate money, German billion-mark banknotes, a Roman coin hoard, and the long tail feathers of the quetzal bird as well as a range of interactive activities. These artifacts and activities will help young visitors understand that money can be a powerful and memorable way learn about the natural environment, community and cultural identity, political leadership and the process of exchange.
“¡Pleibol! In the Barrios and the Big Leagues”
Albert H. Small Documents Gallery
Second Floor East
Opens October 9, 2020 – through Oct. 2021
For nearly a century, baseball has been a social and cultural force in Latino communities across the United States. Moreover, Latino players have made a huge impact on the game. This bilingual exhibition takes audiences on a journey into the heart of American baseball to understand how generations of Latinos have helped make the game what it is today. From community baseball teams to the Major League, the exhibit shows how the game can bring people together. This exhibit will have a traveling component through the Smithsonian Institution’s Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES).
Artifact Wall
Second Floor, Center East
Opening November 6, 2020; Closing TBD
History has long told the story of Plymouth Rock, yet fails to recognize it as a myth. This display aims to share the truth about the subject through the perspective of both the actual pilgrims and the Wampanoag people in order to pose history as being a complicated story. The perspectives of the display will differ and connect especially through the ideas of tolerance and diversity which is in turn shared with the original myth well known by visitors. The display will feature a rock from the original “Plymouth Rock” with further artifacts branching off it as well as graphics and reflective surfaces. The idea of history through the lens of memory will be shared as current Wampanoags and descendants of the Mayflower settlers share their interpretations. The opening will coincide with either the 400th anniversary of the 1620 landing or the anniversary of the first Thanksgiving.
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 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). Admission is free. For more information, visit For Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000. On social media, the museum can be found on Facebook at @americanhistory, and on Twitter and Instagram at @amhistorymuseum.
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