New Exhibitions 2020-2021

April 22, 2020
Note: Smithsonian museums continue to be closed to support the effort to contain the spread of COVID-19. No re-opening date is available at this time. All exhibition opening dates are currently TBD.
“Who Pays for Education?”
Thematic Case in “Giving in America"
Third Floor West
Opening TBD; Closes TBD
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 TBD; 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 with in “First Ladies” and Count von Count in the “Value of Money” exhibitions. Muppets will rotate 2-3 times per year, check for updates.
Only One in the Room
“Picturing Women Inventors”
Lower Level, Corridor
Opening TBD; Closes TBD
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 TBD; Closes TBD
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”
Third Floor, Center East
Opening TBD; Closes TBD
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.”
“¡Pleibol! In the Barrios and the Big Leagues”
Albert H. Small Documents Gallery
Second Floor East
Opens TBD; Closes TBD
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).
Where Do We Begin: Patuxet and Plimoth”
Artifact Wall
Second Floor, Center East
Opening TBD; 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.
“Really Big Money”
First Floor East
Opening TBD; 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.
“In Sickness and In Health”
Second Floor East
Opens TBD 2021 - Indefinite
"In Sickness and In Health,” will explore the oversized role disease has played in shaping American history over the last 200 years. Surgical instruments, vaccines, bleeding bowls, medicines and other objects drawn from the museum’s extensive medical collections will provide visitors with insight into the experiences of both patients and practitioners. The opening section will provide an examination of a yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia in 1793, an 1837 smallpox epidemic on the Great Plains, and a cholera pandemic which traveled across the world to arrive in California in the wake of the gold rush. The central section will examine the development of germ theory, an idea which radically transformed medicine and understanding of health and sickness. The exhibition will conclude with an exploration of the many emerging health challenges, such as HIV and COVID-19, which confront the world today.
Through incomparable collections, rigorous research and dynamic public outreach, the National Museum of American History seeks to empower people to create a more just and compassionate future by examining, preserving and sharing the complexity of our past. All Smithsonian museums continue to be closed to support the effort to contain the spread of COVID-19.
On social media, the museum can be found on Facebook at @americanhistory, and on Twitter and Instagram at @amhistorymuseum.
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