Smithsonian Curators to Collect 2016 Presidential Convention Memorabilia From RNC, DNC

July 15, 2016

With portfolios in hand, political history curators Lisa Kathleen Graddy and Jon Grinspan of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History are preparing to trek through thousands of delegates and attendees at the 2016 Republican and Democratic National Conventions. They will be in search of the most symbolic and telling political memorabilia for the national collections.

Sending curators to the national party conventions is a long-established museum tradition and is part of an enduring effort to capture the spirit of the American political system. In addition to signs, buttons, hats and campaign novelties that the team will collect directly from delegates, Graddy and Grinspan will also seek materials used by convention hosts and the media that convey today’s communicative relationship between candidates and the public. Selected objects may be on view in the upcoming exhibition “American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith” opening 2017.

Comprising approximately 100,000 objects, the museum’s Political Campaign collection is the largest of its kind, containing artifacts dating as far back as the inauguration of President George Washington. The collection is an ongoing initiative to acquire materials that capture the atmosphere and the democratic spirit of the conventions. It allows researchers and visitors to observe and compare how each election season brings new trends, strategies and methods of communication to the political forefront.

The museum’s collection includes objects related to significant moments in America’s political history, presidential history and political campaigning, as well as objects illustrating civil rights, women’s suffrage and reform movements, and the history of the White House and first ladies. The collection includes some of most noteworthy national treasures, such as the small portable desk on which Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, the top hat Abraham Lincoln wore the night he was assassinated, small metal buttons made to celebrate George Washington’s inauguration in 1789 and items from the 2016 presidential election collected by curators at the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire Primary.

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 and culture. The museum is located on Constitution Avenue, between 12th and 14th streets N.W., and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. for extended summer hours until Sept. 4. Admission is free. For more information, visit For Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000.

Note: To schedule interviews with the National Museum of American History’s political history curators, contact Racquel Royer at (202) 633-3129 or


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