Smithsonian and National Endowment for the Humanities Present History on the Screen with Inaugural Film Forum

The Smithsonian and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) will present the History Film Forum, a free four-day exploration of history on the screen, at the National Museum of American History Nov. 19 – 22. Featuring screenings and discussions, the forum will bring together experts and audiences to examine the state of narrative and documentary history film as vehicles for teaching and interpreting history. Tickets are available beginning Oct. 9.

The inaugural History Film Forum will ask the question “When do films offer ‘good’ history?” and examine the boundaries of history as entertainment. The forum will include screenings of Ron Howard’s latest film In the Heart of the Sea* and Ric Burns’ new documentary The Pilgrims, as well as a discussion with writer/director Gary Ross (Hunger Games, Seabiscuit) and historians about Ross’ upcoming feature film, The Free State of Jones, a Civil War story about relatively unknown historical hero Newt Knight, who led the secession of Jones County, Miss., from the Confederacy. Other discussions will include examining the legacy of The Birth of a Nation on its 100th anniversary with public radio’s “BackStory with the History Guys.” A full schedule and ticket information are available at

“Millions of people enter history through movies and other entertainment,” said John Gray, director of the National Museum of American History. “The History Film Forum will examine how history filmmaking reveals both truth and myth and how we as a society view ourselves.”

The forum was made possible through an agreement between the Smithsonian and NEH. NEH has provided $309,000 to produce two film forums in 2015 and 2016.

“Over the last 50 years, NEH has supported nearly 800 films,” said NEH Chairman William Adams. “We strongly believe that documentary films have the power to bring us closer to the past and, in their own way, create new history. We are proud to partner with the Smithsonian on the History Film Forum to explore how films have shaped our nation and ourselves.”

In addition, forum attendees will have the opportunity to see additional first-run documentaries from producer Stanley Nelson, the Smithsonian Channel and Yahoo News, as well as participate in discussions. The forum also will include a teacher workshop aimed at offering tools and tips for more effectively incorporating movies in the study of history for middle and high school students. The workshop will feature example activities, classroom resources and expert speakers. Registration is required.

*Working journalists should please note that this advanced screening is not intended for critical review.

About National Endowment for the Humanities

Celebrating its 50th anniversary as an independent federal agency in 2015, National Endowment for the Humanities brings the best in humanities research, public programs, education and preservation projects to the American people. NEH has awarded $5 billion in grants to build the nation’s cultural capital—at museums, libraries, colleges and universities, archives and historical societies—and advance understanding and appreciation of history, literature, philosophy and language. Learn more at

About the National Museum of American History

Through incomparable collections, rigorous research and dynamic public outreach, the National Museum of American History explores the infinite richness and complexity of American history. The museum helps people understand the past in order to make sense of the present and shape a more humane future. The museum is currently renovating its west exhibition wing, developing galleries on business, democracy 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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Laura Duff     
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