Smithsonian Develops New Exhibition on American Business History

Special Website Allows Public to Engage and Participate
February 7, 2011
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History is planning a new long-term exhibition that will explore a key area of the American experience—the history of business and innovation. “American Enterprise” is the working title for the exhibition, which will trace the development of the United States from a largely dependent territory to the largest national economy in the world (1750s–2010s). The central goal of the exhibition is an understanding of the American business history story focusing on opportunity, competition and innovation in the American marketplace—the dynamic interplay of consumers and producers. The museum is working to raise private funds for the exhibition, which is scheduled to open in 2014.

As part of the planning process, the museum’s curatorial team will be hosting an exploratory website to open the research and exhibition process to the public. Through regular blog posts readers will learn about research trips and the issues and artifacts that the team is considering. Over the next few years, the public will slowly see “American Enterprise” take shape with the hope that they will be engaged and comment. The museum is looking for interesting ideas about new artifacts to collect, topics to pursue, related personal experiences and to test ideas through surveys. The website is available at

“The ongoing transformation of the American experience has provided opportunities for many, great benefits for some, but hardships for others,” said Brent D. Glass, director of the museum. “Understanding the ever-changing American marketplace is fundamental to the lives of the American people, the history of the United States and the nation’s role in global affairs.”

“American Enterprise” will convey the drama, breadth and diversity of America’s business heritage along with its benefits, failures and unanticipated consequences. Examples will be drawn from many areas of American business activity, including agriculture, manufacturing, retail and service, consumer finance, and communication and information technology.

The National Museum of American History collects, preserves and displays American heritage in the areas of social, political, cultural, scientific and military history. To mark the 50th anniversary of the Greensboro lunch counter sit-in, the museum explores stories of freedom and justice, both in Washington and online. To learn more about the museum, check For Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000, (202) 633-5285 (TTY).