Price of Freedom gallery

About the Exhibition

The Smithsonian Institution invites you to visit The Price of Freedom: Americans at War at the National Museum of American History, Behring Center, in Washington, D.C.



This 18,600 square foot display surveys the history of America’s military from the colonial era to the present, exploring ways that wars have been defining episodes in American history. Using hundreds of original artifacts and graphic images, it tells stories of how Americans have fought to establish the nation’s independence, determine its borders, shape its values of freedom and opportunity, and define its leading role in world affairs. These stories go far beyond a survey of battles, for American wars are social as well as military events. The exhibition also looks at relations between wars and American political leadership, social values, technological innovation, and personal sacrifice.

Visitors have the opportunity to see some of the most prized objects in the Smithsonian’s national collections. These include uniforms of leaders such as George Washington, Andrew Jackson, and George Custer; and objects ranging from a cannon used in the War of Independence, to a World War II GI barracks, to a complete Huey helicopter from Vietnam. The exhibition has an orientation theater and a concluding experience that focuses on sacrifices veterans make when they fight for American freedom. It includes a range of hands-on opportunities for young people as well as interactive stations that tell present stories of wartime experiences in different eras.

In sum, The Price of Freedom: Americans at War is a unique blend of original objects, first person interpretations, video presentations, and interactive experiences. It gives visitors a comprehensive and memorable overview of America’s military experience and the central role it has played in our national life.



This exhibition includes graphic images of war and its casualties that some visitors may find disturbing, or inappropriate for young children. See, for example, Weapons and Wounds in Civil War; Axis Aggression, Storming Fortress Europe, and The Pacific Theater in World War II and Fighting the War in Vietnam. If you have additional questions, please contact us using the comment form.


Exhibition Self-Guide

PDF icon A self-guide to The Price of Freedom: Americans at War

Use this guide to enhance your visit! It highlights the service and sacrifice of generations of American men and women, provides an exhibit overview, and directs you to activity stations in the exhibition. This document is in PDF format and requires Adobe Acrobat Reader.


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