Report of The Blue Ribbon Commission on the National Museum of American HistorySmithsonian Institution - National Museum of American History


Appendix F: NMAH's Initial Vision for Transforming the National Museum of American History (2001)

NMAH staff under the direction of Dr. Spencer R. Crew prepared the following document. It was completed in June 2001.

National Museum of American History
Behring Center

1. Introduction

drawing of museum

Conceptual view of the Constitution Avenue entrance, showing the restored fountain

In response to the commitment of Smithsonian Secretary Lawrence Small and our donors to transforming the Museum, the National Museum of American History, Behring Center, has reviewed both the larger goals of our exhibition program and the array of exhibition concepts currently under consideration. What should a new NMAH look like? What should our priorities be? What history should we interpret to the public? What kinds of experiences should we offer our visitors?

These are the questions we will explore as we seek to transform the Museum.

exhibit concept drawing

Concept drawing of the Digilab exhibition

NMAH has identified five basic goals for transforming the Museum:

  1. We want visitors to come away from their Museum experience thinking about the simple yet complex question, "What has it meant to be an American?" That question is at the heart of "American Identity," the thematic focus for our new exhibitions, programs, and other activities.
  2. We want visitors to feel a part of the Museum -- to be engaged and challenged; to connect with the past and find places for their own experiences and memories; to experience fun and wonder; and to feel at home. Toward that end, we recognize the need to be advocates for our visitors, not just for history.
  3. We want to lead the Smithsonian in the development and use of leading-edge exhibition techniques and experiences. Toward that end, we need to assess the range of techniques available internally and externally.
  4. We want the Museum to be an active and changing place. We are committed to providing opportunities throughout the Museum for the changing and temporary exhibitions and active programming essential to keeping the Museum fresh and stimulating. Toward that end, we must commit resources to more than just opening new exhibitions.
  5. We must lead the Institution in fostering affiliations and promoting outreach. Toward that end, we will aggressively pursue opportunities to forge and strengthen relationships with other museums and cultural organizations.
photo of visitors trying activity

These goals provide the context for the discussion that follows.


Testing and prototyping activities for the Lemelson exhibition, Invention At Play


Table of Contents | Appendix F.2. Interpreting History -->