FAQ – General

How large is the museum?

The museum contains 300,000 square feet of exhibition, programming, and public space. Office and other non-public spaces are not included in this figure.

Can I use an image from your website for a school project or other personal use?

Yes! We encourage users to download images from our website for non-commercial personal or classroom use, without written permission, within the meaning of the principles of “fair use.” Appropriate credit to the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, should appear with the image. Images on our site which are credited to another person or organization may not be used without that party’s permission. Please visit the Smithsonian Institution’s Terms of Use page for more information about allowable uses.

How do I get rights to use a Smithsonian image or other content for a book or for other commercial purposes?

To use any text, image, audio, or video for commercial use, publication, broadcast, documentary, or for any purpose other than fair use as defined by law, you must request and receive prior written permission from the museum. To request permission and/or image reproductions, please visit our Rights and Reproductions page.

I have a similar object to one I see on your website and I would like to know how much it is worth. Can the museum provide an appraisal?

It is against Smithsonian policy to provide appraisal or valuation services. If you are interested in having an item appraised, we recommend you contact the American Society of Appaisers.

I have an artifact that I want to know more about, or find out how to properly take care of it. Where can I find more information?

While we would love to talk with everyone about their personal treasures, unfortunately we do not have adequate time or know-how to answer questions or give advice about each specific item. The Smithsonian offers general information and resources about the care and identification of historical artifacts. Local and state historical societies, libraries, and professional appraisers are also good sources of information.

I need to research some historical facts for my homework assignment. Can you help?

The museum does not have the resources to help with general questions about U.S. history. We encourage you to make use of your local library or search reputable websites. Questions dealing with specific areas relevant to museum research or staff expertise should be directed to the appropriate curatorial division or staff member.

What are the opportunities for research at the museum?
  • Libraries: Research may be done in the National Museum of American History Branch Library and the Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology which are open to the public by appointment only. Please call the Library's staff to schedule an appointment. National Museum of American History Branch Library: 202-633-3865; Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology: 202-633-3872
  • Artifact Collections: Access to collection materials generally requires making a research appointment with the appropriate curatorial division.
  • Archives Center: Researchers are invited to make an appointment and consult with a reference specialist in the Archives Center.
  • Fellowships: Fellowships at the Smithsonian Institution provide students and scholars with opportunities to pursue independent research projects in association with members of the Smithsonian professional research staff. More information.
What is the procedure for donating or loaning items to the museum?

While many artifacts in the national collection are the result of individual donations, only a small percentage of donation offers can be accepted after a rigorous selection process. If you believe you have an item of interest, please send a detailed description, with photos if possible, to inquiry@si.edu. After careful consideration, staff will direct you for further action if your donation is accepted. We generally do not consider unsolicited offers of temporary loans, nor can we promise to display loaned or donated items.

Someone from my family has donated an object to the museum. Is it available for viewing?

To inquire whether a particular object is available for viewing, contact the museum’s Office of Curatorial Affairs.

How can I purchase museum merchandise?

You can purchase merchandise onsite at one of our museum stores. You can also shop the Smithsonian Catalog at www.smithsonianstore.com.

Something on the website isn’t working or I’ve found a broken link. How can I let someone know?

Please use the comment form to notify our website staff. We appreciate your feedback!

I am interested in becoming an exhibition designer. What should I do?

Exhibit designers have typically entered the field from a myriad of disciplines--industrial design, interior design, graphic design, and architectural design being the most common. Currently there are graduate programs in the field of museum exhibition planning and design. There are undergraduate programs that allow students to concentrate their studies in exhibit design.  A good website to begin your search on is run by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. It gives a good overview of the design profession in general and you can click on FAQs for students and parents to get information on lists of accredited art and design colleges. You should also check out the professional organizations that designers and museum professionals belong to: http://www.aam-us.org, http://www.idsa.org/, http://www.segd.org/, to name a few.

Can I hold my wedding at the museum?

The museum may be rented for weddings and other events hosting anywhere from 10 to 3,500 guests in a variety of newly renovated event spaces chosen to fit your group. For more information please visit our Special Events pages.