The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History offers a diverse exploration of the nation’s history, its collections ranging from public lives, to major national events and cultural elements such as areas of advertising and the cinema.
With over three million artefacts, the National Museum of American History covers everything from popular culture and entertainment to technology, military history and politics.
Some of the highlights of its exhibits include the original Star Spangled Banner, Lincoln’s iconic top hat and, depending on your area of interest, the original Kermit the Frog Puppet.
History of National Museum of American History
The museum is located on the National Mall at 14th Street and Constitution Avenue in Washington, D.C. It opened as the Museum of History and Technology in 1964, and was renamed the National Museum of American History in 1980. Its mission is to collect, care, study, and interpret objects that reflect the experience of the American people.
The same site had previously held two temporary war buildings which were built in 1942.
From 2006 to 2008, the museum underwent an $85 million renovation, which increased the museum’s size by adding a five-story atrium, a grand staircase that links the first and second floors, a new welcome centre, multiple new galleries, and an environmentally-controlled chamber to protect the original Star-Spangled Banner.
National Museum of American History Today
The museum’s collection contains over three million objects, many of which are iconic items from America’s history.
There are a number of permanent exhibitions, which explore everything from American Enterprise, to the Presidency, America on the Move, and D-Day.
The museum is made up of three exhibition floors, and are anchored by a landmark object to highlight the theme of each wing. These include the Greensboro, North Carolina Lunch Counter, a John Bull locomotive, and a one of a kind draft wheel.
Museum artefact highlights include the original Star-Spangled Banner, Washington’s uniform, Jefferson’s lap desk, and Dorothy’s ruby slippers.
There’s also an eatery called ‘Eat at America’s Table’, which seats 600 and serves a variety of traditional American dishes, from BBQ and Tex-Mex, to cooking inspired by Native American traditions.
The museum also offers a number of regular educational outreach programmes, offering free curriculum material for classrooms, and hosting travelling museum exhibitions.
Getting to National Museum of American History
From the centre of Washington D.C., the museum is reachable in around 6 minutes by car, via Massachusetts Ave NW and 13th St. NW. There is also a regular public transport system of buses and trams which takes around 20 minutes, and departs regularly from Virginia Ave & 21st St. By foot, it’s a half an hour walk via 14th St NW.