The Smithsonian National Museum of American History collects and preserves more than 3 million artifacts that represent all aspects of American life, from the War of Independence to the present day, offering a wide range of exhibits that demonstrate the diversity of America’s history and culture. Photos: Tim Evanson/Flickr
The Smithsonian museums are the most widely visible part of the United States’ Smithsonian Institution and consist of nineteen museums and galleries as well as the National Zoological Park. Seventeen of these collections are located in Washington D.C., with eleven of those located on the National Mall.
The Smithsonian has close ties with 168 other museums in 39 states, Panama, and Puerto Rico. These museums are known as Smithsonian Affiliated museums. Collections of artifacts are given to these museums in the form of long-term loans. The Smithsonian also has a large number of traveling exhibitions. In 2008, 58 of these traveling exhibitions went to 510 venues across the country
The museum opened in 1964 as the Museum of History and Technology. The building was designed by the firm of McKim Mead and White. In 1980, the museum was given its present name as a means of reflecting its new mission.
Its collection features more than three million artifacts, including Dorothy’s ruby slippers in The Wizard of Oz, Jerry Seinfeld’s puffy shirt, Julia Childs’ kitchen, models of historic American ships, sheet music written by DC legend Duke Ellington, exhibits on the growth of American suburbia, industrialization, pre-Colombian cultures, the Civil Rights struggle, dresses of the First Ladies, or a mix of other themes and episodes. In 1912, the First Lady Helen Herron Taft had donated her gown to the museum for the First Ladies’ Gown display.
The museum features the most American artifact of all: the Star-Spangled Banner Flag. The flag flew above Fort McHenry in Baltimore during the War of 1812, inspired Francis Scott Key to write our national anthem and now awaits your wide eyes in an everlasting exhibition.
The building continues to undergo significant renovations, so prime exhibits often disappear. It was extensively renovated from 2009 to 2011 with Reinvestment Act funds provided by the Obama administration.