Essential Architecture- Washington D.C.

National Museum of American History Museum of History and Technology




National Mall, Washington, D.C.








  The front of the museum

The National Museum of American History is a museum administered by the Smithsonian Institution and located in Washington, D.C., on the National Mall. It opened in 1964 as the Museum of History and Technology and adopted its current name in 1980. It is currently closed for major renovations, but is scheduled to re-open during the summer of 2008.

The museum has three exhibition floors, two floors for offices, and one floor (the ground floor) for retail and dining.

On the first floor, major exhibitions include "America on the Move," detailing the history of transportation in the U.S. from 1876 to the present and housing Southern Railway steam locomotive 1401 as well as automobiles and other forms of transportation. Also on the first floor is a showcase for various props from famous television shows, such as Archie Bunker's chair from All in the Family, Fonzie's leather jacket from Happy Days, Joanne Gardner's apron from Search for Tomorrow, and the "Puffy Shirt" from Seinfeld.

The second floor displays the inaugural gowns of First Ladies from Martha Washington to Laura Bush. The gigantic 15-star and 15-stripe American flag which flew over Fort McHenry during the War of 1812 and inspired Francis Scott Key to write "The Star-Spangled Banner" (the American national anthem) is located in a conservation lab on the second floor. It used to hang in the main hall but was removed due to its deteriorating condition. In its place is a modern 50-star flag which draped the Pentagon after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Third-floor exhibits include "A Glorious Burden," an exhibit on Presidents of the United States; this voluminous exhibit displays everything from George Washington's Revolutionary War uniform to Bill Clinton's saxophone. Another major highlight is American Popular Culture, which shows popular culture artifacts. It is a changing exhibition, but Dorothy's ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz are a permanent part of the exhibit. The "History of Money and Medals," the museum's oldest exhibit, was on this floor but was recently closed. An exhibit entitled "The Price of Freedom" on U.S. military history opened on November 11, 2004; among its numerous treasures are a sword belonging to George Washington, the chairs that Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant sat in at the Appomattox surrender of the Civil War, and a Vietnam-era helicopter.

The National Museum of American History Archives Center occupies over 12,000 feet of shelving in the National Museum of American History building. The archives are made up of photographs, motion pictures, videotapes, and sound recordings of events in American history. The archives are acquired almost entirely from donations.

The museum closed September 5, 2006 for a two-year renovation, including a new display for the Fort McHenry flag. During this renovation, some of the artifacts will be on display in the exhibtion "Treasures of American History" at the National Air and Space Museum and "Legendary Coins & Currency" at the Smithsonian Castle. The museum is scheduled to reopen in summer 2008.