Attraction Spotlight: Smithsonian National Museum of American History
Before I visited Washington D.C., I naively thought ‘the Smithsonian’ was just one place. I quickly found out that wasn’t the case. I only had a short time in D.C. so I was only able to visit a couple of museums and one of them was the National Museum of American History. In relation to our Jazz Appreciation Month theme, the Smithsonian National Museum of American History is the birthplace of this event. Every year in April, the museum facilitates lectures, other educational offerings, and an exhibition, along with assisting schools and other organisations to run their own events to celebrate the vibrant history of jazz.
The Smithsonian Museum of American History opened to the public in January 1964 as the Museum of History and Technology and the sixth Smithsonian building along the National Mall. Since then, around 4 million people a year visit the museum and millions more visit virtually through the website. The name was changed to the National Museum of American History in 1980 as they believed it better suited the museum’s basic mission.
Its location on the National Mall and its status as one of the last buildings designed by architectural firm McKim, Mead and White means the National Museum of American History is a National Historic Landmark and is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Renovations and improvements
The Museum closed between September 2006 and November 2008, for major renovations to the building and exhibitions. These renovations significantly transformed the building’s architectural appeal and reorganised and renewed the presentation of the many collections. The renovation project focused on three areas: architectural enhancements to the centre core, including a grand staircase and a skylight; construction of a new Star-Spangled Banner gallery, and updates to the 44-year-old building’s infrastructure.
The museum is currently undergoing a major rejuvenation project to the building’s 120,000 square-foot west exhibition wing. The plans for this renovation include new galleries, an education centre, and interior public plazas and performance spaces, as well as modernized infrastructure in this section of the building. A new panoramic window on the first floor will give a sweeping view of the Washington Monument and connect visitors to the National Mall's landmarks.
What can you see?
Another thing I woefully underestimated was how long it took to see everything the museum had to offer. The National Museum of American History covers 16 main topics, including but not limited to World War I, Women’s History, American Culture, African American History, and Innovation.
Wandering through the exhibits you can see Dorothy’s ruby slipper from the 1939 movie, The Wizard of Oz, along with Scarecrow’s hat and Glinda the Good Witch’s wand, dedications to music that shaped America, homages to America’s favourite pastime – baseball, a replica of Julia Childs’ kitchen and so much more.
Location, cost, and hours
Location: The museum is located on the National Mall at Constitution Avenue, N.W., between 12th and 14th Streets, Washington, D.C.
Cost: Admission is free and no tickets are required.
Hours: Open Friday through Tuesday, except December 25, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Beginning April 4, the museum will be open seven days a week.
For more information, or to book a Washington D.C. adventure, get in contact with us today. You can also visit the National Museum of American History website for more in-depth information about the museum.