The Smithsonian National Museum of American History collects and preserves more than 3 million artifacts of American history and culture, from the War of Independence to the present day. The world class attraction, one of the most popular of the Smithsonian museums in Washington DC, offers a wide range of exhibits that demonstrate the diversity of America’s history and culture. The museum completed a two-year, $85 million renovation in 2008 and is in the midst of a major, multi-year renovation of its west wing. The remodeling provided a dramatic new presentation of the original Star-Spangled Banner, a chance to see the White House copy of President Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and a transformation of the museum's extensive collections.
Remodeling and New Exhibits
The museum is currently renewing the building’s 120,000-square-foot west exhibition wing while the museum’s center core and east wing remain open. The west wing renovation plans add new galleries, an education center, interior public plazas and performance spaces as well as modernizing the infrastructure in this section of the building. A new panoramic window on the first floor offers a sweeping view of the Washington Monument and connect visitors to the National Mall’s landmarks. The wing’s first floor opened in July 2015, the second floor opened in June 2017, and the third floor is next to open.
Each floor now has a central theme: The first floor focuses on innovation, featuring exhibits that explore the history of American business and showcase “hot spots” of invention. Find education spaces like the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention, The Patrick F. Taylor Foundation Object Project, the SC Johnson Conference Center and the Wallace H. Coulter Performance Stage and Plaza. The year-old second floor focuses on the theme "The Nation We Build Together." The central question of this gallery is “What kind of nation do we want to be?” The Greensboro Lunch Counter is one of the artifacts housed on this floor, along with exhibits about the history of citizen participation, democracy, immigration and migration. The third floor will highlight culture as an essential component of the American identity.
Current Exhibit Highlights
The museum maintains temporary and traveling exhibits that offer visitors something new each time you visit.
- The Star-Spangled Banner - a must-see - The exhibit showcases the 30 by-34 foot wool and cotton Star-Spangled Banner in a setting with floor-to-ceiling glass windows designed to evoke the “dawn’s early light” in which Francis Scott Key saw the flag that inspired his writing of the national anthem.
- America on the Move is a favorite for all ages, using sights, sounds, and sensations to explore the history of transportation in the United States from 1870 to the present.
- American Stories showcases historic and cultural touchstones of American history with more than 100 objects, including Apolo Ohno’s speed skates from the 2002 Winter Olympics, a fragment of Plymouth Rock and a section of the first transatlantic telegraph cable.
- Other popular exhibits include The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden, First Ladies at the Smithsonian and the Price of Freedom: Americans at War.
Hands-on Activities for Kids
Kids will have the most fun using their imaginations at the Draper Spark! Lab, a hands-on science and invention center and stepping in a Chicago Transit Authority car in America on the Move. The Wegmans Wonderplace is designed for children ages 0 to 6. Young children can cook in a kid-sized Julia Child’s kitchen, explore in a Smithsonian Castle, and play around in a tugboat based on a model from the museum's collections. Throughout the museum there are plenty of opportunities to use touch stations to learn something new.
Programs and Tours of the National Museum of American History
The National Museum of American History hosts a wide range of public programs, from demonstrations and lectures to storytelling and festivals. Music programs include chamber music ensembles, a jazz orchestra, gospel choirs, folk and blues artists, Native American singers, dancers, and more.
Take a multimedia tour through a touch screen rental devices, or meet at the Information Desk on the first or second floor for a daily guided highlight tour of the museum at 10:15 a.m. and 1 p.m. Additional tours may be offered at 11:00 AM and 2:00 PM as available; please check at either Information Desk for daily schedules.
14th Street and Constitution Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20560
See a map of the National Mall
The nearest Metro stations to the National Museum of American History are Smithsonian or Federal Triangle.
Open 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily.
Closed December 25.
Draper Spark!Lab and Wegmans Wonderplace are open every day except Tuesdays from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Dining at the National Museum of American History
The newly renovated Eat at America’s Table cafe serves cuisine from across the nation, from barbecue to a Harvest Basket salad bar with seasonal vegetables to a Southwest Kitchen with Native American and Mexican fare cooked in a hearth oven. There's also a the LeRoy Neiman Jazz Cafe, which is stocked with food inspired by New Orleans. See more about restaurants and dining Near the National Mall.
Attractions Near the National Museum of American History
- National Museum of Natural History
- National Gallery of Art
- Freer Gallery of Art
- Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
- Washington Monument
- Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
- Old Post Office Pavilion and Clock Tower