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 2 year and $85 million renovation in 2008. 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 with additional renovations. (The museum’s center core and east wing remain open) The plans will 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 will give a sweeping view of the Washington Monument and connect visitors to the National Mall’s landmarks. The wing’s first floor has opened in July 2015, with the second and third floors opening in 2016 and 2017.
Each floor will have a central theme: The first floor will focus on innovation and feature exhibits that explore the history of American business and showcase “hot spots” of invention. The second floor will present exhibits on democracy, immigration and migration. The third floor will highlight culture as an essential component of the American identity. Education spaces will include the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention, The Patrick F. Taylor Foundation Object Project, and The SC Johnson Conference Center.
The Wallace H. Coulter Performance Stage and Plaza will feature food, music and theater programs and include a full demonstration kitchen.
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 the rarely displayed walking stick used by Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln’s gold pocket watch, Muhammad Ali’s boxing gloves and a fragment of Plymouth Rock.
- Other popular exhibits include The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden, First Ladies at the Smithsonian and the Price of Freedom: Americans at War.
See photos of some of the most popular artifacts
Hands-on Activities for Kids
Kids will have the most fun using their imaginations at the Spark! Lab, a hands-on science and invention center and riding a Chicago Transit Authority car in America on the Move. They'll marvel over displays of Kermit the Frog and Dumbo the Flying Elephant. Wegmans Wonderplace is designed for children ages 0 to 6. Young children can cook their way through a kid-sized Julia Child’s kitchen, find the owls hiding in the Smithsonian Castle, and captain 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.
Guided tours are given Tuesday–Saturday, 10:15 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.; other times as announced. Tours begin at the Mall or Constitution Avenue Information Desks.
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.
Dining at the National Museum of American History
The Constitution Cafe offers sandwiches, salads, soups, and hand-dipped ice cream. Stars and Stripes Cafe offers American fare. See more about restaurants and dining Near the National Mall.