A Guide to the “Superheroes” Exhibition at the American History Museum

American History Museum Tours

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The National Museum of American History will be hosting the “Superheroes” exhibition on September 02, 2019. The museum, owned by the Smithsonian Institution, has arranged a small yet select exhibit comprising some very surprising pieces. The description on the American History Museum website only hints at this and in fact it reads, “This showcase presents artifacts from the museum’s collections that relate to Superheroes, including comic books, original comic art, movie and television costumes and props, and memorabilia. The display includes George Reeves’s Superman costume from the Adventures of Superman TV program, which ran from 1951-1958, as well as Halle Berry’s Storm costume from the 2014 film X-Men: Days of Future Past.”

Two of the five exhibit cases presented at the museum concentrate on original art and comic books, while the three other cases contain props from films as well as pop culture trivia. There are many superhero items to surprise and delight fans of Marvel Comics and Marvel Cinematic Universe, as well as the DC Comics and DC Extended Universe.

One of those items is the 1950’s “Superman” costume. Rather than gray shades, this George Reeve’s superhero costume full sports color replicating what was seen on the famous television show’s later seasons. Another attraction set to be displayed is the uniform of the original “Storm” from the X-Men movies. The character, based on the Marvel comics, and first played in an X-Men film by Halle Berry, has many powers, including the ability to control weather.

How much you like the outfit of a superhero, or other related items, would directly be associated with how much you like the fictional character it links to. Not all people like Captain America the most, but among those that do, there is a sort of competition when it comes to getting their hands on some rendition of the iconic shield. Captain America’s shield is displayed in a case at this museum. For the uninitiated, this superhero spent decades cryogenized, and the way his shield is stored at the exhibition space would bring back memories of a frozen Steve Rogers to even casual fans. All fans would wish for the shield to work its magic, but you could say the same about pretty much all the superhero weapons at this exhibition. For any avid visitor, it is just about priorities in a given superhero universe – do you like Wolverine’s claws more than, say, the Dark Knight’s cowl and Batarang?

The displays in the three main cases are rounded out with the first issue of ‘Ms.’ magazine, with Wonder Woman on the cover. Did you know the ‘Ms.’ in ‘Ms. Marvel’ was actually a tribute to the editor of this, Gloria Steinem? For MCU fans at least, it may seem surprising that Wonder Woman even got on the magazine cover of its first issue itself. There are also two other items to excite pop culture fans: A telephone with a small Superman figure, and lunchboxes with printed Marvel Heroes and Wonder Woman.

There is even a bit of history on offer for those who are taking part in the “Superheroes” exhibition on their American history museum tours. The museum description reads, “George Clooney wore this cowl in the 1997 film Batman and Robin.” Even feminists would cheer the description given to the magazine cover feature, “Since Wonder Woman’s origin in 1941, the Amazonian princess’s powerful combination of compassion and strength has inspired generations.” Your private tour guide Washington DC may be able to fully explain to some of these things.

Surprisingly, the cases holding original art and comic books comprise an array of the latter that cover some which came out recently, such as “America”, alongside older publications like “Leading Comics”. The existence of a comic book collection as extensive as this in a Smithsonian museum, may come as a surprise to many, and will need to be studied more in depth. That applies to the four original art pieces – the “Sensation Comics 18” cover, a 1943 Superman comic strip signed by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, a Batman comic strip from 1945, and the cover of “Captain Midnight”.

The small exhibition lines the sides of the hallway that resides off the Constitution Avenue entrance point of the museum, though the place sure benefits from being near a Batmobile. The vehicle of the Caped Crusader from the 1989 Batman movie, was installed back in 2018 inside the exhibition gallery of the Smithsonian Libraries. It may be tied to the nearby installation as well as a Warner Bros. theater branding, which shows the recent Harry Potter spinoff. This seems a waste of space, but one presumes that in addition to the Batman car, the theater was approached with a promise of shared revenue or a cash donation.

A bound volume of comics of Wonder Woman, and reproduction of one unused concept for the Amazonian princess’s original costume, are also among the items of interest near the Batmobile. The car and the “Superheroes” are fun to see, even though too many people pass them by when on American history museum tours.

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