Washington DC is notable for its numerous historical monuments, government buildings, and other attractions. Known for its rich historical significance, Washington played a vital role in the founding and the crucial history of the United States. This rich and detailed history is well preserved in the American History Museum, which is one of the major attractions in Washington DC. In fact, so important is the museum that it is definitely worthy of a visit while in Washington.
The National Museum of American History preserves and displays several prominent items related to the history of the nation and culture. Visiting the American History Museum is surely the best way there is to experience the rich history and people that shaped this remarkable country as it stands today. These large collections displayed in the museum take you back in time to those tumultuous periods of the birth of the nation and the major upheavals and reforms that followed afterward. Besides political history, the American History Museum also exhibits a range of items related to the social, cultural, scientific, and technological development that happened across the nation over the course of history.
A Short History
The origins of the American History Museum can be traced back to the 1950’s. The then President Dwight D. Eisenhower had signed a bill that allocated $36 million for the construction of this museum. The actual construction began in 1955 under the supervision of the architects McKim, Mead, and White. It covered an approximate area of 750,000 square feet that included a basement, three main exhibition levels, two office-collection levels, and a mechanical penthouse. The museum was opened to the public in 1964 and was known particularly as the last project done by these architects.
Due to its location on the National Mall, the American History Museum is classified as an important National Historic Landmark. Originally, known as the Museum of History and Technology, the name underwent a change in 1980, as it was rechristened as the National Museum of American History. This change in name was carried out to create a new character for the museum and stick to its mission of cherishing valuable artifacts from the history of the nation.
The American History Museum houses a large collection of about three million artifacts having immense historical value. This huge collection provides the visitors with a glimpse into the rich history of the nation. Due to this huge wealth of collections, it is not that easy to view them fully. In that case, it is best to rely on any DC private tour guides for getting around the exhibits quickly and experience the museum completely.
The collections are based on several of the major events and themes that have shaped the history of the nation. American History is one such exhibit that includes numerous sights, information, and exploration. The evolution of the public transport system in the nation from 1870 to the present is covered in America on the Move exhibit. Another major exhibit is The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden, Within These Walls that consist of the famous top hat worn by Abraham Lincoln during his last hours along with other presidential relics
Another major part of the exhibits is under the Archives Center that consists of a collection of documents, photographs, and motion pictures. This along with other items like the advertising histories of major U.S. Corporations, Duke Ellington’s sheet music, and the Warshaw Collection of Business Americana form the major part of the exhibits.
Among its innumerable wealth of historically valuable items, several prominent objects have become the key highlights of the American History Museum. These are items are definitely not to be missed while visiting the museum. One of them is the Star-Spangled Banner, which the most valuable and treasured item displayed in the museum. Located on the second floor, this flag was present in Fort McHenry at the time of the battle of 1812, which inspired Francis Scott Key to pen down the national anthem of the country.
The First Ladies is another prominent highlight that features the important contributions made by the First Ladies of America. The collection includes about 25 gowns worn by the First Ladies. Dorothy Ruby’s slippers from the original Wizard of Oz in the American Stories exhibit are also quite a popular attraction in the museum. Besides, numerous are located on the first floor that deals with science and transportation exhibits such as Lighting a Revolution, Science in American Life, etc.
Entering the Museum
The American History Museum is located on Constitutional Avenue NW in the National Mall. It is open every day from 10:00 am to 05:30 pm except on December 25, and the admission is free. Note that the museum will remain open until 07:30 pm during March to September for accommodating visitors.
The museum is easily accessible via public transport such as Metrorail or Metrobus. Visitors can get down at the Smithsonian stop on Orange, Blue, and Silver lines for visiting the museum. Moreover, visitors can also rely on the 32, 32, and 36 Metrobus routes for getting down at the National Mall and walk towards the museum located close by.