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National Museum of American History

Home > Washington > Museums | Indoor | Exhibitions
by Karen Grikitis (subscribe)
I am a former journalist and editor, currently writing fiction for adults and children. Visit my website at www.karengrikitis.wordpress.com.
Published November 21st 2015
Four centuries of Innovation, enterprise and democracy
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National Museum of American History
If seeing the original star-spangled banner of 1812 that inspired America's national anthem is not enough to make you visit the National Museum of American History then maybe you can be tempted by Dorothy's ruby shoes from 'The Wizard of Oz', Don Draper's suit and hat from the hit TV series 'Mad Men' or a pair of Muhammad Ali's boxing gloves.

This is a wonderful museum tracing the history of America from before the War of Independence when it routed the British and signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776 through to the present day.

The Museum is on three levels, focusing on innovation and enterprise, democracy and the 'peopling' of America, and American culture.

American Stories' is one of the most memorable exhibitions, in which 100 objects from the Museum's archives are used to tell stories about the country's history.
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Entrance to the star-spangled banner exhibit, National Museum of American History
The artefacts include a fragment of Plymouth rock from where the Mayflower Pilgrims disembarked and set up the second successful English colony in America in 1610. It is here you will find the Kermit the Frog puppet from the 'Muppets' TV series and other items of popular culture.

It was a real thrill for me to see the actual flag hoisted at Baltimore's Fort McHenry in 1812 after a crucial defeat against the British. Not only is it huge but it also bears the scars of souvenir hunters over the years who cut out one of the stars and other fragments of material from the length of the flag. Other notable exhibits include President Lincoln's top hat which he wore the night he was assassinated at the theatre in 1865.

The Museum's hands-on activities, interactive displays, video and audio presentations really bring the history of the United States of America alive and make for a very interesting and lively experience.

The Origins of Recorded Sound' exhibition was one of my favourites. It explores the origins of sound recording from Thomas Edison's phonograph, which led to the development of tape cassettes and CDs, to the invention of the telephone by Alexander Graham Bell. You can actually hear a scratchy, early recording of Alexander Bell's voice from 1885, which is quite remarkable.
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Inside the National Museum of American History


There are more than 20 galleries to explore and if you feel hungry you can head for the lower ground level where the Stars and Stripes Café serves light refreshments from 11am to 3pm, or the Jazz café on the ground floor where you will also find lockers and the museum shop.

The National Museum of American History is located on the National Mall at 14th Street and Constitution Avenue NW, a few minutes' walk from the Smithsonian subway station.
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Why? Vibrant, lively exhibitions tracing America's history
When: 10:00am to 5:30pm every day except December 2
Phone: (202) 633-1000
Where: 14th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW Washington, D.C., 20001
Cost: FREE
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