Three huge floors filled with a variety of fascinating objects make up this paean to American culture. The first floor focuses on science and technology, including hands-on experiments and exhibitions on transport, electricity, and machinery. The second floor is home to the famous Star-Spangled Banner, while the third floor features a stirring tribute to the American presidency. The museum re-opened its doors in 2008 following major renovation work, which is ongoing until 2014. Call ahead for information on the latest exhibits.

Museum Events

An amazing quantity and variety of events, both entertaining and enlightening, are available to the public at the museum. These include musical events such as live concerts and seminars by jazz artists, photographic exhibitions on periods in 20th-century American history, lectures on culture and the arts, and more. Following the museum’s re-opening in 2008 a new program of events is underway, so phone ahead for information. Some events require reservations, and some require tickets.


The Main Street Café, Palm Court Coffee Shop and Gelato Bar, and Subway are all located within the museum and offer a variety of sweet and savory treats.

Top 10 Exhibits
  1. The Star-Spangled Banner

    The flag that inspired the national anthem is strikingly large – originally 30 by 42 ft (9 by 13 m) – but sadly worn. Created by Baltimore flagmaker Mary Pickersgill in 1813, it has been painstakingly repaired and is now displayed on public view.

  2. Within These Walls...

    A two-story colonial house from Massachusetts has been rebuilt within the museum, to explore the 200-year history of the families who lived there.

  3. The Price of Freedom: Americans at War

    This gallery explores the nation’s military history, from the French and Indian War in the 1750s to recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. The exhibition features a restored Vietnam-era Huey helicopter, and a World War II jeep.

  4. First Ladies at the Smithsonian

    The First Ladies’ gown gallery has long been a favorite exhibit. In dim lighting to protect the fabrics, visitors experience a voyage back in time through women’s fashions.

  5. John Bull Locomotive

    The oldest, operable, self-propelled locomotive, the John Bull was built in England and brought to America in 1831. It transported passengers between America’s major cities.

  6. America on the Move

    Multimedia presentations and other theatrical techniques tell the story of America’s transportation from 1876 to 2000, including this 1950 Buick Super sedan.

  7. Communities in a Changing Nation

    This exhibit explores the ever-changing world of 19th-century America, revealing the everyday experiences of workers in new factories, of Jewish immigrants, and of enslaved and free African Americans.

  8. Gunboat Philadelphia

    In October 1776, the Philadelphia was sunk by the British during a battle on Lake Champlain in New York, and rested on the bottom of the lake until it was recovered in 1935. It came to the museum in 1964, complete with its equipment and the 24-pound ball that sent the gunboat to the bottom.

  9. The American Presidency

    The portable desk Thomas Jefferson used to write the Declaration of Independence and the top hat Abraham Lincoln was wearing the night he was assassinated are highlights of this exhibition featuring 900 objects from the presidential office.

  10. Spark! Lab

    Here, kids aged five and over can experience and participate in a number of activities relating to the museum’s exhibitions. Passes for lab experiments are easily obtained.

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