National Museum of American History is on Constitution Ave. between 12th and 14th sts. N.W. It presents the cultural, social, technological and political development of the United States. Helping tell this ongoing story is the building's centerpiece, a five-story, sky-lighted atrium lined on the first, second and third floors with artifact walls. These glass-fronted cases are filled with rotating displays that highlight objects and new acquisitions from the museum's vast collections.
The first floor of the Innovation wing explores game-changing ideas and new ways of doing things that remake the present and shape the future. The exhibitions, learning places and performance spaces in this 45,000-square-foot area offer multiple ways for visitors to explore forward-looking innovations. American Enterprise is the Smithsonian's first-ever exhibition about business history. Also here is the hands-on SparkLab! and Wegmans Wonderplace, a gallery designed for kids ages 6 and younger. Panoramic windows provide a view of Alexander Calder's Gwenfritz stabile.
A state-of-the-art chamber holds the Star-Spangled Banner, the flag that inspired America's national anthem; multimedia displays detail the history behind this meticulously preserved artifact. Other venerated items are the portable desk Thomas Jefferson used to draft the Declaration of Independence; nearly two dozen gowns belonging to Martha Washington, Mary Todd Lincoln, Nancy Reagan, Michelle Obama and other first ladies; and a section of the Woolworth’s lunch counter from segregation-era Greensboro, N.C.
America on the Move examines how transportation helped transform a mostly rural nation into a major economic power. The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden explores the public, personal, ceremonial and executive boundaries of the nation's highest office. A collection of iconic objects—from a fragment of Plymouth Rock to the ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in “The Wizard of Oz"—are on display in American Stories.
FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000 offers visitors a look at the stage where one of the world's best-known cooks worked her culinary magic; “French Chef” Julia Child donated the kitchen from her Cambridge, Massachusetts home to the museum. The Albert H. Small Documents Gallery features rotating exhibitions of historically significant books, maps, diaries and other documents.
Plan on taking 10-30 minutes to clear security at the entrances.
Food is available. Time: Allow 2 hours minimum.
Hours: Daily 10-5:30; extended spring, summer and federal holiday hours are determined annually. Guided tours are offered most days; check the Events page on the museum website or phone for schedule. Closed Christmas.