The National Museum of American History – Essay
It was a nice sunny morning when I and a friend have decided to take a trip to one of greatest museums of all times – The National Museum of American History. It was a great adventure to discover something new for ourselves
and fill up our knowledge with tons of new information. The museum’s ambitious mission is to chronicle American history, science, industry and culture through artifacts. It is the sixth Smithsonian building on the National Mall. To this end, the museum has an enormous collection of more than 3 million objects (Washington Post).
American History museum is very large and it would definitely take more than a day to explore it. On the first floor the museum maintains many of the exhibitions from its original manifestation as the National Museum of History and Technology. The exhibits focus primarily on science and transportation and connections between technology and daily life in general. After looking around for a few minutes we immediately headed to the “Communities in a Changing nation” section. The title below said – “The promise of 19th century America”. This was a good topic to start with. As I walked through this part I’ve noticed a number of great inventions such as a milling machine (Henry Hayden) and a gating gun. A lot of attention went to the ‘Rise of the Labor Unions” exhibit as we moved further. It represented the rise of industrialization during the second half of the nineteenth century where labor shifted from skilled artisans to unskilled workers who operated machines. I learned that this condition put a severe limitation on the independence and economic viability of the worker and that no laws yet existed at that time protecting workers. This lack of legislation allowed employers to overwork and underpay the laborers, who were desperate for some employment. These factors initiated the rise of labor unions. When I passed the “Peddling Life Jewish immigrant’s movement” corner, my eyes stopped on “African American in slavery and Freedom” exhibition. Since this is a topic currently discussed in our history class, I’ve realized I need to give it more attention and look at every detail. I’ve closely studied slave’s lifestyle and their treatment. Nearby there was an imitation of a Charleston Market which had all kinds of products including: peaches, potatoes, peas, carrots, fish, onion and many more different foods. Later in this section I discovered the “Cruel and Unusual Punishment” of slaves and “Plantation Slavery”. Later we headed downstairs to the second floor for the intriguing opportunity of viewing the huge flag. This is the very flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the poem that eventually became the U.S. national anthem in 1931Maintenance work was completed in August 2004 and now the flag remains on view and outstretched, flat, behind glass, in its specially designed conservation lab (Washington post).
The other major exhibition on the first floor, “America on the Move,” traces the history of transportation in America. On the second floor, one of the most popular exhibits is First Ladies: Political Role and Public Image, which displays the first ladies’ gowns and tells a bit about each of these women. Personally, I liked the other exhibition right next door – “From Parlor to Politics: Women and Reform in America, 1890-1925”, which talks about the changing roles of women as they’ve moved from domestic to political and professional directions. In my opinion this section is one of the most popular and successful of the museum’s displays. The exhibition traces the changing role of the first lady politically and socially and holds up a mirror to the changing role of American women in general.
Our next mission was to see “The American Presidency” exhibit which explores the power and meaning of the presidency by studying those who have held the position. There’re tons of artifacts including documents, personal effects, photographs and much more other stuff there. There is a small gift shop for this exhibit on this floor, so I end up purchasing a calendar containing the names of all the presidents up to date. I figured this would be helpful for my history final exam. Later, we passed by “The Price of Freedom: Americans at War” section and examined major American military explores and events. “Field to Factory” section was also kind of interesting, telling us the story of African-American migration from the South between 1915 and 1940.
About 4 hours later we were exhausted, but very pleased. The museum holds many other major exhibits, but we didn’t have time to see it all. I discovered some of the everyday things of American history and had a great time. Overall this is a great museum which has more displays and more categories of interest than any other museum I have ever been to. There’s great historical information presented in many interesting areas. After spending nearly half a day in the museum I promised myself that I will definitely go back there again!