The Smithsonian Institute began as far back as 1846. In the early years, it was known as the United States National Museum, but the name never quite captured the enormity of the project. Today, the institute is home to 19 museums, 21 libraries, nine research centers and one zoo. There is literally something for everyone to see on its campuses. However, pop culture enthusiasts might be partial to the new exhibit known as Entertainment Nation.
Located within the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., “Entertainment Nation/Nación del espectáculo”, features a vast collection of artifacts from the worlds of theater, music, sports, movie and television. The new exhibit offers a variety of objects and their backstories from over 150 years of entertainment. While the collection is historical, the museum promises that the new exhibit will be “ever-changing.”
“Entertainment has the power to captivate, inspire and transform us. It brings us together,” says the Smithsonian’s website. “We share it when we spontaneously recite lines from a favorite movie, dance to the same groove or recreate a national sports moment on a neighborhood street. It can also spur critical conversations, expose divides, and foster important historical change.”
The National Museum of American History houses 1.8 million objects documenting the careers of such influential figures as Selena, Roberto Clemente, Kristi Yamaguchi, Mia Hamm, Prince, Cyndi Lauper, Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, Bette Davis, and Muhammad Ali. Its Broadway, television, and film collections document productions such as Hamilton, Rent, The Handmaid’s Tale, M*A*S*H, Sesame Street, Star Wars, and many more. Here, you’ll come face-to-face with C-3P0 and R2-D2; the original Kermit the Frog and string puppet Howdy Doody; Mister Rogers iconic sweater and Dorothy Gale’s ruby slippers; the Selmer Tenor Saxophone used by John Coltrane and the U.S National Team Soccer Jersey once worn by Mia Hamm.
(The Smithsonian Institution)
Other collections worth checking out include, “America’s Listening” which tells the story of recorded sound, “The Doll’s House” featuring 1,354 miniatures housed within a five-story tall structure, “The Electric Dr. Franklin” detailing Benjamin Franklin’s contributions to electrical science, “Taking America to Lunch” which features a large collection of pop culture lunch boxes, “Sounding American Music” which looks at various musicians representing diverse musical genres, “Object Project” which highlights many everyday objects that we can’t live without but one did and many more.
The National Museum of American History is open every day of the year (except for Christmas) from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Admission is free and no tickets are required ahead of time.
Main image: The Smithsonian Institution
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