Museum Re-Opens After Two-Year Renovation

Thousands Take a Peak at Nation’s History on Opening Day

The National Museum of American History opened its doors to eager patrons on Nov. 21 after a two-year, $85 million renovation of the museum’s infrastructure.

Nearly 26,000 people filtered through the Smithsonian’s flagship museum for the re-opening extravaganza co-hosted by former Secretary of State, Colin Powell. Powell read President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address aloud during the 9:30 a.m. ribbon cutting on the front steps of the museum.

Visitors were met by a brighter and more vibrant foyer created to mimic the “dawn’s early light”. The renovation also includes a 275-foot artifact wall showcasing hundreds of American history keepsakes organized around 12 central themes.

The new and improved 30-by-24-foot $2.5 million Star-Spangled Banner exhibit was one of the main attractions. The entrance to the exhibit was followed by a long, zig-zagging line of patient but eager visitors.

The 195-year-old flag is preserved with special dim lighting and a precise 10-degree angle of elevation to keep the delicate cotton and wool flag protected from any damage.

Museum visitor Patrick Maher enjoyed the newly renovated museum, “the main difference is the center of the building- the main lobby, really well-done exhibits and it seems like the crowd has changed.”

Maher especially liked the ruby red slippers worn by Judy Garland in the “Wizard of Oz”.

“The layout was really clean and easy to get around,” said Molly Barackman, who hadn’t visited the museum since she was a child.

The first 1,814 entering the museum were given Uncle Sam hats, stuffed tote bags and American flag pins. Actors and actresses dressed as historic characters, such as President George Washington, flowed through the upper and lower floors greeting visitors.

“Millions of visitors will enjoy new opportunities to explore the American narrative and the core stories of our national experience in an inspiring and memorable setting,” Brent D. Glass, the museum’s director, said in a statement.

The renovation was funded through $46 million in federal funds and $39 million from individual contributions, foundation grants and corporate donations. Throughout 2009 the museum will feature several new exhibits, including a first ladies exhibit and an 8,000-square-foot-exhibition, “On the water: Stories from Maritime America” which will be introduced to visitors in the spring.

The National Museum of American History is located on the National Mall, 14th St and Constitution Ave, NW. Hours of operation are 10:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. every day of the year except Christmas.