Saving Our Treasures
A devoted keeper of the past, the National Museum of American History looks ahead to the Millennium
The National Museum of American History (NMAH) opened its doors to the public in 1964 as the Museum of History and Technology to house the venerable collection that had been on view in the Arts and Industries Building. The more appropriate name was chosen in 1980, and today the museum is one of the world's most exciting and visited exhibit halls — a place to go to understand what it means to be an American. It is home to icons that embody our nation's history — unique treasures such as the original Star-Spangled Banner, the lap desk upon which Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence, and the compass that Lewis and Clark used to guide them in their explorations. Its collections also include objects of everyday life, such as a ceramic teapot used by African slaves and a work bell from the Pecos Pueblo in New Mexico. The museum has more than three million artifacts that illustrate American culture — its innovative spirit, its diversity and its singularity.