Peek Behind the Scenes to Preview the New West Wing at the American History Museum

After years of renovations, the museum begins a reopening of some of its galleries next summer

Spark!Lab, part of the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention, provides hand-on activities for children. National Museum of American History
Sparks fly during construction of Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History west wing renovation. Brendan McCabe
View west towards the National Mall from the museum’s west wing, currently under renovation. The view includes a major Alexander Calder's "Gwenfritz" stabile, the new National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Washington Monument Brendan McCabe
The new west wing of the NMAH will include a demonstration stage on the first floor for educational events. Brendan McCabe
The renovated west wing of NMAH will feature “Object Project” which will highlight everyday objects from history that made a huge impact on our lives, such as the alarm clock and refrigerator. Brendan McCabe
The first floor of the NMAH west wing will reopen in summer 2015. Brendan McCabe
Not quite ready yet—the second floor of the west wing will reopen in 2016. Brendan McCabe
The goal, says the museum's director John Gray, "is to make history essential." Brendan McCabe
“American Enterprise” will be the Smithsonian’s first exhibition to explore the history of commerce in the U.S., opening in the newly renovated Mars Hall of American Business. National Museum of American History
A demonstration stage will host a range live events, including food demonstrations. National Museum of American History

Sparks are flying at the National Museum of American History. Actual sparks, that is. Workers in hard hats and reflective vests are busy preparing for the museum’s west wing to reopen with exhibitions devoted to American innovation, enterprise, democracy and culture. The 120,000-square-foot three-story space has been closed for the past two years. The project will cost over $158 million.

The first floor of the wing, which the museum plans to reopen in July 2015, will feature artifacts related to American innovators such as Samuel Morse, Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison. More contemporary innovators will also be represented, including Ralph Baer, considered the father of video games, whose entire workshop will be on view. The floor will also have a demonstration kitchen and student education space.

The second floor, to reopen in 2016, will feature exhibitions related to immigration and democracy. The third floor, set for 2017, will have a performance hall and exhibitions related to American culture.