Artifact of the Week

When all was said and done, Thomas Edison would call his talking dolls his "little monsters."

The Epic Failure of Thomas Edison's Talking Doll

Expensive, heavy, non-functioning and a little scary looking, the doll created by America's hero-inventor was a commercial flop

Ballast from the first historically documented ship carrying enslaved Africans that wrecked off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa in December 1794.

Breaking Ground

Few Artifacts of the Transatlantic Slave Trade Still Exist. These Iron Blocks Help Tell That Gut-Wrenching Story

A profound symbol of the horrific conditions aboard a slave ship is the ballast used as a counterweight for human cargo

NOW co-founder Muriel Fox says: “There’s still a need for a women’s movement. We can’t do it as individuals, each of us working for our own interests. We get much further if we work together."

The NOW Button Takes Us Back When Women's Equality Was a Novelty

At the half-century mark, for the National Organization for Women it is still personal—and political

A prototype gene gun developed by Dennis McCabe and Brian Martinell in 1986 delivered new genetic material into the cells of plants.

Age of Humans

How Roundup Ready Soybeans Rocked the Food Economy

This 1980s-era “gene gun” fired the shot heard around the world

Likely made from a cow’s horn, this Revolutionary War era gunpowder holder belonged to patriot fighter Prince Simbo.

Breaking Ground

The Revolutionary War Patriot Who Carried This Gunpowder Horn Was Fighting for Freedom—Just Not His Own

Simbo, an African-American patriot, fought for his country's liberty and freedom even as a large population remained enslaved

The restored Pullman Palace passenger car, which ran along the Southern Railway route during the "Jim Crow" era of the 20th century, serves as a signature artifact in the new museum.

Breaking Ground

This Segregated Railway Car Offers a Visceral Reminder of the Jim Crow Era

Subtle and not-so-subtle reminders of a time when local and state laws forced racial segration

This first-person account by B.C. Franklin is titled "The Tulsa Race Riot and Three of Its Victims." It was recovered from a storage area in 2015 and donated to the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Breaking Ground

A Long-Lost Manuscript Contains a Searing Eyewitness Account of the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921

An Oklahoma lawyer details the attack by hundreds of whites on the thriving black neighborhood where hundreds died 95 years ago

Louis Armstrong's historic trumpet was a "great playing" instrument, says Wynton Marsalis, after his performance last Fall at the Smithsonian.

Breaking Ground

To Really Appreciate Louis Armstrong's Trumpet, You Gotta Play it. Just Ask Wynton Marsalis

It’s not always the white-glove treatment; some artifacts live on through performance

Bottles of the two triumphant vintages 1973 Chateau Montelena chardonnay and 1973 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars cabernet sauvignon are now held in the Smithsonian collections.

That Revolutionary May Day in 1976 When California Wines Bested France's Finest

Forty years ago, a Copernican moment took place in viniculture when the world realized the sun didn’t always revolve around French wines

The sensuous curves and subtle walnut grain of Maloof's rocker just seem to beckon and say “Come on in a sit a while.”

Famous for His Rocking Chair, Sam Maloof Made Furniture That Had Soul

A centennial appreciation for this master of mid-century modernism is underway with a California exhibition and an upcoming seminar

Several of Minnijean Brown-Trickey’s school items, including a notice of suspension and the dress she designed for her high school graduation, are now held in the collections of the National Museum of American History.

Women Who Shaped History

A Member of the Little Rock Nine Discusses Her Struggle to Attend Central High

At 15, Minnijean Brown faced down the Arkansas National Guard, Now Her Story and Personal Items are Archived at the Smithsonian

Levi Woodbury is on the $1 stamp; George M. Bibb,  on the $5 stamp. Robert Walker is on the $10 stamp and James Guthrie is on the $50 stamp. George Washington is on the extremely rare $100 stamp.

Before Reefer Madness, High Times and 4/20, There Was the Marijuana Revenue Stamp

Originally designed in the 1930s to restrict access to the drug, these stamps draw a curious crowd to the Postal Museum

From the desk of Susan B. Anthony, this inkstand was used  by the women's rights advocate to produce the articles she wrote for her newspaper The Revolution.

Women Who Shaped History

For Susan B. Anthony, Getting Support for Her 'Revolution' Meant Taking on an Unusual Ally

Suffragists Anthony and Cady Stanton found common cause in a wealthy man named George Francis Train who helped to fund their newspaper

Jefferson, Washington and Hamilton came together during Washington’s tenure as president and worked, fought, compromised—and wrote—in the struggle to establish a nation.

The Laptops That Powered the American Revolution

Always on the go, the Founding Fathers waged their war of words from the mahogany mobile devices of their time

A free-standing, double-hulled steel shelter was installed beneath the front yard of Mr. and Mrs. Murland E. Anderson of Ft. Wayne, Indiana.

Dig Into the Nuclear Era's Homegrown Fallout Shelters

In 1955, the head of Civil Defense urged everyone to build an underground shelter "right now"

In 2003, Air France donated Concorde F-BVFA to the Smithsonian. The aircraft was the first Air France Concorde to open service to Rio de Janeiro, Washington, D.C., and New York and had flown 17,824 hours.

When Concorde First Flew, It Was a Supersonic Sight to Behold

The aircraft was a technological masterpiece, but at one ton of fuel per passenger, it had a devastating ecological footprint

The distinctive black outfit, with topping ears, now held in the collections of the American History Museum, was made just for actress Julie Newmar, and clung to her frame.

When Batman Went "Bam!" and "Pow"

The original Catwoman, Julie Newmar recalls fitting into that distinctive costume—now at the Smithsonian

The magnificent 26-foot-long Raven Spirit, or Yéil Yéik dugout canoe crafted by Douglas (above) and Brian Chilton was originally commissioned for the National Museum of Natural History in 2008.

How Canoes Are Saving Lives and Restoring Spirit

Native maritime communities are rediscovering their heritage by learning how to craft and paddle together aboard the ancient dugout vessels of their past

Bottle of Diphtheria Anti-Toxin in Case, 1900s

The Next Pandemic

How Vaccines, a Collective Triumph of Modern Medicine, Conquered the World's Diseases

Smithsonian curators present a virtual tour of several objects from the collections that revolutionized public health care

The design for Margaret Crane's prototype home pregnancy test kit was inspired by a transparent plastic paperclip container.

The Innovative Spirit

The Unknown Designer of the First Home Pregnancy Test Is Finally Getting Her Due

Margaret Crane says it was a simple idea, but it met with enormous push back