Visitors to Washington can now see some of the most treasured artifacts
in the United States. After being closed two years for renovations, the
National Museum of American History reopened its doors this month [Nov
21] to great fanfare.
Hundreds of people braved cold
temperatures to be among the first to enter the newly renovated
building. One man came with a group that included 142 schoolchildren
from Morganton, North Carolina. "We're just happy to be here on the
first day," he said.
Dramatic structural changes
the past two years, the museum that is known as "the nation's attic"
has undergone major changes. Walls, floors and ceilings were removed
from the center of the building, creating a five story, sky lit atrium.
is a very dramatic change that has been accomplished over the last two
years," says Brent Glass, Director of the National Museum of American
History. "We call it a transformation. And we say we are shedding new
light on American history. "
Three million artifacts
come here to learn about all aspects of American history: military,
political, entertainment, science, and commerce. More than three
million artifacts are in the museum's collections, from the desk on
which Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence to the
ruby slippers Judy Garland wore in one of America's best-loved movies,
"The Wizard of Oz."
"This museum is the repository of more
objects that tell the story of our country than any other place you can
go. And it's all the real thing," says David McCullough.
Pulitzer Prize-winning historian urges all American parents to bring
their children to Washington as a history lesson "but particularly come
here, because there is nothing comparable to this museum."
As for overseas visitors to the museum, McCullough says they will learn that the United States is a place of possibilities.
is where you will find the light bulb Thomas Edison patented in 1879
and boxing gloves worn by former heavyweight boxing champions Mohamed
Ali and Joe Louis. Also on display is the lunch counter that helped
spark the Civil Rights Movement when four young black men refused to
give up their seats in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Star Spangled Banner
opening day, visitors waited in line to view one of the most treasured
objects in the museum. The flag that inspired the U.S. National Anthem
now has its own gallery.
"We discovered in the late 1990s that
it was too fragile to be displayed the way it had been since the museum
opened in 1964," says Glass. "It could not hang at a 90 degree (angle)
against the wall the way it had in the past, so we needed to rethink
the way we displayed the flag."
Now the "Star Spangled Banner"
is laid out on an angled support behind glass and illuminated in dim
lighting that evokes "the dawn's early light" that Francis Scott Key
wrote about nearly 200 years ago. Displays leading in and out of the
new gallery provide background on the flag and the anthem it inspired.
The Gettysburg Address
new gallery in the museum showcases important historic documents. From
now through January 4, one of the most famous speeches written by a
U.S. president is on display here, on loan from the White House. The
Gettysburg Address was delivered by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863
in the midst of the U.S. Civil War. It was read at the National Museum
of American History's opening ceremony by former Secretary of State
"It's so important for our young people today to
understand a lot of people came before, a lot of sacrifice was made
before, in order to make America what it is today," Powell told VOA
after the ceremonies.
That was definitely on the mind of one
African American woman who came on opening day "to be a part of
history. There's a lot of that going on this year."
history is on display here, too. Although he hasn't yet moved into the
White House, Barack Obama's portrait has already been added to the
presidential timeline in the museum.