July 10, 2014 NEH

Spent an exciting day at the Museum of American History at the Smithsonian.  This is my all-time favorite free museum!

American History

American History

They let us in before the museum opened and we were allowed in the basement to see the textile conservation lab.  This was hugely cool!  Lots of mannequin forms, fabrics, costume fabrics, and machinery here. The head conservator on the Star Spangled Banner project explained the process of the 10 year restoration on the flag.  So much of the flag was cut away by souvenir seekers that it has lost 8 feet from it’s original size of 30′ x 42′.  She said that she tells everyone who comes through to be sure and go back to inspect their attic, because there are many pieces still missing, including one of the 15 stars that was removed.  The Museum still receives bits and pieces of the flag, which they collect and conserve, but have no plans to completely rebuild the flag.


Conservation lab and exhibit featuring pieces of the Banner

Conservation lab and exhibit featuring pieces of the Banner

We then had an up close look at the SSB exhibit itself.  I’d been here before immediately after the restoration and renovation at the museum was complete.  It’s an incredible experience to stand in front of that flag and think about the history that it has lived through.  No photographs are allowed in the room due to the rules of conservation.  After our informative tour/talk, all 30 NEH attendees stood in front of the flag and sang the Star Spangled Banner.  The tourists just quietly walked around us.



They told us about all the discussion leading up to the design of the Banner’s home.  Some felt that the flag from 9/11 should hang here in this entrance spot, but then they realized that would lead a false message, and that people might think that WAS the Banner.

This site tells you about how they preserved the banner.


We got a lot of background on the specially designed room to house the banner, climate controlled and outfitted with gantries so that conservationists can hang over the banner and inspect it every now and then.

The climate controlled display

The climate controlled display

This is an interactive flag on the Smithsonian website.  It has a lot of the same information featured at the exhibit’s touch table.


Several other things that are in the Banner exhibit are equally impressive.  They had the original canvas bag in which the Banner was stored after General Armistead left Ft McHenry.

Banner bag

Banner bag

We had a conference room for our NEH crowd where we met with the master teachers and worked on our curriculum projects.  After that everyone kind of split and went their separate ways to research and enjoy the museum.  I prowled American History and watched the US Air Force band play a concert in the museum’s Warner Theatre.


Obama's dress from the President's Wives hall and the USAF sextet.

Obama’s dress from the President’s Wives hall and the USAF sextet.

President's Hall

President’s Hall


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