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National Museum of American History celebrates 50th anniversary

Born out of postwar optimism about America's rising technological prowess, the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History has evolved over its five decades on the National Mall. Read related story.

AUTOPLAY 

Museum's First Director
Frank A. Taylor, the founding director of the National Museum of History and Technology (now the National Museum of American History), inspects the History and Technology Building as construction nears completion, circa 1964. He is standing on the fifth floor terrace. The Washington Monument and National Mall are visible in the left background.

This photo gallery is part of a special report on the 50-year anniversary of the National Museum of American History. Read related story.

(Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History)
View from Above
This aerial view of the National Mall shows the construction of the new Museum of History and Technology, now the National Museum of American History, in the lower left foreground. The museum opened its doors in January 1964.

(Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History)
Concept Drawing
An architectural rendering of the exterior of the Museum of History and Technology, now the National Museum of American History (NMAH), shows people and cars and the Constitution Avenue entrance.

(Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History)
Museum on the Mall
A sign on the National Mall points to the National Museum of American History. When the museum opened 50 years ago, it was known as the Museum of History and Technology.

(Photo by Michael O'Connell/Federal News Radio)
Museum Today
The National Museum of American History opened in January 1964. The museum will celebrate its 50th anniversary with a special exhibit "Continuity and Change: Fifty Years of Museum History," which will open on May 16, 2014.

(Photo by Michael O'Connell/Federal News Radio)
Auditorium Dedication
Secretary S. Dillon Ripley, at the lectern; Rev. John C. Harper; Dr. Melvin M. Payne and Chief Justice Warren E. Burger gather onstage Jan. 21, 1974, for the dedication of the Carmichael Auditorium at the National Museum of History and Technology, now the National Museum of American History.

(Photo courtesy of Smithsonian Institution Archives)
First Visitors
On Jan. 23, 1964, guests stroll the halls at the dedication of the Museum of History and Technology, now the National Museum of American History, passing Horatio Greenough's statue of George Washington.

(Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History)
Mall Entrance
Guests stroll along the fifth-floor terrace outside the National Mall entrance of the then National Museum of History and Technology, circa 1964.

(Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History)
Museum Bookstore
A child rides a carrousel horse circa 1974 inside the bookstore at the National Museum of History and Technology, now the National Museum of American History.

(Photo courtesy of Smithsonian Institution Archives.)
Hall of Physical Sciences
Visitors examine exhibits in the Hall of Physical Sciences (once called Business and Astronomy) in the National Museum of History and Technology, now the National Museum of American History, in May 1972.

(Photo courtesy of Smithsonian Institution Archives)
Suiting Everyone
Opening night visitors view a parade of recent fashions in the "Suiting Everyone: The Democratization of Clothing in America" exhibit at the National Museum of History and Technology, now the National Museum of American History.

The exhibit opened Sept. 23, 1974, and depicts 200 years of evolution and revolution in design, production and marketing of American clothing.

(Photo courtesy of Smithsonian Institution Archives)
Ruby Slippers
Beginning with the Bicentennial in 1976, popular culture gained a foothold in the Museum of History and Technology.

One of the most popular items on display at the museum is a pair of ruby slippers from the 1939 film "The Wizard of Oz."

(Photo courtesy of the National Museum of American History)
American Stories
At the "American Stories" exhibit, visitors to the National Museum of American History can view more than 200 years of the country's history via more than 100 objects on display, from a fragment of Plymouth Rock to Apolo Ohno's speed skates from the 2002 Winter Olympics.

(Photo by Michael O'Connell/Federal News Radio)
Inaugural Gown
First Lady Michelle Obama wore this red gown designed by Jason Wu for her husband's second inauguration celebration on Jan. 21, 2013.

"The First Ladies" exhibit is one of the more popular exhibits at the museum.

(Photo courtesy of the National Museum of American History)
Lady Bird's Gown
Lady Bird Johnson wore this gown and coat to the 1965 inaugural ceremonies for President Lyndon B. Johnson.

(Photo courtesy of the National Museum of American History)
Mary Todd Lincoln
A dress worn by Mary Todd Lincoln is on display as part of "The First Ladies" exhibit.

(Photo courtesy of the National Museum of American History)
Edith Roosevelt
First Lady Edith Roosevelt, wife of President Theodore Roosevelt, wore this gown for entertaining at the White House.

(Photo courtesy of the National Museum of American History)
Viewing the Flag
On display at the museum is the flag that inspired the Star-Spangled Banner. Almost 200 years old, the 30-foot by 34-foot flag flew over the Battle of Baltimore, where Francis Scott Key saw it and was inspired to write the words to the national anthem.

The flag is part of The Star-Spangled Banner: The Flag That Inspired the National Anthem" exhibit.

(Photo courtesy of the National Museum of American History)
Star-Spangled Banner
The Battle of Baltimore flag is on display in a special, environmentally-controlled chamber.

(Photo courtesy of the National Museum of American History)
Entertaining at the White House
White House dinnerware is on display near the entrance of "The First Ladies" exhibit.

(Photo courtesy of the National Museum of American History)
Mae West
A gelatin silver print of Mae West is on display on one of the Artifact Walls near the second-floor entrance.

(Photo by Michael O'Connell/Federal News Radio)
Abstract Metal Flag
An Abstract Metal Flag dominates the entrance to the Star-Spangled Banner Gallery. The concept for the metal flag was developed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. It contains 960 mirrored polycarbonate "pixels."

(Photo by Michael O'Connell/Federal News Radio)
Watergate Gavel
The gavel used during the Senate Watergate hearings is part of "The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden" exhibition.

(Photo by Michael O'Connell/Federal News Radio)
Campaign Ribbons
"The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden" exhibit includes pieces of memorabilia from the various administrations, including these campaign ribbons for Theodore Roosevelt and William McKinley.

(Photo by Michael O'Connell/Federal News Radio)
Edison's Bulb
The "American Stories" exhibit includes items that reflect the many changes that occurred in the country over its 200-plus-year history, including this glass light bulb invented by Thomas A. Edison.

(Photo by Michael O'Connell/Federal News Radio)
Julia Child's Kitchen
Visitors to the "FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000" exhibit get a peek into TV chef Julia Child's kitchen.

(Photo by Michael O'Connell/Federal News Radio)
Tomato Basket
A basket of tomatoes waits on the counter in Julia Child's kitchen.

(Photo by Michael O'Connell/Federal News Radio)
Price of Freedom
"The Price of Freedom: Americans at War" recounts the history of American service men and women. Here, a Revolutionary War soldier grimaces.

(Photo by Michael O'Connell/Federal News Radio)
Waiting for Help
A soldier waits with an injured comrade for medical help to arrive in the Vietnam War portion of "The Price of Freedom: Americans at War" exhibition.

(Photo by Michael O'Connell/Federal News Radio)
Keep it Moving
A traffic cop keeps things moving in the "America on the Move" exhibit.

(Photo by Michael O'Connell/Federal News Radio)
Changing Times
Through photos and mixed media, this wall shows the changes that took place in America following World War II.

(Photo by Michael O'Connell/Federal News Radio)
Art Molella
Art Molella is the director of The Jerome and Dorothy Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention an Innovation at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History. He wrote a blog post about the museum's 50th anniversary.

(Photo by Michael O'Connell/Federal News Radio)
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