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National Museum of American History Closing for Renovation

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The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History announced plans on April 12, 2006 for a major architectural transformation to focus on three areas: architectural enhancements to the museum’s interior, constructing a state-of-the-art gallery for the Star-Spangled Banner and updating the 42-year-old building’s infrastructure (mechanical, electrical, plumbing, lighting, fire and security systems.)


To prepare for the transformation, the museum will begin closing some of its exhibition galleries this spring and summer, and the full museum will close to the public as of September 5. (Labor Day, September 4, will be the last day to visit the museum.) Construction will begin in the fall of 2006 and the museum is scheduled to reopen by summer 2008.


About the Architectural Renovation


By removing the marble panels that currently block the view to the museum’s third floor, the architects will create a central core atrium with a new skylight that will dramatically open the building and a grand staircase will connect the museum’s first and second floors. The central core area is defined as the three-story space encompassing the museum’s two main entrances on the first and second floors and the third floor space immediately above the entrance areas.


Extensive 10-foot-high “artifact walls” on both the first and second floors will showcase the breadth of the museum’s 3 million objects and a Welcome Center on the second floor will improve visitor orientation. There also will be new entrance vestibules at Constitution Avenue and Madison Drive which will help alleviate crowding. On the first floor, there will be an exhibition gallery for the museum’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation, a new lobby for the 275-seat Carmichael Auditorium and new retail operations.


The renovation work will include replacing and relocating public and staff elevators, resulting in improved access to the lower level and the three exhibition floors; creation of several new restrooms, including four family restrooms; replacing heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems at the central core; upgrading fire and alarm systems; improving electrical systems; and improving security.


Information During Renovation

During the renovation, museum staff will continue to occupy the building and will be planning future exhibitions and programs; working on research projects and education initiatives; conducting off-site public programs and performances; acquiring new collections and extending the reach of its Web site with new on-line exhibitions and features. Information and updates about the museum’s renovation work will be posted on the Web site, and the public may subscribe to a free monthly electronic newsletter to receive information on traveling exhibitions, public programs and plans for re-opening.

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