Smithsonian National Museum of American History Reopens

On November 21, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History reopened its doors to the public, providing a new viewing room for the almost 200-year-old Star-Spangled Banner. The museum reopened after a two-year, $85 million renovation that was paid for with $45.9 million in federal funds and $39.1 million in private contributions. The renovation project focused on three areas: architectural enhancements to the center core, including a grand staircase and skylight; construction of the new Star-Spangled Banner Gallery; and updates to the 44-year-old building’s infrastructure.

President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush dedicated the Star-Spangled Banner Gallery during a ceremony on November 19. A special enclosure, fronted by a 35-foot floor-to-ceiling glass wall, protects the fragile wool and cotton Star-Spangled Banner while providing maximum visibility to visitors. The new viewing gallery cost $19 million and restoration of the flag cost $8.5 million. The 30-foot by 34-foot banner is displayed at a horizontal orientation and, in order to reduce stress to the textile, at a 10-degree angle of elevation. The room has low light levels to protect the flag and a separate environmental system that keeps the temperature and humidity in the chamber constant.

This past Monday, the Smithsonian Regents also had an opening of sorts. For the first time, the Regents opened part of their meeting to the public in what turned into a town hall forum.