“Friends and Fellow Citizens....The unity of government which constitutes you one people is also now dear to you. It is justly so, for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence; the support of your tranquility at home; your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very liberty which you so highly prize.”
— President George Washington, 1796 Farewell Address
Exhibition at a Glance
American Democracy offers engaging stories, striking large-format images, multimedia experiences, touchable objects, and a flexible layout design to meet the needs of diverse spaces and audiences.
American Democracy features historic artifacts from the National Museum of American History’s collection and numerous touchable, replica, and contemporary objects. In addition, host museums will add artifacts and local content from their own collections to the exhibition making each installation truly unique. Design templates provided by the Smithsonian allow venues to incorporate their artifacts and content into the exhibition experience seamlessly – shining a light on local stories and figures throughout American Democracy.
1964 Democratic National Convention in New Jersey. National Archives
Multiple video presentations are featured including:
- "The Machinery of Democracy" Displaying over 50 years of Presidential campaign ads that reflect a changing America.
- "Why Do You Vote?" Hear from everyday Americans about their motivations for voting.
- "Who Could Vote?" Learn who could vote in America after the Revolutionary War.
- "Petitioning with Your Feet" Join in the with crowd through archival footage of historic marches.
Throughout American Democracy, visitors are immersed in the sights and sounds of our American democracy.
Visitors can test their knowledge about democracy through several interactive touch-screens including:
- “Creating the Constitution” The Founding Fathers debated a wide variety of issues and ideas as part of the Constitution, such as should a president serve for life? Visitors can explore what proposals made the cut and what was rejected during the Constitutional Convention.
- “Great Debates” The young nation faced many heated debates over issues including slavery, international relationships, and the formation of political parties. Visitors dive into some of these important debates and learn how they reverberate in our lives today.
Voting, US Department of State
- “Who Should Vote?” Are there differences in when and who can vote in certain elections? Visitors can test their assumptions with this game and see how their answers compare to national polling data.
- “Petitioning with One’s Feet” Protests from the 19th century to today come alive through a touchscreen offering visitors additional information on archival footage, photographs, and historic protest posters.
- “Do You Know Your Rights?” Short games test visitors on the rights and responsibilities of some of the most important members of a democracy – citizens!
“Of the many special obligations incumbent upon the educated citizen, I would cite three as outstanding:
Your obligation to the pursuit of learning;
Your obligation to serve the public;
Your obligation to uphold the law.”
— President John F. Kennedy, 1963
Suffragists picketing the White House, Feb. 1917. Library of Congress