Smithsonian National Museum of American History Renovation

Smithsonian National Museum of American History Renovation
Smithsonian National Museum of American History Renovation
Smithsonian National Museum of American History Renovation
  • Client The Smithsonian Institution National Museum Of American History
  • Expertise Civic + Government, Cultural, Interiors
  • Region North America
  • Location Washington, District of Columbia, United States

Project Facts
  • Completion Year 2008
  • Design Finish Year 2006
  • Size Site Area: 350,000 square feet Number of Stories: 7 Building Gross Area: 100,000 square feet
  • Awards 2013, Merit Award, AIA – Washington DC Chapter
Project Facts
  • Completion Year 2008
  • Design Finish Year 2006
  • Size Site Area: 350,000 square feet Number of Stories: 7 Building Gross Area: 100,000 square feet
  • Awards 2013, Merit Award, AIA – Washington DC Chapter

Sited prominently on the National Mall, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History is housed in a 1964 McKim, Mead & White building — the final project by that storied firm. Over the decades, the museum deteriorated and exhibits became disorganized, prompting the Smithsonian to undertake an ambitious renewal program.

SOM devised a plan that included modernizing the building, bringing natural light into previously dark spaces, and completely reorganizing visitor pathways around an open core. The design team added a five-story atrium that is surrounded by artifacts culled from the museum’s entire collection. Other new elements include a grand staircase, a welcome center, additional galleries, and an environmentally controlled chamber to protect the Star-Spangled Banner. The full renovation effectively created a new building within a historic shell.