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Here’s What’s Brewing in the New Smithsonian Beer Collections

Smithsonian Magazine

Sam Calagione’s boil kettle—discolored from heavy use and topped with a repurposed kitchen pot lid, looking a bit like a mismatched hat—didn’t arrive alone last week to the storage shelves at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

Calagione, the founder of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, formerly Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, also donated a vintage vibrating electric football game—yes, you read that correctly.

The innovative Calagione purchased the novelty toy at a nearby thrift store, added a few self-fabricated parts, angled it over his kettle, and used the vibrations to shake hops gently and continuously into his brew, inventing the technique of continual hopping. “My Dogfish Head co-workers and I are excited to have our brewery’s original boil kettle and continual-hopping invention now within the Smithsonian’s permanent collection. This American institution is all about shaping the future by preserving our country’s heritage,” says Calagione.

The trick that packs a powerful—and, to many, tasty—bitterness became familiar to craft beer “hop heads” in the brewery’s 60 Minute IPA, named for its sixty minutes of continual hopping. The ends were quirky; the means of achieving the ends even more so.

With its arrival into the Smithsonian collections, Calagione’s longtime brewing equipment began a new life, beyond the brewery. Dogfish Head’s founding stainless steel boil kettle and vibrating football game joined the growing archive of homebrewing and craft beer history that is being built by the museum’s American Brewing History Initiative.

Researching, collecting, preserving and sharing this history has been my charge as curator of the Initiative. Since January 2017, my search for the histories of homebrewing and craft beer has led me to destinations as far away as 49th State Brewing Company in Anchorage, Alaska, and as close to home as Denizens Brewing Company in Silver Spring, Maryland. There have been more than a few destinations in between, from lagering caves in Cincinnati, Ohio, to a brewer’s off-the-grid cabin in Lincoln, Arkansas, to the breezy shores of Lake Mendota in Madison, Wisconsin.

The Initiative is the first national-scale, scholarly research and collecting project to gather and preserve the artifacts, documents, and voices associated with the beer industry’s recent growth—a phenomenon known as the craft beer revolution. Supported by a gift from the Brewers Association, the museum is constructing this archive for the benefit of scholars, brewers and millions of Americans.

Founder and Brewer Sam Calagione, of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, purchased this vintage vibrating football game at a thrift store, outfitted it with self-fabricated parts and angled it over his boil kettle to shake hops gently into the brew. (Courtesy of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery)

Dogfish Head’s story is exemplary and at the same time one of many. In 1995, when Calagione first opened his brewpub, space was tight and so was the budget. He could afford to buy only a small set of brewing equipment: a 12-gallon system designed for homebrewers, not professionals.

But the beer he made was good. Customers kept coming back for more, bringing their friends. Now he had to brew multiple batches a day, one after the other, each taking four to six hours on burners (followed by cooling, fermenting, and bottling), five days a week. The recipes were starting to feel a bit rote.

The brewpub’s kitchen was full of ingredients, colors and aromas, but most of them were linked to the dishes headed out to diners rather than the sugary wort boiling in the kettle. Nevertheless, Calagione had already imagined the possibilities of pulling from one world into the other. His business plan had set the goal for Dogfish to be the first commercial brewery to make the majority of its recipes with culinary ingredients—cherries, ginger, honey, orange slices, coriander and more—in addition to beer’s standard components of barley, water, hops and yeast.

Inspired by a TV chef sprinkling pepper continuously into a pot of soup, Calagione invented the technique of continual hopping in 1999. Using this vibrating electric football game, Calagione added hops slowly and continuously into the boil kettle as he brewed beer. (Division of Work and Industry, NMAH)

With these ingredients—the first of many—that Calagione introduced into the boil kettle of his diminutive brewery (a microbrewery, literally) a new approach to brewing American beer began.

Statistics show that most producers and consumers of beer in the U.S. today are white men. But brewing was first the domestic labor of women and enslaved people. As the American economy evolved, beer became the product of immigrant European professional brewers and the output of sophisticated factory breweries.

When happy hour rolls around, most Americans reach for a beer; it is the most consumed alcoholic beverage in the country. In 2017, American drinkers spent more than $119 billion on beer, nearly two times what they spent on wine. According to federal government statistics, more than 6,000 breweries are now in operation, with a staggering 10,000-plus holding a Brewer’s Notice—a measure of potential brewery growth to come.

When Sam Calagione opened Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats in 1995, he brewed beer multiple times a day, five days a week, in this boil kettle sized for homebrewing rather than professional brewing. (Division of Work and Industry, NMAH)

But the American beer industry hasn’t always looked like this. Homebrewing and microbrewing were grassroots responses to a post-Prohibition brewing industry that had reached peak consolidation in the late 1970s. Very big breweries were making virtually a single style of beer: light-bodied lagers, often brewed with adjunct grains like rice or corn.

Inspired by beers encountered during educational travel or military service abroad in the 1950s and 1960s, some American homebrewers began to brew an adventurous range of beers on a small scale, using only traditional ingredients.

An even smaller number tried to go pro. An initial handful of microbreweries opened their doors in the mid-1970s, mostly in California and the west. At first, this effort was slow-going. Brewers struggled to source capital, ingredients and equipment suited to their modest operations. They had to build distribution networks, marketing strategies and consumer bases from scratch. Many failed.

Homebrewers pride themselves on a do-it-yourself approach to brewing beer. When steam from the boiling wort broke Calagione’s original electric football game during its first use, he purchased this second game and used it to brew again, in fall 1999. As Dogfish Head Craft Brewery expanded, its brewers designed increasingly sophisticated continual hopping devices. (Division of Work and Industry, NMAH)

But many brewers caught several waves at the right moment: the counterculture, the do-it-yourself movement, the consumer movement and even the advent of California cuisine. The federal government legalized homebrewing in 1978. Microbreweries proliferated. And the “craft beer revolution” took hold.

The American Brewing History Initiative is collecting the story of these events and those that followed, gathering artifacts from men and women who changed the American palate and revolutionized an industry.

A labeled, though empty, bottle from New Albion Brewing Company in Sonoma, California, the nation’s first from-the-ground-up microbrewery, feels in many ways like the place where this story began. From Sierra Nevada Brewing Company in Chico, California, the Initiative has acquired a first run of labels for beers like its iconic Pale Ale. Buffalo Bill’s Brewery, one of the nation’s first brewpubs, in Hayward, California, has donated a colorful sidewalk sign, bar stool, menu board and tap handles. Other objects reflect growing relationships between fledgling brewers and their customers, such as a guest book recording visits to Boulder Brewing Company (now Boulder Beer Company) in Boulder, Colorado, soon after it opened.

A cherished childhood microscope; a well-worn brewing textbook, its dust jacket patched with tape; a set of white brewer’s coveralls; and a printer’s press sheet of labels from the first modern bottling of Anchor Steam Beer—these objects came from Fritz Maytag, who grew up in Newton, Iowa, where his father managed the Maytag Washing Machine Company. Maytag purchased San Francisco’s struggling Steam Beer Brewing Company—now Anchor Brewing Company—in 1965.

During his oral history, Maytag cited a passion for “alchemy” that he had learned in his childhood basement lab. “I have this magic sense of mixing things together to see what will happen,” he said. Maytag used his childhood microscope to diagnose and fix inconsistencies in the brewery’s beer. He breathed new life into Anchor–and the larger brewing industry–with styles unheard of at the time, like porter and barleywine, making Anchor Brewing Company the nation’s first modern microbrewery.

Image by Division of Work and Industry, NMAH. Brewers at Colorado’s first microbrewery, Boulder Brewing Company (now Boulder Beer Company), made wood crates by hand to store their beer. (original image)

Image by Archives Center Brewing History Collection, Archives Center, NMAH. Printer’s press sheet from Boulder Brewing Company (now Boulder Beer Company) labels, 1979-1980 (original image)

Image by Archives Center Brewing History Collection, Archives Center, NMAH. Michael Lewis, UC, Davis emeritus professor of brewing science, used this copy of his co-authored textbook to teach homebrewers and professional brewers in his classroom and lab (original image)

Image by Division of Work and Industry, NMAH. Jack McAuliffe founded the first from-the-ground-up microbrewery in 1976, in Sonoma, California. His operation was so small, he made plaques like this by hand so retailers could announce his beer for sale. (original image)

Image by Division of Work and Industry, NMAH. When Sierra Nevada Brewing Company's Pale Ale (above: label) debuted in 1981, many consumers rejected it as too bitter. This beer initiated a craving for hops among American beer drinkers. (original image)

Image by Archives Center Brewing History Collection, Archives Center, NMAH. A 1988 bicycle trip to Belgian breweries and bars—chronicled in this journal—inspired Jeff Lebesch to bring Belgian brewing techniques to Colorado. Three years later, he and Kim Jordan cofounded New Belgium Brewing Company. (original image)

Michael Lewis, a biochemist born and trained in England and a specialist in the properties of yeast in beer, arrived at the University of California at Davis in 1962 and dedicated the rest of his career to building one of the nation’s preeminent brewing science programs.

As the first professor of brewing science in the United States, Lewis taught homebrewing before it was legal, in the late 1960s. In the mid-1970s, he took his students to visit Sonoma’s tiny New Albion Brewing Company. Lewis donated a selection of his syllabi and teaching notes as well as his co-authored brewing textbook. Its binding is broken and pages marked with marginalia and coffee stains from hours teaching in the lab—traces of a teacher inspiring the creativity of others.

Charlie Papazian was an undergraduate at the University of Virginia in 1970 when he tasted a sip of beer that an acquaintance had homebrewed. Transfixed by the idea that he could make what he realized was “flavorful” beer, he began to brew, too, using ginger ale bottles from the local market to bottle his beer.

Papazian donated two of these bottles to the museum as well as his last original copy of his first homebrew recipe: “Log Boom Brew,” typed while still an undergrad. After college, Papazian moved west, to Boulder, Colorado, where he taught homebrewing classes, authored a popular manual (a self-published first edition now resides in the collections), and founded associations for homebrewers and professional brewers, plus the nation’s largest beer festival.

Papazian’s maxim is “Relax. Don’t worry. Have a homebrew.” His humble tools—a wooden kitchen spoon, an aluminum stepladder, and a green plastic garbage pail—now have a new home at the museum.

Image by Division of Work and Industry, NMAH. Tap handle for Pumpkin Ale brewed and served at Buffalo Bill’s Brewery in Hayward, California, 1983 to1994. (original image)

Image by Division of Work and Industry, NMAH. This sidewalk sign announced to passersby in 1983 that Buffalo Bill’s, one of the nation’s first brewpubs, was open for business. (original image)

Image by Division of Work and Industry, NMAH. Fritz Maytag received this microscope as a childhood gift from his father. Many years later, he used it to understand and correct inconsistencies in the beer at Anchor Brewing Company after he purchased it in 1965. (original image)

Image by Division of Work and Industry, NMAH. Soon after Jeff Lebesch and Kim Jordan co-founded New Belgium Brewing Company in the basement of their Fort Collins, Colorado, home in 1991, they used this milk can to store yeast. (original image)

Image by Division of Work and Industry, NMAH. Brewers at San Francisco’s historic Anchor Brewing Company don these white coveralls when they brew. Former owner Fritz Maytag donated his set of coveralls. (original image)

Image by Division of Work and Industry, NMAH. Coaster featuring the Rocky Mountains from Odell Brewing Company (formerly Odell’s), one of Colorado’s first microbreweries, founded in Fort Collins in 1989. (original image)

Image by Division of Work and Industry, NMAH. In 1978, homebrewer Charlie Papazian founded the American Homebrewers Association to serve as a forum for education and communication among homebrewers across the country. Papazian’s maxim is “Relax. Don’t worry. Have a homebrew.” (original image)

Image by Division of Work and Industry, NMAH. When learning how to homebrew beer as an undergraduate at the University of Virginia, Charlie Papazian bottled his homebrew in this repurposed ginger ale bottle. (original image)

Image by Archives Center Brewing History Collection, Archives Center, NMAH. Charlie Papazian self-published this first edition of Joy of Brewing, his homebrewing manual, in 1976. When homebrewing became legal in 1978, he republished the manual with a professional press. It became one of the most influential homebrewing guides ever written. (original image)

Image by Archives Center Brewing History Collection, Archives Center, NMAH. While a student at the University of Virginia, Charlie Papazian wrote his first recipe for homebrewed beer, specifying, “Guaranteed to work in Charlottesville, and it just might work other places too.” (original image)

Image by Archives Center Brewing History Collection, Archives Center, NMAH. While a student at the University of Virginia, Charlie Papazian wrote his first recipe for homebrewed beer, specifying, “Guaranteed to work in Charlottesville, and it just might work other places too.” (original image)

Image by Division of Work and Industry, NMAH. Charlie Papazian used basic equipment like this wooden spoon to homebrew. (original image)

Image by Division of Work and Industry, NMAH. Fritz Maytag collected textbooks such as this to learn techniques of brewing and sanitation as he revitalized and expanded Anchor Brewing Company between 1965 and 2010. (original image)

In 1988, Jeff Lebesch carried a small, yellow notebook during a bicycle trip around Belgium. Inside, he recorded tasting notes and observations of the beers and bars he found. Lebesch flew home to Colorado inspired to co-found a Belgian-style brewery, New Belgium Brewing Company, with then-wife Kim Jordan. Lebesch would eventually end his ties to the brewery; Jordan stayed on, becoming CEO and greatly expanding the brewery’s reach. The Initiative has acquired Lebesch’s notebook and a dairy’s milk can used to store yeast during the brewery’s early years.

In addition to these historic artifacts, oral histories recorded with more than 75—and counting—members of the industry contribute in equal measure to this new collection. Professional brewers and homebrewers make American beer what it is today. So, too, do teachers, writers, an artisan maltstress of gluten-free grains, destined for gluten-free beers and a designer of tap handles. Annie Johnson spoke about her experience winning the American Homebrewers Association’s Homebrewer of the Year award in 2013, becoming the first African-American to win that honor. Day Bracey and Ed Bailey, hosts of Drinking Partners Podcast, reflected on their work melding comedy, culture and craft beer for listeners in Pittsburgh and beyond. Liz Garibay talked about enlivening traditional museum work with walking tours of Chicago’s beer history and building a new museum of the city’s brewing past. Oral histories such as these preserve often-winding career paths and capture memories from childhood to the present.

These conversations have taken place while sitting at a bar or in an office; huddled around a barrel amidst fermentation tanks; under the stone arches of a refurbished 1800s malting room; and in conference hotels. Pristine quiet is ideal, but these are oral histories of an industry; some recordings have background noise ranging from taproom bustle to the continuous clink of bottling lines. Interviewees have laughed when reflecting on initial homebrewing escapades and cried remembering mentors who have passed away. These are the details that are harder to preserve and convey in objects or documents, as powerful as those sources are.

From bottles to boil kettles to vibrating football games to oral histories, American brewing history is a series of stories that are economic, social, cultural and gastronomic alike. And as a development of the past 50 years, this history is one that is newly written and still being written.

To a public historian, that fact is an imperative to collect: to gather, preserve and share the material culture and voices of beer’s recent past and present, for the future.

On October 25, the exhibition, FOOD: Transforming the American Table, reopens with the new section “Beer: An American History,” featuring a selection of artifacts from this growing archive. The exhibition includes other new sections on migration and food, dieting history, and Mexican-American vintners.

The museum’s fifth annual Food History Weekend takes place November 7 to 9, 2019. On November 8, craft brewing pioneers Fritz Maytag, Michael Lewis, Charlie Papazian, and Ken Grossman, founder of Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, will speak at the after-hours event “Last Call.” Attendees can sample several of the historic beers created by this star-studded panel of speakers.

Art Room in Smithsonian Institution Building (1903)

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
See Field, Stamm and Ewing, The Castle: An Illustrated History, p. 46; U.S. National Museum Report 1903, p. 233.

The Art Room in the East Wing of the Smithsonian Institution Building, created by third Secretary Samuel P. Langley. The furnishings were specially designed by Hornblower and Marshall. Encircling the room was a plaster copy of the Parthenon frieze and carbon photographs by Adolphe Braun of Old Master portraits and paintings.

Concept Drawing of Exterior for National Air & Space Museum

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
In 1958, President Eisenhower authorized the preparation of plans for the construction of a building for a National Air Museum, to be located on a site bounded by Fourth and Seventh Streets SW, Independence Avenue, and Jefferson Drive. The 1964 design by Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum (HOK) for "a Museum for the Space Age" was selected. However, their initial design was later modified. In July 1966, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law a bill authorizing construction of a new building for the newly-renamed National Air and Space Museum (NASM). Congressional passage of appropriations for the construction of the new museum occurred in 1971. The final design was approved in 1972 and construction began in November of 1972. The museum opened July 1, 1976.

For the 1972 final design by Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum (HOK), see Neg. SIA2017-018111 through 018119, SIA2017-018122 through SIA2017-018134, and 94-2479. See also Neg. SIA2017-018095 through SIA2017-018101 for initial design by HOK. For other designs for a proposed new National Air Museum see: United States, Public Building Administration 1949; McKim, Mead & White 1955; Harbeson, Hough, Livingston & Larson 1962; and HOK's preliminary design of 1964.

HOK were the architects selected. However, their original design was revised and this became the final design.

Drawing of the exterior the National Air and Space Museum is of the north facade of the Mall side of the building and the east end as viewed from Jefferson Drive.

The Controversy Over the Planned Le Corbusier Museum

Smithsonian Magazine

Le Corbusier is widely lauded as one of the Modernist movement’s most influential architects. But in recent years, his legacy has come under fire as a surge of evidence suggests he was not simply an opportunistic creative seeking financial support wherever he could find it, but a fascist with strong anti-Semitic views.

Now, a group of scholars, architects and creative professionals are speaking out against Le Corbusier once more, calling on the government to withdraw participation in a planned museum honoring the Swiss-born architect.

“We do not deny anyone the right to love his work, but we stress that this is a subjective appreciation: everyone is free to judge him as he sees fit,” the group writes in Le Monde. “Le Corbusier has never been unanimous.”

The op-ed urges France's culture ministry to divest from the museum, which is set to be erected in Poissy, a French commune where Le Corbusier built perhaps his most famous creation, the palatial concrete Villa Savoye. The group also demands that the ministry raze a statue of the architect recently erected in Poissy and offer him “no public support."

The conversation around Le Corbusier’s fascist ties heated up back in 2015 when two books on the matter were published by architecture journalist Xavier de Jarcy and architect and critic Francois Chaslin.

In an interview with the Agence France Presse at the time, de Jarcy described the Le Corbusier as “simply an out-and-out fascist.” Chaslin, who was also interviewed by the AFP, agreed, saying that Le Corbusier “was active … in groups with a very clear ideology.” Although Le Corbusier kept these ties under wraps, Chaslin noted that over the course of his research, he found “anti-Semite sketches” attributed to the architect, as well as records of his 18-month involvement with the Vichy government following the fall of Paris.

De Jarcy also pointed out that the architect was an active member of a militant fascist group and published some 20 articles in which he “declared himself in favor of a corporatist state on the model of [Benito] Mussolini,” according to BBC News’ Lucy Williamson.

Author Xavier de Jarcy describes Le Corbusier as "simply an out-and-out fascist" (Public domain)

Still, the extent of Le Corbusier’s involvement in such political groups remains a point of contention. Caroline Levitt of Britain’s Cortauld Institute makes the case that Le Corbusier was more of an “ambiguous” ideologist mainly “interested in the potential of architecture.” Speaking with BBC News’ Williamson, she said that the architect's politics “tended to shift.”

Le Corbusier built several of his largest projects in Soviet Russia during the 1930s and espoused ideas linked with both communism and fascism. “He was trying to wipe out the troubled art of a troubled era, and suggest a life of order and clarity," Levitt continued. “That's very appropriable by the Right. But it was also about shaking up the established ideas of the bourgeoisie, which is more akin to ideas of the Left.”

Le Corbusier, who was born Charles-Édouard Jeanneret in Switzerland in 1887, looms especially large in the French cultural canon. After moving to the country at the age of 20, he took the name Le Corbusier as a variation on the French phrase "Le Corbeau," or "The Crow," and in 1930, he opted to become a French citizen.

The Brutalist concrete creations Le Corbusier erected or proposed to build in cities across the country informed urban housing design for decades thereafter. As Henry Samuel explains for the Telegraph, the architect envisioned functional blocks of park-ringed, plain apartment buildings overtaking the more ostentatious designs of centuries past. Luckily for Paris' historical district, however, this policy fell out of favor amid claims that the monolith structures were "soul-destroying" beacons of urban ghettoization. Despite the declining popularity of Le Corbusier's concrete buildings in the post-war era, his adoptive country continued to recognize his contributions to modern design, touting his eclectic oeuvre of French creations as major tourist destinations and dedicating a litany of museum retrospectives to his career. Today, Le Corbusier is arguably France's best-known architect.

Despite these deep-seated ties, the revelations of recent years, as well as the country's increasingly volatile political climate, have led many to reject Le Corbusier and his agenda. As the group argues in Le Monde, the culture ministry's actions are tantamount to acting as an “accomplice” in the attempt to rehabilitate a man who “rejoiced in the French defeat” at the hands of the Nazis in June 1940.

The culture ministry has declined to weigh in on the accusations. In a written response, Samuel reports for the Telegraph, “… The culture ministry said it could not comment on ‘the extent to which Le Corbusier was fascinated by totalitarianism nor the scale of his commitment to the Vichy regime’a ‘legitimate’ debate it left to ‘historians.’”

While the ministry said no more on Le Corbusier’s legacy, Samuel wrote that it was willing to accept “full responsibility” for the “exceptional nature” of the architect’s work, 17 of which have been included on Unesco’s world heritage list as an “outstanding contribution to the modern movement.”

Postcard of the Old National Museum

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
The Arts and Industries Building was designed by two Philadelphia architects: Adolph Cluss and Rudolph Schulze.

The postcard is numbered R-21202 on the top of the address side.

This postcard is part of Accession 11-271, which is part of Record Unit 95.

Postcard entitled Old National Museum, Washington, D.C. The building opened in 1881 as the United States National Museum and is now known as the Arts and Industries Building. There is a full tree in front of the building, and two people sitting underneath it on a bench. A yellow car is on the road in front of the building. The front of the postcard has a white border. The message side is unused, but it has a short printed note about the museum: "The National Museum contains the Government collections, comprising millions of objects of scientific and artistic interest, collected from all quarters of the globe."

Design It! Giving Voice to America

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Lesson plan has students explore how postage stamps communicate messages about national identity, with four lessons on elements of art, principles of design, and social studies. Students demonstrate their learning by creating their own stamps. Also includes interviews with stamp designers.

National Museum of the American Indian, 2004

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
SIA2010-0489 is a color derivative of the original born digital image and SIA2010-0490 is a black and white derivative of the original born digital image. This image was included in the September 2004 issue of the TORCH.

The National Museum of the American Indian opened on September 21, 2004. The museum was the first dedicated to American Indian culture and heritage on the National Mall. The building, designed by architect Douglas Cardinal, is five stories, with 250,000 square feet, and is located between the National Air and Space Museum and the U.S. Capitol.

Architectural History of the National Museum of History and Technology (National Museum of American History) , 1958

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
Ewing, H., & Ballard, A. (2009). A guide to Smithsonian architecture. Washington: Smithsonian Books.

Construction of the National Museum of History and Technology began in 1958. It was the first building to be built on the National Mall since 1923 when the Freer Gallery opened. Following the museum's ideals of modern technology, the building was to be built with modern architectural features, as opposed to an architectural revival style like all of the previous Smithsonian museums had been built in.

The sleek and modern five story building is perfectly rectangular, and was built using Tennessee marble blocks. According to then Smithsonian Secretary Leonard Carmichael, the idea for the design was that the museum should be an exhibit vessel, not just a pretty building. Chief architect Walker O. Cain of the architecture firm Kim, Mead, and White described the building as "so disarmingly simple that I think it sits well with neo-classical buildings all around it."

The museum sits on a broad platform base, and boasts modernist shadow cornices. There are very few additional architectural elements, keeping the building simple and modern. Parking entrances were skillfully hidden by greenery. In 1980, the museum's name was changed to the National Museum of American History.

Is Architecture Actually a Form of Weaving?

Smithsonian Magazine

David Adjaye is known for his innovative architectural designs. He integrates a wide array of influences into his own kind of modernism in projects as diverse as the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver, the Nobel Peace Centre in Oslo and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture—perhaps his most ambitious project to date—expected to be opened next year in Washington, D.C. So it may seem strange that a man celebrated for his buildings would also be curating an exhibition about fabric.

Adjaye is overseeing the newest installment of Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum’s “Selects” series, which spotlights the little-known West African textiles in the museum’s permanent collection. The show spotlights 14 colorful cloths, caps and wraps from communities throughout Africa. It also offers the celebrated architect a chance to explore the surprising connections between textile making and building design.

“What’s interesting to me is this idea of fabric and weaving as a kind of abstraction of making places that people come together in,” he says.

Adjaye says that the overlap of these two disciplines has always fascinated him. He sees it as a way to understand architecture that was first explored by thinkers like 19th-century German architect Gottfried Semper in his influential work The Four Elements of Architecture. The book made the case that building one of the elements, enclosure, actually originated as textiles—first as interwoven grasses and branches, which gave way to woven screens and tapestries, before more solid walls served as dividers of space.

This concept of textiles as dividers of space is partly why Adjaye has displayed the fabrics upright in the exhibition instead of flat—to transform them from fabric into “architectural elements.”

Image by Matt Flynn/Cooper Hewitt. Man's cap (laket), late 19th–early 20th century (original image)

Image by Matt Flynn/Cooper Hewitt. Man's cap (laket), late 19th–early 20th century (original image)

Image by Matt Flynn. Adire wrapper, ca. 1960 (original image)

Image by Matt Flynn/Cooper Hewitt. Woman's head wrap, early to mid-20th century (original image)

Image by Matt Flynn/Cooper Hewitt. Adinkra ceremonial wrapper, mid-20th century (original image)

Image by Matt Flynn/Cooper Hewitt. Kente prestige cloth, early to mid-20th century (original image)

Image by Matt Flynn/Cooper Hewitt. Woman's wrapper, early to mid-20th century (original image)

Image by Matt Flynn/Cooper Hewitt. Pelete bite wrapper, Pelete Bite, 1930s (original image)

Image by Matt Flynn/Cooper Hewitt. Bogolanfini woman's wrapper, mid-20th century (original image)

Image by Matt Flynn/Cooper Hewitt. Adire wrapper ca. 1990 (original image)

Image by Ellen McDermott/Cooper Hewitt. Man's hat (ashetu), mid- to late 20th century (original image)

Image by Matt Flynn/Cooper Hewitt. Kente prestige cloth, early–mid-20th century (original image)

Image by Matt Flynn/Cooper Hewitt. Wrapper, mid-20th century (original image)

This blend of architecture and textiles can be seen in his design of the edifice of the African American History Museum as well (for which Adjaye is serving as lead designer, along with the project’s lead architect, Philip Freelon). In particular, the outside of the building is bronze mesh that references the professional guilds of the freed African-American communities of the South, particularly South Carolina and Louisiana. It required an algorithm that mimicked an actual Charleston house and demanded that Adjaye and his team create a new bronze-coated alloy.

“Textiles, especially West African textiles, often demonstrate a paradoxical juxtaposition of regularity and serendipity,” says Kim Tanzer, a professor of architecture at the University of Virginia. “I see this quality in the walls of the [museum].”

She points to the “visual and structural meter” set by the floor levels and upward-slanting walls of the museum; the individual bronzed panels, which create “a secondary rhythm;” and the “syncopation” provided by the gaps between those walls. All of this creates a façade that shares elements with something that would fit comfortably into the Cooper Hewitt’s “Selects” exhibition.

The son of a Ghanaian diplomat, Adjaye spent his childhood moving through very different countries and cultures—Tanzania, Egypt, Lebanon and England—and has since visited every one of Africa’s 54 nations. He describes the incorporation of these varied backgrounds into his art as a type of weaving, synthesizing distinctive elements in a way that creates a new sort of singular whole.

“What’s interesting to me is this idea of fabric and weaving as a kind of abstraction of making places that people come together in,” says architect David Adjaye. (Ed Reeve)

For the exhibition, Adjaye was given full access to the Cooper Hewitt’s archives and its collection of 26,000 textiles found himself quickly drawn to its colorful African fabrics. The individual pieces reflect what he calls a “common memory” of each particular place and its culture—symbols from proverbs of the Asante people on a funeral wrap; or projections sprouting from a Cameroonian hat meant to symbolize the wearer’s inner thoughts. At the same time, Adjaye saw all these pieces as forming together their own kind of “mosaic of the geography and cultural lines” of the continent and its myriad people.

Adjaye sought to avoid presenting the pieces as “so-called ethnic objects,” to approach them instead as lenses through which he could take a more abstract look at materials, technique and geography. The exhibition attempts to read the collection from this perspective—telling how the textiles’ colors reflect the mineral quality of a jungle versus a mountain, or how their patterns reflect the dynamic of one city versus another. Each wrap and cap becomes a symbol of its community, and together the pieces more broadly weave a larger textile of West Africa.

“That is absolutely analogous to my thinking of architecture right now,” says Adjaye. He sees both textile and architecture as a “cultural frame that allows society to flourish.”

Adjaye emphasizes that the influence of these textile patterns can be seen throughout his architectural works. He points to the geometric shapes of the façade of London visual arts center Rivington Place and the colorful diamonds of Washington, D.C.’s Francis A. Gregory Library. His latest museum may be the clearest example of this overlap yet.

Adjaye emphasizes that the influence of these textile patterns can be seen throughout his architectural works, such as the colorful diamonds of Washington, D.C.’s Francis A. Gregory Library. (Jeff Sauers)

Just as the Selects exhibit required Adjaye to encapsulate a diverse and complicated history into a unified whole, that has been his challenge with the African American History Museum.

He sees the project as a new type of museum that he believes “we’re going to see more of in the 21st century” —focusing on the story of a particular group, rather than collected objects, to understand a place more broadly. It’s about “understanding the complex, fantastic and difficult history of America through the lens of the African-American people,” as Adjaye puts it. He points to the National Jewish Museum and the National Museum of the American Indian as moving in that direction and expects this to be a growing trend for museums both in the U.S. and throughout the world.

Set at the corner of 15th Street N.W. and Constitution Avenue, the 380,000-square-foot museum is designed to convey this weaving of culture and history. It includes a 116-foot-tall building topped by a three-tiered copper “Corona,” housing the museum’s gallery spaces. Its main entrance is a striking “Porch.” In the façade, Adjaye incorporates elements of artwork from the Yoruba people of West Africa, what he calls “a powerful artistic tradition across central and west Africa” that forms “part of a deep, psychic territory of this community.”

“In part, Adjaye’s personal design narrative embodies the 400-year-long trajectory of Africa in diaspora—rich African sources and European intellectual frameworks, informed by the research he and his team did to understand and incorporate craft traditions of the 19th-century American, especially antebellum, South,” says Tanzer. “The [museum] is a beautiful example of the strategic ‘borrowing’ that created the rich cultural environment we have all inherited from the African continent.”

"We wanted a building that is worthy of a rich cultural heritage, and we wanted it to work as a museum," says Lonnie G. Bunch, the museum's founding director and chairman of the jury that selected Adjaye's design. In addition to the specific physical dimensions and environmental considerations, Bunch had instructed the architects to reflect in their designs the optimism, spirituality and joy, as well as the "dark corners" of the African American experience.

Adjaye emphasizes that the African American History Museum is “not a museum for African-Americans, it’s a lens through which to understand the mosaic of America and what makes America.” And like a textile that fits a particular culture and location, he sees his architectural projects as growing out of a particular geography and place, rather than the other way around.

“My buildings look different in each context—if I worked in the same place twice, it would probably be the same kind of building,” he says. “If I work in a new place, new forces come into play.”

"David Adjaye Selects" is on view through February 14, 2016 in the Marks Gallery at the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum at 2 East 91st Street in New York City.

Concept Model of South Approach for New National Air Museum

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
In 1958, President Eisenhower authorized the preparation of plans for the construction of a building for a National Air Museum, to be located on a site bounded by Fourth and Seventh Streets SW, Independence Avenue, and Jefferson Drive. The 1964 design by Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum (HOK) for "a Museum for the Space Age" was selected. However, their initial design was later modified. In July 1966, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law a bill authorizing construction of a new building for the newly-renamed National Air and Space Museum (NASM). Congressional passage of appropriations for the construction of the new museum occurred in 1971. The final design was approved in 1972 and construction began in November of 1972. The museum opened July 1, 1976.

Preliminary design for a National Air Museum on a proposed site in the Washington, D.C. Southwest Redevelopment area bounded by Independence Avenue, 9th Street,12th Street, and C Street, Southwest. That area is a part of what is now known as L'Enfant Plaza.

HOK were the architects selected. However, their original design was revised and this became the final design.

For the 1972 final design by Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum (HOK), see Neg. SIA2017-018111 through 018119, SIA2017-018122 through SIA2017-018134, and 94-2479. See also Neg. SIA2017-018095 through SIA2017-018101 for initial design by HOK. For other designs for a proposed new National Air Museum see: United States, Public Building Administration 1949; McKim, Mead & White 1955; Harbeson, Hough, Livingston & Larson 1962; and HOK's preliminary design of 1964.

Model called the "Wineglass Design", submitted by McKim, Mead & White, Architects, for a proposed new National Air Museum (now known as the National Air and Space Museum) building, shows the elevated view of the south approach. It was designed to have three galleries called Wright Diorama, Hall of Famous Firsts, and main exhibit. This architectural firm was not selected.

Concept Model of East End for New National Air Museum

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
In 1958, President Eisenhower authorized the preparation of plans for the construction of a building for a National Air Museum, to be located on a site bounded by Fourth and Seventh Streets SW, Independence Avenue, and Jefferson Drive. The 1964 design by Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum (HOK) for "a Museum for the Space Age" was selected. However, their initial design was later modified. In July 1966, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law a bill authorizing construction of a new building for the newly-renamed National Air and Space Museum (NASM). Congressional passage of appropriations for the construction of the new museum occurred in 1971. The final design was approved in 1972 and construction began in November of 1972. The museum opened July 1, 1976.

Preliminary design for a National Air Museum on a proposed site in the Washington, D.C. Southwest Redevelopment area bounded by Independence Avenue, 9th Street,12th Street, and C Street, Southwest. That area is a part of what is now known as L'Enfant Plaza.

HOK were the architects selected. However, their original design was revised and this became the final design.

For the 1972 final design by Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum (HOK), see Neg. SIA2017-018111 through 018119, SIA2017-018122 through SIA2017-018134, and 94-2479. See also Neg. SIA2017-018095 through SIA2017-018101 for initial design by HOK. For other designs for a proposed new National Air Museum see: United States, Public Building Administration 1949; McKim, Mead & White 1955; Harbeson, Hough, Livingston & Larson 1962; and HOK's preliminary design of 1964.

Model called the "Wineglass Design", submitted by McKim, Mead & White, Architects, for a proposed new National Air Museum (now known as the National Air and Space Museum) building, shows the East End from the street level. It was designed to have three galleries called Wright Diorama, Hall of Famous Firsts, and main exhibit. This architectural firm was not selected.

Concept Model of Exterior for New National Air Museum

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
In 1958, President Eisenhower authorized the preparation of plans for the construction of a building for a National Air Museum, to be located on a site bounded by Fourth and Seventh Streets SW, Independence Avenue, and Jefferson Drive. The 1964 design by Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum (HOK) for "a Museum for the Space Age" was selected. However, their initial design was later modified. In July 1966, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law a bill authorizing construction of a new building for the newly-renamed National Air and Space Museum (NASM). Congressional passage of appropriations for the construction of the new museum occurred in 1971. The final design was approved in 1972 and construction began in November of 1972. The museum opened July 1, 1976.

Preliminary design for a National Air Museum on a proposed site in the Washington, D.C. Southwest Redevelopment area bounded by Independence Avenue, 9th Street,12th Street, and C Street, Southwest. That area is a part of what is now known as L'Enfant Plaza.

HOK were the architects selected. However, their original design was revised and this became the final design.

For the 1972 final design by Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum (HOK), see Neg. SIA2017-018111 through 018119, SIA2017-018122 through SIA2017-018134, and 94-2479. See also Neg. SIA2017-018095 through SIA2017-018101 for initial design by HOK. For other designs for a proposed new National Air Museum see: United States, Public Building Administration 1949; McKim, Mead & White 1955; Harbeson, Hough, Livingston & Larson 1962; and HOK's preliminary design of 1964.

Model called the "Wineglass Design", submitted by McKim, Mead & White, Architects, for a proposed new National Air Museum (now known as the National Air and Space Museum) is an exterior view of the building taken at street level from the northeast.

Concept Model of Main Hall for New National Air Museum

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
In 1958, President Eisenhower authorized the preparation of plans for the construction of a building for a National Air Museum, to be located on a site bounded by Fourth and Seventh Streets SW, Independence Avenue, and Jefferson Drive. The 1964 design by Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum (HOK) for "a Museum for the Space Age" was selected. However, their initial design was later modified. In July 1966, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law a bill authorizing construction of a new building for the newly-renamed National Air and Space Museum (NASM). Congressional passage of appropriations for the construction of the new museum occurred in 1971. The final design was approved in 1972 and construction began in November of 1972. The museum opened July 1, 1976.

Preliminary design for a National Air Museum on a proposed site in the Washington, D.C. Southwest Redevelopment area bounded by Independence Avenue, 9th Street,12th Street, and C Street, Southwest. That area is a part of what is now known as L'Enfant Plaza.

HOK were the architects selected. However, their original design was revised and this became the final design.

For the 1972 final design by Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum (HOK), see Neg. SIA2017-018111 through 018119, SIA2017-018122 through SIA2017-018134, and 94-2479. See also Neg. SIA2017-018095 through SIA2017-018101 for initial design by HOK. For other designs for a proposed new National Air Museum see: United States, Public Building Administration 1949; McKim, Mead & White 1955; Harbeson, Hough, Livingston & Larson 1962; and HOK's preliminary design of 1964.

Model called the "Wineglass Design", submitted by McKim, Mead & White, Architects, for a proposed new National Air Museum (now known as the National Air and Space Museum) building is a close up of the Main Hall from the west end with model airplanes displayed inside and outside. This architectural firm was not selected.

Concept Model of Interior for the New National Air Museum

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
In 1958, President Eisenhower authorized the preparation of plans for the construction of a building for a National Air Museum, to be located on a site bounded by Fourth and Seventh Streets SW, Independence Avenue, and Jefferson Drive. The 1964 design by Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum (HOK) for "a Museum for the Space Age" was selected. However, their initial design was later modified. In July 1966, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law a bill authorizing construction of a new building for the newly-renamed National Air and Space Museum (NASM). Congressional passage of appropriations for the construction of the new museum occurred in 1971. The final design was approved in 1972 and construction began in November of 1972. The museum opened July 1, 1976.

HOK were the architects selected. However, their original design was revised and this became the final design.

See also Neg. SIA2017-018095 through SIA2017-018101 for initial design by HOK. For the 1972 final design by Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum (HOK), see Neg. SIA2017-018111 through 018119, SIA2017-018122 through SIA2017-018134, and 94-2479. For other designs for a proposed new National Air Museum see: United States, Public Building Administration 1949; McKim, Mead & White 1955; Harbeson, Hough, Livingston & Larson 1962; and HOK's preliminary design of 1964.

Early concept model of the main floor interior for a new National Air Museum (now known as the National Air and Space Museum), designed by Gyo Obata of Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum (HOK). Visible In this open top model of the first floor for a "Museum for the Space Age" are airplanes, rockets, people inside the museum as well as people and cars on the outside.

Fear and Loathing at the Museum of Feelings

Smithsonian Magazine

As I step into the Museum of Feelings, all I feel is dread.

The pop-up museum, which bills itself as “the first museum that reacts to emotions—and turns them into art,” is an odd addition to the chrome-and-glass paneled buildings of Lower Manhattan's Battery Park City. Covered in a faint white canopy that sways against the wind and rain one evening in December, the museum resembles a giant plastic mausoleum, bathed in neon light like a set piece from a James Turrell installation (or the video for Drake’s mega-popular “Hotline Bling.”) The exterior color supposedly uses social media data to “reflect New York's ever-changing mood in vivid color;” the current light pink exterior indicates “calm” on the Museum of Feelings’ arbitrary mood scale. Which, considering that earlier this day, Twitter and Facebook were dominated by the news that two terrorists gunned down 14 people in San Bernadino, California, I’m not sure the museum’s barometer was all that accurate.

After waiting in a sprawling line for more than an hour, I enter the cube with a gaggle of college students in hipster chic. “Open up to an emotional journey,” the opening inscription reads. “Twist your inner mood to own.”

I do, and I immediately feel annoyed.

Image by Timothy Fadek/Corbis. The multi-room outdoor box is intended to be an immersive experience which incorporates lights, 3D effects, smoke and mirrors and fragrance. (original image)

Image by Timothy Fadek/Corbis. Five rooms or galleries exist, each named for a different mood, (original image)

Image by Timothy Fadek/Corbis. The site is more advertising installation than museum. (original image)

The Museum of Feelings doesn’t really have “exhibits” in the conventional sense; rather, visitors move from one themed alcove to another, five in total, each with its own distinctive aroma. The “Optimistic Room,” bathed in vivid pink and purple light, is little more than a lightshow, with patrons using small reflective panels to bounce light around the room. An attendant tells me the odor I smell is “Radiant Berries.” The “Joyful Room” is a dense jungle of green LED lights suspended in vine-like plastic tubes; the “Invigorated Room” encircles visitors in halos of bright light projected on the floor that respond to their movements. The “Exhilarated Room” is a funhouse of crystalline mirrors, like Superman’s Fortress of Solitude, dotted with flower-like patterns and accompanied by the putrid odor of what’s described to me as “Blooming Peony and Cherry.” The “Calm Room” is like stepping into a cloud, saturating us with a fine mist of “Vanilla and Lavender.” 

The big “reveal” at the end of our tour is that Museum of Feelings is sponsored by Glade, hence all the olfactory elements to our sensory journey. Working off the idea that smell is the strongest sense tied to emotion, the SC Johnson company paired with marketing group Radical Media to engineer the five scents tied to our emotional state, so that each room “evoke each emotion in the abstract through visuals, touch, sound, and smell,” as Fast Company explained. At the end, visitors are offered a chance to buy candles and distillations of these scents from a “scent lab.”

I felt had.

But should I? After all, corporate sponsorship of museums is as old as the American museum system itself. The Metropolitan Museum of Art was founded by a handful of businessmen and financiers, and plutocrats like the Koch brothers have donated millions to support the arts and humanities across the country. The SC Johnson company itself pledged $5 million to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History for the renovation of the groundbreaking innovation wing that opened this year. During my time as an editor at Bloomberg, I had free access to most of the city’s museums thanks to the patronage of the company’s mayoral namesake. With corporate-sponsored art on the rise, is it possible that this marketing stunt could actually have the makings of a legitimate museum, with the scholarship and educational value that comes with that?

Certainly, but not in this case.

“This is more like a massage parlor than a museum.” says David Ward, a senior historian at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., of the Museum of Feelings.

Ward points out that the presence of corporate money doesn’t necessarily invalidate a museum’s function as a collection of artifacts of historical or cultural importance. Consider the Corning Museum of Glass in New York, owned and operated as an extension of ceramics and glass manufacturer Corning Incorporated. “Despite the fact that it’s closely associated with the company, the museum was established to examine the history, science and technology of glassworking, and it’s become a respected institution even though it’s explicitly attached to a corporation,” says Ward.

The problem with the Museum of Feelings, rather, is that it lacks any sort of educational or pedagogical logic that defines every other museum in the country. Ward points to the Peale Museum, the first museum in the Western hemisphere established by Charles Peale in Baltimore in 1814.

“There was an explicit pedagogy at play in the Peale museum, and that has filtered down into almost every museum in America,” explains Ward. “This was an institution designed not just for us to learn about nature and man, but to make good citizens.” The Museum of Feelings is more akin to P.T. Barnum’s 19th-century amusements, which took the experience of observation and turned it into entertainment rather than education.

This is certainly my experience at the Museum of Feelings. The rooms are certainly interesting and evocative — “where we used to visit museums to see, say, a locomotive and woolly mammoth, now we go to see ourselves,” says Ward of the concept — but I don’t come away with any new knowledge or insights into the nature of human emotion. When I question the attendants in each special room about the composition of the exhibit, they can only incessantly repeat the names of the Glade-branded scents, like “Radiant Berries.”

Evan Schechtman, the CTO of Radical Media and chief design mind behind the Museum of Feelings, did not respond to request for comment, but in an interview with Fast Company, he indicated that he'll be measuring the success of his creation on social media. "Schechtman knows it is impossible to convey a four-sense experience through tweets and Instagram posts," writes Fast Company's David Lumb. "But if it's a knockout, he says, it will be reported as such."

But even Barnum’s regime of the fantastic, beginning with the opening of his American Museum in New York City in 1841, invoked the educational and skeptical next to his bizarre and exotic collections. “Barnum appealed to the public seeking both reality and pleasure,” wrote Jane Glaser and Artemis Zenetou of the entertainer’s impact on American museology in Museums: A Place to Work. “He invited one and all to observe and learn how these exotic and strange things actually worked. He openly invited skepticism, challenge, and debate, and was a genuine pioneer in his understanding of the educational and entertainment power of museums.” Barnum popularized natural history by inviting the public on an enthralling journey; the cheerful attendants at the Museum of Feelings seemed lost in their own space, lacking any working knowledge of the "exhibitions" themselves.

I turned to Amanda White, a neuroscience Ph.D at the University of Michigan and frequent writer on the relationship between smell and emotion, to understand the science underpinning the Museum of Feelings. She explained that while there’s certainly a special relationship between emotion and smell, more so than other senses, but it’s not nearly as clean-cut a relationship as the installation makes it seem.

“The regions of the brain [that] process olfaction, emotion, and memory are tightly connected, but it’s not a one-to-one relationship,” she says. “Memory is really the function that bridges the two. Somebody may have an extremely negative emotion tied to a scent because of the memories it evokes. Instead of connecting a feeling to a scent or color, it makes sense to focus on smells that most people will respond positively to, like the smell of baking cookies that brings back memories of childhood.”

By these metrics, is the Museum of Feelings a farce? Without some level of pedagogical logic and civic intent, is it simply an entertaining art installation, regardless of who foots the bill for its construction? In the eyes of historians like Ward, the Museum of Feelings represents a “clever attempt to conflate itself with something respectable.”

To Ward, it’s indicative of a larger trend in American culture: a tendency to crowdsource art and culture, to turn things to the masses, in lieu of the careful (if elitist) curation of scholars and academics that imparts museums with the knowledge and sensibility that makes them worthy stewards of the title.“Instead of rationality and pedagogy, we’re getting something closer to a carnival,” says Ward. “There’s no demonstrably larger social significance running through a place like the [Museum of Feelings] … so why are they pretending it’s something it isn’t?”

P.T. Barnum showed the world that entertainment and education can coexist, the Corning Museum succeeded at evolving a promotional vehicle into a reputable museum, and philanthropy has proven to be a valuable engine of museum scholarship and exhibitions. But in my view, a museum deserving of that name needs to offer a little bit more than a whiff of scented air freshener.

Ground breaking for National Museum Building

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
Rendering of the new United States National Museum, now the Arts & Industries, building designed by architects Adolph Cluss and Rudolph Schulze, 1878. Smithsonian Institution Archives, negative number SIA2011-1079.

Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution for the year 1879, p. 127

Oehser, Paul H. The Smithsonian Institution. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1970, p. 189

Ground is broken for construction of the U. S. National Museum building. Concrete foundations are begun on April 29th and the brick-work of the walls on May 21st. The main walls will be completed by November 1. The building was designed in High Victorian style by architect Adolf Cluss of Cluss & Schulze, with a symmetrical design and large open halls. It is situated to the west of the Smithsonian Institution Building or "Castle." This building is now known as the Arts and Industries Building.

Downward View of Concept Model for National Air Museum

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
In 1958, President Eisenhower authorized the preparation of plans for the construction of a building for a National Air Museum, to be located on a site bounded by Fourth and Seventh Streets SW, Independence Avenue, and Jefferson Drive. The 1964 design by Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum (HOK) for "a Museum for the Space Age" was selected. However, their initial design was later modified. In July 1966, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law a bill authorizing construction of a new building for the newly-renamed National Air and Space Museum (NASM). Congressional passage of appropriations for the construction of the new museum occurred in 1971. The final design was approved in 1972 and construction began in November of 1972. The museum opened July 1, 1976.

Preliminary design for a National Air Museum on a proposed site in the Washington, D.C. Southwest Redevelopment area bounded by Independence Avenue, 9th Street,12th Street, and C Street, Southwest. That area is a part of what is now known as L'Enfant Plaza.

For the 1972 final design by Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum (HOK), see Neg. SIA2017-018111 through 018119, SIA2017-018122 through SIA2017-018134, and 94-2479. See also Neg. SIA2017-018095 through SIA2017-018101 for initial design by HOK. For other designs for a proposed new National Air Museum see: United States, Public Building Administration 1949; McKim, Mead & White 1955; Harbeson, Hough, Livingston & Larson 1962; and HOK's preliminary design of 1964.

Aerial view of the exterior of a model called the "Wineglass Design", submitted by McKim, Mead & White, Architects, for the new National Air Museum (now known as the National Air and Space Museum) shows the west end for the proposed building and with model airplanes in various locations. This design was not chosen.

Floor Plan of Smithsonian Institution Building (1849)

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
Original negative number is 2534 and 80-20170, but that negative has been lost. In "Hints on Public Architecture" opposite pg 105. Original wood engraving by J.H. Hall. Other neg. #: 92-15757.

Floor plan of Smithsonian Institution Building as published in "Hints on Public Architecture" by Robert Dale Owen. Shows the lecture hall in the East Wing, the library and a larger lecture theatre in the main building, the Gallery of Art in the West Wing and Range, and the Museum running the length of the second floor. This reflects Robert Dale Owen's vision for the Smithsonian not Secretary Henry's.

Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Design Unveiling

National Air and Space Museum
In 2019, the United States Mint will release a commemorative coin in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the first Moon landing. A portion of the proceeds will support the National Air and Space Museum's upcoming Destination Moon exhibition. Last year, the U.S. Mint held a competition to design the back of the coin, and the time is finally here to unveil the winning design! Featuring guest speaker Apollo 7 astronaut Walt Cunningham. Limited space will be available for the public to attend the unveiling.
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