A new Smithsonian exhibit tells the history of the United States through the lens of pop culture.
Entertainment Nation opened last month in Washington at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History as a permanent exhibit.
It aims to tell the country’s story through artifacts and stories from the world of theater, television, film, and sports, including iconic items like Dorothy’s ruby red slippers from The Wizard of Oz to lesser-known but vital items.
The exhibit features about 200 objects in a 7,200-square-foot section of the museum in the Ray and Dagmar Dolby Hall of American Culture. It is the largest long-term, bilingual exhibition on the National Mall.
“The power of American entertainment lies in the rich diversity and power of its voices,” Anthea M. Hartig, the museum’s Elizabeth MacMillan Director, said in a release. “For generations, entertainers and athletes have used their platforms to reveal and respond to the nation’s many struggles, challenge injustice and create change.
“As the nation’s flagship and largest history museum, we are poised to help audiences better understand the value, role and influence of entertainment as most broadly defined.”
The museum features a wide array of memorabilia ranging from C-3P0 and R2-D2 from Star Wars to a pair of sneakers worn by Mr. Rogers to guitars from Prince, Paul Simon, and others to the cape worn by Michelle Yeoh in Star Trek: Discovery.
But the highlight is Dorothy’s ruby red slippers, one of a dozen objects in spotlight cases designed to spotlight how entertainment has steered conversations about society.
“The ruby slippers hold symbolic and lasting meaning in American culture, representing our deep ties to our families and communities, no matter how far we roam,” Hartig said in another release. “For the museum, they continue to inspire, awe, and captivate audiences of all ages.”
The slippers were donated anonymously to the museum in 1979 and have had several homes through the years. For the new Entertainment Nation display, American Cruise Lines signed on as presenting sponsor of the slippers.
“The ruby slippers remind us to appreciate that there really is no place like home. While they push us to test our bounds, they have a power that draws us back and connects us to family and community,” said Charles B. Robertson, President & CEO of American Cruise Lines.
Displays in Entertainment Nation will be ever-changing, drawing from the Smithsonian’s collection of 1.8 million objects. It will feature items from the careers of Selena, Roberto Clemente, Kristi Yamaguchi, Mia Hamm, Prince, Cyndi Lauper, Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, Bette Davis, Muhammad Ali, and many more.
Its Broadway, television, and film collections document productions including Hamilton, Rent, The Handmaid’s Tale, M*A*S*H, Sesame Street, and others.
The museum is located on Constitution Avenue N.W., between 12th and 14th streets. It is open daily from 10 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., and admission is free.