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Legacies: Collecting America's History at the Smithsonian, by Steven Lubar and Kathleen M. Kendrick

Lives worth remembering

For over a century, the Smithsonian has been a shrine to famous Americans. Whereas cathedrals traditionally display the relics of saints, museums display relics of secular heroes. One can learn much about America by considering who has been enshrined in the Smithsonian. The National Museum of American History’s collections contain a few literal relics—the hair of the presidents, for example. More typically, the museum has collected personal belongings and symbolic items, from George Washington’s sword to Muhammad Ali’s boxing gloves. Heroes reflect the experiences and needs of the generation that creates them, and those needs have changed as America has changed. Who has been included in the Smithsonian’s historical hall of fame, and how have these people reflected certain American values and ideals?

First Ladies Frontier Heroes Military Heroes Popular Culture Stars Presidents and Politicians Reformers Scientists and Inventors

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