BC: All photos © Theresa Worden, 2011
FC: Smithsonian Institution National Museum of American History Museum Photo Essay submitted by Theresa Worden
1: This is the Madison Avenue entrance, which faces the Mall. This entrance greets many visitors per month, whether they're coming via tour or school bus, from the Smithsonian metro stop or other museums on the Mall. The sign noting "Today's hours" is set out by Security, who is carefully monitoring entering and exiting visitors. | The trash cans and recycling bins available at the entrance encourages guests to dispose of their food garbage and drinks prior to entering the museum. They are emptied by Facilities' Environmental management, whose custodial crews keep the galleries, restrooms, and office areas clean. | Safety and Environmental Management
2: Inside the secure entrance on Madison Avenue. Security officers check bags while guests pass through metal detectors.* Bag checks are common at most SI museums (not the National Zoo, by the way) and almost always in progress. Security is courteous but vigilant, and part of Safety and Environmental Management staff. *Note: Never take photos of security at Federal institutions. Current alert levels are high and they take their jobs very seriously! | Safety and Environmental Management
3: Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center (SEEC) preschoolers on an adventure. I am including this group in my essay because I have often seen them on their way to lunch or an activity, and think of them as part of the staff at the museum. The SEEC preschool is on-site at the NMAH and while they operate on the property, I believe they function as a complete and separate entity from NMAH museum operations. For more information, visit http://www.seec.si.edu/index.htm
4: The information and ticketing desks welcome visitors and offer maps and guidance for the many NMAH exhibitions. This space is maintained by the Department of Visitor Services. | A sign for "Highlights Tour" greets visitors just after entering. To the right is the entrance to a large Information area. "Highlights" is a tour led by a docent; these volunteers are trained and vetted by Visitor Services. | Visitor
5: Visitor Services is especially important because they try to ensure the visitor is informed and oriented to the museum's offerings and prepare museum staff with good customer service skills. | This museum store is the smaller of three that sells products inspired by the museum's collections. The stores are run by Smithsonian Enterprises, the division that markets products from hats to travel packages to the general public. | Services
6: "Touch American History" interactive carts help visitors learn about the collections through the careful exploration of objects.
7: This interactive cart was positioned just outside the "Star Spangled Banner" exhibit. The cart program is likely administered by the Department of Education and Interpretation. Docents have a variety of themed objects, in this case stereographic viewers, that the visitor can learn about, touch, use, and compare. This educator also gave directions to guests that needed a little extra help finding their way around the museum.
8: Archives Center The Archives Center provides documentary evidence and support to the NMAH collections. They have small exhibition cases positioned at the entrance to their reference area. The current exhibit is about HIV/AIDS in American media. Archivists and Curators work at the Archives Center, which is a division of the Office of Curatorial Affairs. Due to an upcoming two-year renovation project, both the Center and Spark Lab will be closed from 2012-2014.
9: Spark Lab The Spark Lab is an interactive space that is all about discovery and invention. Situated near the history of science in America, kids can explore science and technology through creative play and experiments led by staff, volunteers and interns. It is always crowded with family groups and is a successful program administered by Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation, in the Office of Public Programs.
10: Ride Simulators This area offers themed rides in enclosed pod-like simulators. Underwater adventures or space flights were offered with the purchase of a ticket. I think this area is run by Smithsonian Enterprises, possibly in conjunction with education specialists. Simulator staff must give safety briefings, control crowds, and provide customer assistance. Simulators are machinery that require maintenance and need to be cleaned often.
11: Stars and Stripes Café This is the largest restaurant in the National Museum of American History. It can seat about 600, and in the summer it is always crowded. The cooks, cashiers, and cleaning staff at the café work for Smithsonian Enterprises, but likely work with Visitor Services, the Office of Public Affairs, or (especially) the Office of Special Events. The Stars and Stripes Café is large enough to accommodate huge groups, but also has smaller rooms for private lunches and workshops.