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Smithsonian Associates - Entertaining, Informative, Eclectic, Insightful

American History Programs

Remembering Apollo 13

The 1970 Apollo 13 mission almost ended in tragedy when an explosion occurred on its way to a moon landing. Learn how a possible disaster was turned into a global rescue mission.

Date of event
Wednesday, April 15, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

George Washington in Alexandria

No other location is as associated with George Washington as Alexandria, a place he considered it his hometown. Join author and historian Garrett Peck as follows Washington’s footsteps through Old Town’s alleyways, rustic taverns, churches, 18th-century houses, and historic waterfront.

Date of event
Sunday, April 19, 2020 - 2:00 p.m.

Lincoln in Virginia: A Wartime Journey

Abraham Lincoln spent 18 of his last 21 days of life not in Washington but in eastern Virginia, headquarters for Ulysses S. Grant’s campaign against Robert E. Lee. Trace his steps through sites in the region which offer new insights into a war-weary president—and nation—at a pivotal moment in history.

Date of event
Saturday, April 25, 2020 - 7:15 a.m.

The Civil War in Perspective: Our Evolving Story

Historian Stephen D. Engle traces 150 years of an ever-changing narrative of the Civil War and why we still contend with reaching an acceptable version of its legacy.

Date of event
Saturday, April 25, 2020 - 9:30 a.m.

A Century of Co-ops in the District

Since 1920, cooperatives—both purpose-built and conversions—have been distinctive features of some of the city’s most historic neighborhoods, from Kalorama to Cathedral Heights, Foggy Bottom to Southwest Waterfront. They also represent a wide range of architectural styles and periods. Get an inside look at several of these fabled co-oops during a day guided by Barry Moss, former president of the D.C. Cooperative Housing Coalition.

Date of event
Saturday, May 2, 2020 - 9:00 a.m.

Doodlebugging Through Delaware

Hop aboard a private charter of an early 20th-century self-propelled railcar called the Doodlebug and take in the spring sights along the historic Wilmington and Western Railroad line. As you ride, railroad historian Joe Nevin covers the colorful background of the W&W and offers stories of the once-bustling industrial towns along the branch line.

Date of event
Saturday, May 9, 2020 - 7:00 a.m.

The Real Revolution: America, 1775-1783

Historian Richard Bell explores the tumultuous years of America’s struggle for independence from the perspective of the ordinary citizens by examining military recruitment, the wars on the home front and in Indian territory, the struggles of people of color, and the experiences of loyalists.

Date of event
Saturday, May 9, 2020 - 9:30 a.m.

Very Secret, Very Cool: The Mysteries of Area 51

The clandestine nature of the CIA’s southern Nevada flight-test site for the development of up-to-the-minute reconnaissance craft was essential to its work in the 1950s. CIA historian Brent Geary tells the story behind the mythology of Area 51, including how some of the Air Force’s official cover stories deliberately fed one of the period’s hottest conspiracy theories: the existence of alien life.

Date of event
Wednesday, May 13, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

New York Rising: Music From the 1930s

In defiant answer to the Crash of 1929, New York City produced a spectacular decade of music in all forms. In a lively and engaging day, music expert Saul Lilienstein leads a journey that encompasses Broadway and the Cotton Club, Carnegie Hall and Greenwich Village, swing bandstands and Arturo Toscanini’s fabled Studio 8H in Radio City.

Date of event
Friday, May 15, 2020 - 9:30 a.m.

Spring in Jefferson’s Garden

Springtime bounty has inspired many a chef and foodie, especially Thomas Jefferson, nation’s first epicurean president who brought many new varietals of vegetables to America and to his own garden at Monticello. Celebrate his culinary legacy at a private lunch at the beautiful Jefferson Hotel featuring a special seasonal menu inspired by Jefferson.

Date of event
Sunday, May 17, 2020 - 1:00 p.m.

Giants in the Sky: Mighty Military Aircraft

Their names tell the story of these magnificent flying machines: Galaxy, Globemaster, Starlifter, and others. They are among the largest and most specialized aircraft ever to fly with the United States military. Join pilot and transportation expert Scott Hercik as he goes behind the scenes and onboard these giant aircraft that carry soldiers and their supplies around the world.

Date of event
Tuesday, May 19, 2020 - 7:30 a.m.

Beyond Stonewall: How DC Shifted the Nature of Pride

Although New York City’s first Gay Pride parade in June 1971 was a key marker in the progress of LGBT+ organizing, a lesser-known pivotal moment took place in Washington, D.C., 20 years later. Nikki Lane of American University examines how the city’s home-grown Black Pride event grew into a national and international model for celebrations of community, inclusion, and diversity.

Date of event
Wednesday, June 3, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

A Mountain Rail Extravaganza

All aboard for an exciting multi-day rail journey through West Virginia’s breathtaking mountain scenery led by railroad historian Joe Nevin

Date of event
Depart: Friday, June 5, 2020 - 8:00 a.m.
Return: Sunday, June 7, 2020 - 7:30 p.m.

Architecture on the Nation's Front Lawn

Join Bill Keene on a walking tour to discover the Mall’s history, design, and architecture, from its earliest vision to the latest developments. View and compare a wide range of architectural styles from the Smithsonian’s first building, the Gothic-revival Castle to the capital’s newest landmark, the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial designed by Frank Ghery. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)

Date of event
Saturday, June 6, 2020 - 9:00 a.m.

Smithsonian Sleepover at the American History Museum

Family Program: (Ages 8 to 14) Go on an interactive exploration of the American History Museum. Then roll out your sleeping bag and dream away in the darkened halls of one of the world’s most famous museums!

Date of event
Saturday, June 6, 2020 - 7:00 p.m.

The 1920s: Welcome to the New World

The end of the Great War ushered in a decade of economic prosperity and cultural dynamism unprecedented in America. Stef Woods, a popular speaker on cultural topics, looks at the explosion of new directions in the 1920s, and considers what comparisons may be drawn between that still-resonant era and today, as our ’20s begins. 

Date of event
Thursday, June 11, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

Architecture on the Nation's Front Lawn

Join Bill Keene on a walking tour to discover the Mall’s history, design, and architecture, from its earliest vision to the latest developments. View and compare a wide range of architectural styles from the Smithsonian’s first building, the Gothic-revival Castle to the capital’s newest landmark, the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial designed by Frank Ghery. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)

Date of event
Friday, June 12, 2020 - 10:00 a.m.

Spring in the Brandywine River Valley

The beautiful Brandywine region is an ideal destination for lovers of art, grand houses and gardens, and American history. Join Hayden Mathews, an environmental and cultural history interpreter, in locations in Delaware and Pennsylvania that vividly capture the area’s heritage.

Date of event
Depart: Sunday, June 14, 2020 - 7:30 a.m.
Return: Monday, June 15, 2020 - 7:00 p.m.

Architecture on the Nation's Front Lawn

Join Bill Keene on a walking tour to discover the Mall’s history, design, and architecture, from its earliest vision to the latest developments. View and compare a wide range of architectural styles from the Smithsonian’s first building, the Gothic-revival Castle to the capital’s newest landmark, the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial designed by Frank Ghery. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)

Date of event
Sunday, June 14, 2020 - 1:00 p.m.

A Decade of Disruption: America in the New Millennium

The United States weathered a turbulent first decade of the 21st century, tumultuous years of economic crises, social and technological change, and war. Historian Garrett Peck examimes how the fallout from the Great Recession led to the hyper-polarized society of the years that followed and why timely re-examination of the period between 2000 and 2010 can reveal how we’ve arrived at our current era of cultural division.

Date of event
Tuesday, June 16, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

The Paratrooper Generals of D-Day

Generals during World War II usually stayed to the rear, but not Matthew Ridgway and Maxwell Taylor. During D-Day and the Normandy campaign, these commanders of the 82nd “All-American” and the 101st “Screaming Eagle” Airborne Divisions refused to remain behind the lines and stood shoulder-to-shoulder with their paratroopers in the thick of combat. Military historian Mitchell Yokelson explores their unique style of leadership and how it played out in the most important American campaign of World War II.

Date of event
Tuesday, June 23, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

Smithsonian Sleepover at the American History Museum

Family Program: (Ages 8 to 14) Go on an interactive exploration of the American History Museum. Then roll out your sleeping bag and dream away in the darkened halls of one of the world’s most famous museums!

Date of event
Friday, June 26, 2020 - 7:00 p.m.

Creativity in Dark Times: Artists and Writers of the New Deal

Author David Taylor looks at some of the artists and writers for whom the Federal Writers’ Project and the Federal Arts Project gave them a new purpose: recording American life. Their works—some of which remain controversial—provide a vivid portrait of a nation struggling for recovery and identity during the Great Depression.

Date of event
Tuesday, June 30, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

A Carolina Fourth: Baseball, Barbeque, and Fireworks

Sign on for a 5-day tour that explores North Carolina’s minor-league baseball revival. Watch games featuring upcoming stars, hear stories from insiders, and enjoy the best of North Carolina barbecue.

Date of event
Depart: Wednesday, July 1, 2020 - 7:30 a.m.
Return: Sunday, July 5, 2020 - 3:00 p.m.

Smithsonian Sleepover at the Udvar-Hazy Center

Family Program: (Ages 8 to 14) Go on an interactive exploration of the Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. Then roll out your sleeping bag and dream away in the halls of one of the world’s most famous museums!

Date of event
Saturday, July 11, 2020 - 7:00 p.m.

Smithsonian Sleepover at the American History Museum

Family Program: (Ages 8 to 14) Go on an interactive exploration of the American History Museum. Then roll out your sleeping bag and dream away in the darkened halls of one of the world’s most famous museums!

Date of event
Friday, July 24, 2020 - 7:00 p.m.

Smithsonian Sleepover at the Udvar-Hazy Center

Family Program: (Ages 8 to 14) Go on an interactive exploration of the Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. Then roll out your sleeping bag and dream away in the halls of one of the world’s most famous museums!

Date of event
Saturday, August 1, 2020 - 7:00 p.m.

Smithsonian Sleepover at the Udvar-Hazy Center

Family Program: (Ages 8 to 14) Go on an interactive exploration of the Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. Then roll out your sleeping bag and dream away in the halls of one of the world’s most famous museums!

Date of event
Saturday, August 22, 2020 - 7:00 p.m.

Smithsonian Sleepover at the American History Museum

Family Program: (Ages 8 to 14) Go on an interactive exploration of the American History Museum. Then roll out your sleeping bag and dream away in the darkened halls of one of the world’s most famous museums!

Date of event
Friday, August 28, 2020 - 7:00 p.m.

George Washington in Alexandria

No other location is as associated with George Washington as Alexandria, a place he considered it his hometown. Join author and historian Garrett Peck as follows Washington’s footsteps through Old Town’s alleyways, rustic taverns, churches, 18th-century houses, and historic waterfront.

Date of event
Saturday, September 12, 2020 - 3:00 p.m.

George Washington in Alexandria

No other location is as associated with George Washington as Alexandria, a place he considered it his hometown. Join author and historian Garrett Peck as follows Washington’s footsteps through Old Town’s alleyways, rustic taverns, churches, 18th-century houses, and historic waterfront.

Date of event
Sunday, September 13, 2020 - 2:00 p.m.

George Washington in Alexandria

No other location is as associated with George Washington as Alexandria, a place he considered it his hometown. Join author and historian Garrett Peck as follows Washington’s footsteps through Old Town’s alleyways, rustic taverns, churches, 18th-century houses, and historic waterfront.

Date of event
Friday, September 18, 2020 - 11:00 a.m.

Theodore Roosevelt's North Dakota: Badlands, Bison, and the Making of a Conservationist

The rugged landscape of western North Dakota was the setting against which Theodore Roosevelt transformed himself from an asthmatic 24-year-old into a robust outdoorsman—and a passionate lifelong conservationist. Experience that corner of the West—filled with dramatic vistas, vividly colored canyons, and wandering herds of wild bison—on an extraordinary tour that brings you into the heart of Roosevelt’s Badlands and the national park that bears his name.

Date of event
Depart: Saturday, September 19, 2020 - 6 p.m.
Return: Wednesday, September 23, 2020 - Mid-afternoon

Coal and Capitalism: Theodore Roosevelt, J.P. Morgan, and the Strike That Changed Labor History

In early 1902, a potentially devastating strike by anthracite coal miners in Pennsylvania escalated a legal and personal clash between President Theodore Roosevelt and financier J.P. Morgan over the government’s role in regulating big business. Author Susan Berfield recounts the story of a banker and a president thrown together in the crucible of national emergency, and discusses why the lessons of Roosevelt and Morgan’s time have taken on a renewed urgency today.

Date of event
Thursday, September 24, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

The Panama Canal: A Complicated Backstory

Building the Panama Canal was either a bold, decisive diplomatic stroke that claimed America’s rightful place on the world stage or a crude display of arrogance and corruption. Historian Ralph Nurnberger examines the sweep of the canal saga, with elements that include intrigue in the halls of Congress, a revolution, and Teddy Roosevelt’s vision of American global power.

Date of event
Wednesday, September 30, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

The Ninth Street Women: Abstract Expressionists Who Made Their Own Mark

In the 1950s, the spotlight on New York City’s abstract expressionist movement nearly always fell on male painters. Art critic Judy Pomeranz takes an in-depth look at five gutsy but overlooked women whose work in the groundbreaking Ninth Street Art Exhibition of 1951 boldly claimed their places in the postwar avant garde. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)

Date of event
Thursday, October 1, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

An Expert's Hunt for History

Nathan Raab, the preeminent American dealer in rare documents, tells the fascinating story of how he learned to tell the difference between real and forged artifacts, and of many amazing finds that were nearly lost to the ages.

Date of event
Thursday, October 8, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

A Man and His Ship: Building the S.S. United States

In 1952, naval architect William Francis Gibbs completed the finest, fastest, and most beautiful ocean liner of his time, the S.S. United States, hailed as a technological masterpiece in period when “made in America” meant the best. Historian Steven Ujifusa tells a tale of ingenuity and enterprise as he examines how Gibbs and his vision transformed an industry.

Date of event
Wednesday, October 21, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

Women in Wartime: Stories from Gettysburg

Thousands of disparate women were connected by their experiences amid the horrors of the Civil War’s bloodiest battle. Author Chuck Raasch retells their often-overlooked stories of bravery and life-changing actions at the sites on which they unfolded at Gettysburg National Military Park.

Date of event
Saturday, October 24, 2020 - 8:30 a.m.

Democracy Today: A Promise in Peril

Historian Charles Ingrao compares democracy with competing forms of government, examines the attributes of healthy democracies, and considers how to strengthen modern democratic institutions in danger of retreat.

Date of event
Wednesday, October 28, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

The Seneca Quarry and the Castle

Garrett Peck, author of The Smithsonian Castle and the Seneca Quarry, leads a countryside excursion that centers on the role that the once-thriving Maryland quarry played in the building of 19th-century Washington.

Date of event
Saturday, November 7, 2020 - 9:00 a.m.

Sears Houses of Arlington

Sold as prefabricated kits during the first half of the 20th century, affordable dwellings from Sears Roebuck and Company defined the character of countless American communities. Join historian Dakota Springston on a bus tour through historic Virginia neighborhoods to view the distinctive exteriors of Sears homes.

Date of event
Saturday, November 7, 2020 - 10:00 a.m.

Sears Houses of Arlington

Sold as prefabricated kits during the first half of the 20th century, affordable dwellings from Sears Roebuck and Company defined the character of countless American communities. Join historian Dakota Springston on a bus tour through historic Virginia neighborhoods to view the distinctive exteriors of Sears homes.

Date of event
Sunday, November 15, 2020 - 10:00 a.m.

Inside the Cuban Missile Crisis

Naval historian David Rosenberg and three retired U.S. Navy officers examine the tensions and strategies that grew out of the face-off between America and the Soviet Union over Russia’s decision to place nuclear missiles in Cuba. They reveal how the USS Sam Houston, a Polaris submarine deployed in the Mediterranean, played a significant but little-known role in assuring European security against potential Soviet aggression.

Date of event
Tuesday, November 17, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

All You Can Eat: A Culinary History of America

Historian Allen Pietrobon explores American food culture since 1850 and how, throughout American history, food has been a battleground where culture, ethnicity, race, and identity clash.

Date of event
Wednesday, November 18, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.