Museum of American History Reopens Wing After Renovations

It's time to get that pinwheel spinning and celebrate America's innovations of the past, present and future. The National Museum of American History opened its newly renovated first-floor exhibitions Wednesday.

The $63 million museum West Wing renovation modernized the structure of its 120,000-square-foot west exhibition wing, adding new galleries, an education center, interior public plazas and performance spaces, the Smithsonian says.

Oh, and then there's the world's largest American flag made out of LEGOs. 

The museum also asked visitors to help create the 9 1/2 foot by 14-foot flag, which was completed at 5 p.m. Wednesday. The LEGO flag will sit outside the front entrance of the museum on Constitution Avenue, and will be on display throughout the summer to welcome visitors to the museum. 

The first floor's theme is innovation, which highlights the history of American business and invention.

The New Exhibitions:

  • Mars Hall of American Business - American Enterprise
    • This exhibition focuses on the relationship between capitalism and democracy in America. You'll find exhibits on the history of advertising, biographies of notable figures in American business -- such as Apple founder Steve Jobs and Barbie doll creator Ruth Handler -- and more. Visitors can also try managing a farm or running a cat food business, and step inside the 45,000-square-foot studio of home video games inventor Ralph Baer.
  • Gallery of Numismatics - The Value of Money
    • This exhibition explains all things money: how money is made, how it was developed, and it's designed. Featuring more than 400 objects, the exhibition includes rare finds such as a personal check signed by President James Madison in 1813 and a $100,000 note printed in 1934. 
  • Jerome and Dorothy Lemelson Hall of Invention and Innovation - Places of Invention / Inventive Minds
    • Places of Invention features six communities that showcase how surroundings can impact invention, such as Technicolor in Hollywood, California and clean-energy innovations in Fort Collins, Colorado. The various exhibits are interactive -- learn how to DJ in the Bronx or build a Macintosh icon in Silicon Valley.
  • The Education Center features Spark!Lab, the Patrick F. Taylor Foundation Object Project, the Wallace H. Coulter Performance Plaza, the SC Johnson Conference Center and the Early Learning Gallery.
    • At Spark!Lab, kids ages 6-12 can participate in activities that combine the STEM field with art and creativity.
    • The Object Project features more than 300 objects and showcases how everyday items, such as deodorant and refrigerators, can inspire new works and social change. You can also view ready-to-wear fashions throughout history and make your own historical figure. You'll also find countless interactive activities, such as a "Price Is Right"-styled competitive guessing game.
  • The new first floor also features an Archives Center and the Dibner Library.

The museum raised $43 million from the private sector and $20 million from Congress to fund the renovation, according to the Associated Press.

Construction began in 2012 and will continue into 2018 for the rest of the museum. The second floor's theme is democracy, immigration and migration; the third floor's theme is culture. 

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