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Welcome to the new Culture Wing at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. This exciting addition to the museum showcases the role of entertainment in shaping the national conversation. With two new exhibition galleries, the Culture Wing offers a unique exploration of American entertainment history. In this article, we will take a closer look at the galleries, their inaugural exhibitions, and the overall cultural impact of entertainment.

The Ray and Dagmar Dolby Hall of American Culture

The first gallery in the Culture Wing is the Ray and Dagmar Dolby Hall of American Culture. Spanning an impressive 7,200 square feet, this gallery is the Smithsonian’s first dedicated exploration of entertainment history. It will host the exhibition “Entertainment Nation/Nacion del espectaculo.” This exhibition provides a comprehensive look at the evolution of entertainment in America, highlighting its influence on society and the national conversation.

The Marcia and Frank Carlucci Hall of Culture and the Arts

The second gallery in the Culture Wing is the Marcia and Frank Carlucci Hall of Culture and the Arts. This gallery serves as a rotating exhibition space, showcasing a rich variety of shows that draw from the museum’s extensive collections. The inaugural exhibition in this gallery is “(re)Framing Conversations: Richard Avedon Photographs 1946-1965.” This exhibition features 20 iconic black-and-white portraits by Richard Avedon, creating a setting that invites thoughtful discussion and reflection.

The Power of American Culture

According to Anthea M. Hartig, the Elizabeth MacMillan Director of the National Museum of American History, the Culture Wing’s galleries will showcase the power of American culture through unparalleled collections and thoughtful scholarship. These galleries aim to transform visitors’ experiences of entertainment, offering new and unexpected perspectives and expanding on the promise of democracy.

The Nicholas F. and Eugenia Taubman Hall of Music

At the heart of the Culture Wing is the Nicholas F. and Eugenia Taubman Hall of Music. This hall celebrates the rich history of American music and features captivating displays of jazz and classical instruments from the museum’s collection. Visitors can explore the side-lobby displays, which highlight recent acquisitions to the arts and culture collections. Notable items include Maya Angelou’s typewriter and a basketball jersey worn by a teenage Giannis Antetokounmpo before he became a National Basketball Association player.

Pause & Replay: A Nostalgic Experience

For visitors seeking a trip down memory lane, the Culture Wing offers the “Pause & Replay” installation space. Here, visitors can recharge and reminisce about video games while immersing themselves in archival images, animations, and retro games. This interactive installation provides a nostalgic look at the evolution of gaming and its impact on popular culture.

Accessibility and Bilingual Experience

Both galleries in the Culture Wing are designed with accessibility features and universal design principles. The exhibitions are presented in a fully bilingual English and Spanish format, ensuring inclusivity and enhancing the visitor experience for a diverse audience.

The Ray Dolby Gateway to Culture

Visitors enter the Culture Wing through the “Ray Dolby Gateway to Culture,” which originally opened in fall 2018. This gateway highlights the importance of music and sound in American culture through the “America’s Listening” display. It explores the public’s experience with recorded sound, featuring five significant innovations that have shaped the way we listen, including Thomas Edison’s phonograph, Alexander Graham Bell’s graphophone, Emile Berliner’s gramophone, Ray Dolby’s noise-reduction system, and Apple’s iPod.

The Landmark Object: The Stained-Glass Window

At the heart of the Culture Wing’s Nicholas F. and Eugenia Taubman Hall of Music, visitors will find a remarkable landmark object—a 14-foot stained-glass window. This window, originally one of four that adorned the tower of the Victor Company’s headquarters in Camden, New Jersey, features the iconic image of “Nipper,” the dog listening to his master’s recorded voice. This image became RCA’s trademark and serves as a powerful symbol of the enduring influence of recorded sound.

The Grand-Opening Festival

To celebrate the opening of the Culture Wing, a grand-opening festival will run from December 9th to 18th. Visitors will have the opportunity to engage in dynamic conversations about the cultural impact of entertainment, participate in intimate talks with curators, enjoy sneak peeks at objects from the national collections, and attend film screenings of pop culture classics such as “The Wizard of Oz” (1939) and “Batman” (1989). Daily activities will also include hands-on family crafts, pop-up concerts, and photo opportunities with beloved characters from film and television.

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