After 21 years, 3 months, and 4 days, I’m retiring from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. It’s been a terrific ride.
Sue Walther (left) and Camy Clough prepare to mail posters to armed forces in Iraq.
I majored in American Studies in college and wasn’t trained in specific disciplines to study, collect, preserve, interpret, or display objects.However, my knowledge and understanding of ‘what it means to be an American’ has been broadened and deepened by my exposure to the living history, presented though those objects and theater programs, tours and talks, and yes, just by being in Washington, D.C.
During those two decades, the location of the American History building on Constitution Avenue between the White House and the Capitol has furnished a front-row seat to historic happenings. From presidential inaugural parades to state funerals, protest demonstrations and the Million Man March and Fourth of July fireworks, fellow staff and I could observe, collect, and conduct interviews. And sometimes we’d announce to colleagues that we were taking off our neutral, federal-government employee hat to become full-fledged participants in the history happening around us.