Have you ever wished that you could go behind-the-scenes here at the National Museum of American History and explore our vast collection of objects? Thanks to our new YouTube series, now you can. Matthew MacArthur shares how you can discover America’s "Founding Fragments."
One of the best things about working at the National Museum of American History is the opportunity I have to see historical artifacts and hear experts talk about their work behind the scenes. It's not only the seemingly endless array of objects we care for and the stories that can be told about them, though I find that fascinating. It's also witnessing firsthand the specialized knowledge required to properly research, preserve, and display the objects, together with the skill and passion that staff members bring to their jobs.
Here in the New Media department, one of our primary goals is figuring out how to share that sort of intimate, interactive experience with visitors through digital means. In addition to publishing more formal historical and collection data, we hope that our posts here on the blog and in various social media platforms convey the sense of curiosity, wonder, and discovery that we ourselves get to experience, and we invite readers along as participants.
Video is another medium we are experimenting with to achieve this goal. We're excited to share a new series of short videos that we call "Founding Fragments." Each episode dives into our backroom storage cabinets and drawers to find an interesting object that illuminates a small piece of the American story. Our newest episode features one of our recent acquisitions, a beautiful 18th-century snuff box inscribed with Masonic symbols.
"Founding Fragments" examines a freemason's snuff box. You can also view this video on YouTube.
One aspect of the behind-the-scenes experience we hope to replicate is the ability to ask questions about the object at hand. The next episode we'll be filming features a rare and intriguing collection of political comic books that were issued in the late 1940s to the early 1960s (see example below). If you'd like to ask our political history curator, William Bird, something related to political comic books, send in your question and we may use it in the episode. You can use our comment form or contact us via Facebook or Twitter.
We hope you enjoy these glimpses into the national collections. If you'd like to be notified about future episodes, subscribe to our YouTube channel.
Matthew MacArthur is Director of the New Media Department at the National Museum of American History.