Smithsonian National Museum of American History

  • West Wing Renovations
  • Washington, DC
  • 2009 - 2011


NMAH welcomes 6 million visitors a year and the West Wing project is the first phase of program and exhibit renewal.  The project goals established needs for:

  • Clarified way-finding and circulation patterns
  • Improved public engagement spaces supporting a range of activities
  • All new exhibits galleries
  • Robust, easily changeable infrastructure

After 3 years of construction, Phase 1 is open!


Working with eleven working groups including the Director’s Council, curators, educators, collections managers, events staff and exhibit designers, the process developed a series of optional diagrams for organizing a range of activities within a careful analysis of visitor flow. As consensus emerged, the team engaging the working groups continued to develop the design vocabulary to unify all floors, a highly flexible platform for infrastructure delivery, and more detailed planning and design of each space within this half of the building.


Opened in July 2015, a rich set of visitor experiences include:

  • Learning Floor – self-directed hands-on encounters with a range of rare and ‘every day’ collections in the Object Project.
  • Civic Plaza – a place for national civic dialogue where ideas can be exchanged.
  • Performance Hall – Music and film venue that can change into a private event space.
  • Eleven exhibits fronting public space using a modular ‘kit of parts’ approach:  vitrines to demonstration pods

Walt Crimm, Principal/Planner/Designer, EwingCole