Artifacts from four chronological eras — merchant, corporate, consumer and global marketplaces — will be featured, along with those detailing the personal and familial back stories of business titans, as well as little-known innovators and entrepreneurs. Milestone moments in marketing will feature iconic print, television and radio advertisements — such as the “A Diamond is Forever” campaign from the DeBeers diamond company in the mid-20th century. And visitors will be able to test their own business acumen through an interactive section called “The Exchange,” which will allow them to initiate marketing strategies and win or loose money based on actual case studies.
Like the museum’s long-term transportation exhibit, “America on the Move,” “American Enterprise” will be displayed for decades. Peter Liebhold, chair of the Museum’s division of work and industry says because every American’s life is touched by stories of business, “by looking at these stories, we can learn a lot about ourselves.”
Leibhold hopes the exhibition conveys is the notion that there is no one “golden moment” in the country’s business history. “As a nation, we continually reinvent ourselves and makes changes. Thomas Jefferson, J.P. Morgan and Jack Welch all had dramatically different ideas of how the country should run, but the one thing they had in common was the idea of change and improvement. Of continually altering the system.”
Last year, for the first time, the museum launched an experimental Web site allowing the public in on process of putting an exhibition together: of research, object selection, and conversations between curators. An online version of the exhibition will accompany the opening.
In the period before “American Enterprise,” debuts, major renovations will be done to the museum’s west wing, where the exhibit will be housed. It will be located in the newly named “Mars Hall of American Business” in honor of the candy company, which is the exhibit’s principle sponsor, donating $5 million.
More from The Washington Post:
White House Visitor Center closing for 15-month rehab
M&M maker Mars gives Smithsonian $5M to fund business exhibit at American history museum
Smithsonian’s American Indian museum hosts 3rd Living Earth Festival this weekend