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America on the Move
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Exhibiting Transportation History, 1950-1999
 

In 1964 the Museum of History and Technology opened, and transportation exhibitions—except for airplanes and spacecraft—moved across the Mall into the new building. The Railroad Hall, according to the guide to the museum, “represents the first major revision of the railroad exhibit since its establisment in another building of the Smithsonian Institution in 1885.”

The new Railroad Hall “is designed to show the development of railroad equipment, with emphasis on typical or standard designs, and it contrasts sharply with previous exhibits which featured curiosities and ‘firsts’.”

Railroad Hall at the Smithsonian’s Museum of History and Technology
Railroad Hall at the Smithsonian’s Museum of History and Technology
The Southern Railway 1401 locomotive dominated the new Railroad Hall. Displayed with it were a smaller locomotive, the 1851 Pioneer, and many models of locomotives.
Railroad Hall at the Smithsonian’s Museum of History and Technology
Railroad Hall at the Smithsonian’s Museum of History and Technology
Also featured in the new exhibit was a Camden and Amboy coach from about 1836, “the oldest eight-wheeled passenger car in existence.” Models showed the development of passenger cars “from simple four-wheel coaches to today’s air-conditioned, stainless-steel stream-liners.”

The Road Vehicles Hall at the new museum displayed “representative collections” of road vehicles, from a 1780 carriage to a 1930 Mack truck. Bicycles, motorcycles, and cars were displayed, along with a few gasoline pumps. Most of the cars in the collection were from before 1905.

Road transportation hall at National Museum of History and Technology
Road transportation hall at National Museum of History and Technology
“The cycle collection,” according to the 1968 museum guide, “contains examples of nearly all the important types.”
Automobiles on exhibition, National Museum of American History, about 1985
Automobiles on exhibition, National Museum of American History, about 1985
The Museum's automobile collection was displayed in a lineup that “illustrates the rapid evolution of design and manufacture from the pioneer American vehicles of the 1890s.”

Special exhibitions enlivened the road and rail halls over the years. In 2002, the old halls were closed and rebuilt to house America on the Move.

Race car exhibition at National Museum of American History, about 1980
Race car exhibition at National Museum of American History, about 1980
Over the years, as new cars were acquired, special exhibitions were staged in the Road Hall.
“Dave’s Dream” on display at NMAH, with photomural of the Santuario de Chimayo, and an assembly of trophies won by this lowrider automobile.
“Dave’s Dream” on display at NMAH, with photomural of the Santuario de Chimayo, and an assembly of trophies won by this lowrider automobile.
In the 1990s the Road Hall saw a fundamentally different kind of car on display. “Dave’s Dream,” a lowrider from New Mexico, told a cultural, not a technological, story.
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