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Souvenir Nation

Relics, Keepsakes, and Curios from the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History

William L. Bird, Jr.


Available for the Kindle at amazon.com.

     7 × 8.5 in (17.8 × 21.6 cm)
Hardcover
176 pages
65 color illustrations, 10 b/w illustrations
Publication date: 04/17/2013
Rights: World
ISBN: 9781616891350


Buried within the collection of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History exists an astonishing group of historical relics from the pre-Revolutionary War era to the present day, many of which have never been on display. Donated to the museum by generations of souvenir collectors, these ordinary objects of extraordinary circumstance all have amazing tales to tell about their roles in American history. Souvenir Nation presents fifty of the museum's most eccentric items. Objects include a chunk broken off Plymouth Rock; a lock of Andrew Jackson's hair; a dish towel used as the flag of truce to end the Civil War; the microphones used by FDR for his Fireside Chats; and the chairs that seated Nixon and Kennedy in their 1960 television debate.

Smithsonian curator William L. Bird, Jr., regales us with the story of each artifact's origins and the quirks of fate that brought it to the museum. Strikingly photographed, these curious objects form a uniquely American narrative: a cabinet of curiosities representing our nation's most fascinating individuals, both celebrated and obscure, and the keepsakes they left behind. This fascinating collection of Americana includes an introductory essay on this nation's passion for souvenir collecting, as well as a brief history and a glimpse behind the scenes of the Smithsonian. An accompanying exhibition opens in Washington, D.C.'s Smithsonian Castle in Fall 2013.


William L. Bird, Jr. is a historian and curator at the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution. He is the author of Holidays on Display and Paint By Number, both from Princeton Architectural Press.


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