Posted by on April 28, 2012 in Events

Contributed by Sam Eskenazi, Director, Coalition for the National Museum of the American People

While genealogy focuses on our individual family ancestors, in the United States we are also part of larger ethnic and cultural groups: Irish Americans, German Americans, African Americans, Scottish Americans and on and on. And some of our family lines might cut through a variety of these groups.

The National Museum of the American People being proposed for Washington, DC would tell the stories of all of the groups that came to this land and nation, from the first human beings in the Western Hemisphere through today. It would tell who they were, where they came from, when they left, why they left, how they got here, where they arrived, what they encountered, where they might have moved, and how they transformed our nation.

The story would be told in the manner of walking through a documentary of the making of the American People in four chapters: 1. The First Peoples Come (prehistoric period – 1607); 2. The Nation Takes Form (1607 – 1820); 3. The Great In-Gathering (1820-1924); 4. And Still They Come (1924 – present).

The theme of the museum would be the embodiment of our nation’s original national motto: E Pluribus Unum – From Many We Are One!

Besides the permanent exhibition at the heart of the museum, there could also be a variety of components including a National Genealogical Center, possibly with relationships with major existing data bases such as those operated by the National Archives, the Family Search Center based in Salt Lake City, and Ancestry.Com. Other components could include a film center, a Center for the Advanced Studies of the American People, an educational resource center, and other amenities found in major museums.

The National Museum of the American People would be the nation’s only national institution devoted exclusively to telling the full story of the making of the American People. It is a compelling story and we believe that all Americans will want to come to better understand their own story and at the same time they will learn about all of the other stories. Foreign visitors will want to learn how people from their countries to help make the United States the world’s economic, military, scientific and cultural leader.

It’s interesting that both Canada and Mexico have major museums in their capitals that both tell the stories of their people starting from the prehistoric period. In both cases, they are the most visited museums in those nations.

The Coalition for the National Museum of the American People consists of 153 organizations representing more than 60 ethnic, cultural and genealogy-based groups. The Coalition now has a resolution in Congress, House Congressional Resolution 63, which calls for a bipartisan commission to study establishment of the museum. The resolution has bipartisan support with 31 cosponsors. If all goes well, the museum could open in 2019 or 2020.

More information about this project is at


  1. Allen

    This museum sounds like a wonderful idea. I do have a couple of questions, though.

    First, where do the States fall in this museum – we have Irish Americans, Black Americans, etc., but what about Georgians, New Yorkers, and Californians who are Americans?

    And concerning E Pluribus Unum? Will this theme concentrate on the original meaning of E Pluribus Unum, meaning “Out of many States, one country”?

  2. Ryan

    What difference does it make what state someone lives in? If your concept of where you come from ends with what state you or your ancestor lived in, you haven’t researched back far enough. Unless you are 100% native American, your people all migrated here from somewhere – that is your demonym. And that is the making of America.

  3. Allen


    I’ve gotten all the way back to the 1600s in Baden-Württemberg for one family line, England and Wales in the 1700s for two other family lines and Scotland in the 1700s for another – these are all main branches, mind you; I’ve got French connections elsewhere, and possibly Spanish and African connections. So, my research has gone back very far. But, my personal concept of where I’m from is the State I was born in (and will hopefully die in). I’m from Georgia, and I consider myself a Georgian, a Southerner, and an American.

    But, that’s really not the point of what I was trying to get at. My first point was about the various cultures of the States – and yes, each State does have individual cultures, as well as regional cultures and the overall American culture. I would hope that what makes each State unique would also go into a museum that purports to be about the “Making of America”.

    In my second point, concerning E Pluribus Unum, the original meaning of that phrase was “Out of many States, one Country”. Again, I think this is important in regard to any museum that focuses on the “Making of America”. But, that’s just my own person opinion about the museum, based on personal beliefs.

  4. Ryan

    What “makes each state unique” is the people who came there FROM somewhere. This is a museum to “tell the stories of all of the groups that came to this land and nation from the first human beings in the Western Hemisphere through today” This is not a museum about which state has the best barbecues or which state grows the biggest catfish.

  5. Allen

    You’re right, Ryan. Our ancestors had to come from somewhere. That is very important. But, the above blog also mentions:

    “…where they arrived, what they encountered, where they might have moved, and how they transformed our nation.”

    Speaking strictly from a British colonial perspective, because it’s what I’m most familiar with, The States our ancestors settled in, and the Territories that would become States, are extremely important if we’re to truly understand how they transformed our federation. They’re important because when these people settled, they brought their ideas and beliefs together to create the cultures of those colonies-turned-States, and then moved to other Territories and States. They settled there, had children and grandchildren there, and that ultimately led to us. Because Georgians and Minnesotans have different backgrounds, their cultures are different (though we still have our overall American culture as well). It’s not about catfish or barbecue, although cuisine is important; it’s about literature, religion, politics, and everything else that goes into making civilization. In order to tell the story of all the groups, I believe you need to tell it as specifically as possible – not just that “people came to America”. But, that people came to North America and settled in various States, enhanced their homes by virtue of shared ideas and ideals, and brought us to where we are today through great struggles and even greater triumphs. All this is, of course, after you tell the story of the Native Americans who arrived first and the histories, heritage, and culture of the respective tribes.

  6. Just exactly how big is this museum going to be?

    How much space should be allotted per state? Per region?

    If each state were allowed 4,900 sq.ft. (70ft. x 70ft.) that would be slightly smaller than the 2nd AND 3rd level of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington D.C.

  7. Ryan

    Maybe this is why Canada already has their museum. No one was around to say “Wait, what about if people lived in New Brunswick instead of Nova Scotia. This should really be about the provinces”

  8. Wondering...

    I want to preserve our history, but…how much is this going to cost? These are not good times for most taxpayers.

  9. Kaarin

    The museum is an intriguing concept. As a lover of history I know it could fill an important role in our cultural identity.

    I oppose, however, spending any taxpayer money on this project. I oppose the establishment of a “Presidential Commission” to study the concept. I oppose the use of government funding, even in combination with non-governmental sources.

    The purpose of our government is essentially spelled out in the Preamble to the Constitution. Some logically will say that building this museum falls under “promote the general welfare”. I respond that it is incumbent upon the well-intentioned and the inspired to generate funding from private sources. The government’s role is in insuring the implementation of appropriate building permits and the other aspects of responsible establishment and maintenance. These activities will promote the general welfare in a project such as this.

    As exciting as this museum sounds, it should not be a government project.

  10. Kathryn Susbauer

    I think it is a good idea especially if it leads to our children becoming more interested in the history of our country and state history comes into the founding of the nation leading to revolution. Each state does have its own history to its founding. It would also aid teachers how to apply this history to the classroom.

  11. Tom Simmons

    Sounds great on paper, but left to politicians and financed by a partisan political entity (Congress)any museum resulting would be highly politicized and full of bias. Who chooses who is included and who is left out? We already have enough museums on the Mall in Washington misrepresenting history. What is the Museum of American History doing? Let them build another exhibit. Although it is limited to the immigrant experience on the Eastern Seaboard, the Museum in Staunton Virginia does a better job than the Smithsonian could ever do. The private sector and grassroots groups should do the job. Let’s save our money and let Congress attend to critical needs of protecting us.

  12. MD

    We really dont need any more museums esp in Washington DC! We already have Museum of American History and a bunch of other museums focusing on certain races that makes up Americans. We have Libaries, National Arcivies, The Smithsonian…

    What more do you want and on whos dime? Cause I’m not willing for another museum to show/do what we already have.

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