American Enterprise Exhibition Themes

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History exhibition American Enterprise will examine the business and consumer history of the United States from the 1770s to the 2010s.  The exhibition will present the dynamic relationship between consumers and producers through four marketplaces -Mercantile, 1820s – 1830s; Corporate, 1920s – 1930s; Consumer, 1950s – 1960s; and Global, 2000s – 2010s.  Visitors will encounter objects, images, and interpretative labels associated with Finance, IT and Communication, Manufacturing, Agriculture, Retail and Service that will enrich their understanding of how opportunity, innovation, competition, and the common good make up America’s business.

The four themes are simple to understand if you consider America’s inventors, industry giants, etc.  The individuals who were “in the right place at the right time” or took a risk on a new concept.  The best inventions became popular because the timing and market were right to accept them (Apple is a great example of a company who appropriately times the release of their products).  If you have the means to produce, can compete on the market, and the market is ready for you, then you’re in business!  The theme that is difficult to explain is common good.  Who is the common good?  Is the common good the same/different from the greater good?  From what I understand, the “common good”  is being represented through objects that help improve, better, the lives of the greater population but it will be interesting to see if the curators can convey another meaning.


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