After two years and more than $85 million in renovations, prominent figures reopened the Smithsonian National Museum of American History to the public on Friday with more treasures from America’s past.
More than 100 people gathered in front of the museum before the doors opened at 10 a.m. for the ribbon-cutting ceremony, which included former Secretary of State Colin Powell reading Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
“I was exploding this morning with excitement,” said Eleanor Young, a former professor at Maryland, who has volunteered at the visitor information center for 10 years.
Young and other volunteers and employees gathered early in the morning to prepare for the day. Many had not yet seen the finished result, but all of them were equipped with specific training for the new museum.
Like many other volunteers who had worked for the museum, Young volunteered elsewhere when it was closed for renovation. Now Young said she feels like she is back home.
On Wednesday, President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush dedicated the museum before its public debut, highlighting the reopening of many of its famous exhibits including George Washington’s military uniform, one of Thomas Edison’s first light bulbs, the desk where Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence and Muhammad Ali’s boxing gloves – all of which Bush called a “reminder of our country’s proud history.”
When the doors finally opened to the public Friday morning, visitors flooded into the newly renovated center of the museum where one woman asked a security guard how long the museum had been closed.
“Two years,” he replied. “Two years too long.”
Re-enactors like George Washington and Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz.” were stationed throughout the museum to engage the public in American history.