Visitors to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History will be immersed in the dramatic arc of the nation’s story in a multimedia exhibition focusing on the role of business and innovation in the United States from the mid-1700s to the present.
Mars, Incorporated is the principal sponsor of “American Enterprise” (the working title), an 8,000-square-foot exhibition that will trace the development of the United States (1750s–2010s) from a small dependent agricultural nation to one of the world’s largest economies. The “American Enterprise” exhibition will be located in the Mars Hall of American Business, in recognition of the company’s $5 million donation. It will open in 2015, following renovations to the West Exhibition Wing that begin this fall.
This exhibition will tell the story of the nation’s business, centering on themes of opportunity, innovation, competition and the search for common good in the American marketplace. “We thank Mars, Incorporated for this transformative gift,” said Smithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough. “It enables us to tell learners of all ages the essential and expansive story of American business and the men and women who helped to shape our nation into what it is today.”
“Mars, Incorporated is proud to partner with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History on this important exhibit that honors the growth and innovation of American business and entrepreneurs,” said Paul S. Michaels, president of Mars, Incorporated. “The exhibit will provide examples of how U.S. companies and individuals have fundamentally, and positively, changed the way the world works and be a source of inspiration for future generations of business leaders and entrepreneurs.”
“American Enterprise” will convey the drama, breadth and diversity of America’s business heritage along with its benefits, failures and unanticipated consequences, through four chronological eras: the Merchant Marketplace (1770s – 1850s), the Corporate Marketplace (1860s – 1930s), the Consumer Marketplace (1940s – 1970s) and the Global Marketplace (1980s – 2010s).
Objects such as John Deere’s plow, Eli Whitney’s cotton gin, Barbara McClintock’s microscope and Stanley Cohen’s recombinant DNA research notebook will demonstrate the development in American agriculture from machines that increased productivity to science that gave insight to the genetic structure of plants. Alexander Graham Bell’s first telephones, a New York Stock Exchange booth from 1929, Alfred Bloomingdale’s personal credit cards, an early Monopoly board game and one of Michael Dell’s early computers will be among the artifacts that will illustrate manufacturing, retail and service, and communications technology in American business.
Complementing the marketplace sections of the exhibition will be larger personal and family stories featuring biographies of innovators and entrepreneurs. America’s growing consumer culture will be illustrated with a variety of engaging materials, from displays of popular advertisements from landmark campaigns to a look at the growth of advertising from the 19th century to the present. These marketing moments include ads from companies as diverse as DuMont Television and Goya Foods to familiar brand names from 1950s radio and television ads to recent campaigns that all created new ways of thinking about the relationship between consumers and products.
Interactive displays and experiences, in a section of the exhibition called “The Exchange,” will provide visitors with a hands-on understanding of innovation, markets and business practice. These activities will include choosing marketing campaigns for target audiences, making or losing simulated money through “trades” and matching wits against historical figures in actual case studies.
The museum launched the experimental website AmericanEnterprise.si.edu
last year, where the project’s curators are “learning in public” by exploring ideas, presenting object selection, detailing research trips and sharing design ideas during the exhibit’s development process. This is the first time the museum has opened its work to interactive online public involvement. When “American Enterprise” opens in 2015, a new website will present the virtual exhibition, resource center and more.
About Mars, Incorporated
In 1911, Frank C. Mars made the first Mars candies in his Tacoma, Wash., kitchen and established Mars’ roots as a confectionery company. In the 1920s, Forrest E. Mars Sr. joined his father in business and together they launched the Milky Way bar. In 1932, Forrest Sr. moved to the United Kingdom with a dream of building a business based on the philosophy of a “mutuality of benefits” for all stakeholders - this vision serves as the foundation of Mars, Incorporated today. Based in McLean, Va., Mars has net sales of more than $30 billion, six business segments including Petcare, Chocolate, Wrigley, Food, Drinks, Symbioscience, and approximately 70,000 associates worldwide that are putting its principles into action to make a difference for people and the planet through its performance. For more information, please visit www.mars.com
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The National Museum of American History collects, preserves and displays American heritage in the areas of social, political, cultural, scientific and military history. To learn more about the museum, check http://americanhistory.si.edu
. For Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000.