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Smithsonian Collects Convention Memorabilia To Tell This Election's Story

A portion of the Smithsonian's collection of memorabilia from the Republican and Democratic national conventions this year.
Ashley Westerman
/
NPR
A portion of the Smithsonian's collection of memorabilia from the Republican and Democratic national conventions this year.

The National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., is home to so much Americana, including Civil War uniforms, Dorothy's red shoes from The Wizard Of Oz, and video game prototypes. It also has an extensive collection of presidential campaign memorabilia.

"We collect a fair amount of Republican, Democrat, red, white and blue stuff, but there are great objects that engage issues for 2016, that can communicate those issues and debates 100 years from now," says Jon Grinspan, one of the museum's curators for political history.

He and fellow curator Lisa Kathleen Graddy spent two full weeks attending the parties' conventions, scouting for the best memorabilia. They shipped some 100 pounds of souvenirs from Cleveland and Philadelphia back to the museum, items that they hope will tell the story of this presidential election.

Among the pieces: Minnie Mouse ears with a Hillary Clinton button, a red Donald Trump golf hat that says, 'Make America Great' and a sign from a protester in Cleveland outside the GOP convention that says 'America was never great.'

"There's a debate over the nature of American history and the interpretation of it through these objects that, in many ways, lies at the center of this political campaign," Grinspan says.

To hear more about the the memorabilia, click the play button above.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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