News & Politics

Smithsonian’s Arts and Industries Building Will Reopen With Flying Cars and Robots

A new exhibit will feature 150 forward-thinking items and ideas.

Rendering of FUTURES courtesy of Arts and Industries Building.

The Smithsonian’s Arts and Industries Building has been closed since 2004. But this November, it will temporarily reopen—in honor of the Smithsonian’s 175th anniversary—with an ambitious exhibit it’s calling “FUTURES.”

Rendering of FUTURES courtesy of Arts and Industries Building.
Rendering of FUTURES courtesy of Arts and Industries Building.

Despite being the second oldest museum in the Smithsonian family, AIB has always been a space that championed experimentation—the red-brick building displayed a moon rock months after the lunar landing, and housed an electric light bulb before Congress or the White House. This latest exhibit will attempt to examine and forecast our road ahead.

Some items on display feel ripped from the pages of a science fiction novel—think flying cars and high-tech spacesuits—while others center on ideas of sustainability, including a deli case filled with 3D-printed food and lab-grown meat.

Rendering of FUTURES courtesy of Arts and Industries Building.
Rendering of FUTURES courtesy of Arts and Industries Building.

“What we’re trying to do in this exhibition is come not from a place of authority, but of curiosity,” says AIB director Rachel Goslin. “Our goal isn’t to educate you about something—it’s to help you ask informed questions and explore many different possible answers.”

An android testing a spacesuit. Photo courtesy of Arts and Industries building.
An android testing a spacesuit. Photo courtesy of Arts and Industries building.

Thanks to AIB’s soaring ceilings, Goslin recommends looking up to find things like a massive Loon, a Google X invention that uses wind currents to float internet balloons over remote areas. Many of the displays will be interactive—and touch-free—with opportunities to connect with AI and robots.

A "Roomie-bot." Photo courtesy of Arts and Industries building.
A “Roomie-bot.” Photo courtesy of Arts and Industries building.

“You don’t want to lose the sense of playfulness and magic and fun that have historically been brought to conversations about the future,” says Goslin. “I think we’ve done a really good job of creating space for people to think about really important questions about our future, but also something that will delight the 12-year-old boy or girl and all of us.”

Rendering of FUTURES courtesy of Arts and Industries Building.
Rendering of FUTURES courtesy of Arts and Industries Building.

FUTURES will be open from November 2021 until July 2022.

 

 

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Assistant Editor

Daniella Byck joined Washingtonian in August 2018. She is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she studied journalism and digital culture. Originally from Rockville, she lives in Logan Circle.