News & Politics

New Smithsonian Exhibit Will Include Prince’s Guitar, Ali Wong’s Dress, Selena’s Leather Jacket, and a Ton of Other Pop Culture Artifacts

The permanent entertainment exhibit opens December 9 at the National Museum of American History.

Entrance to the Entertainment Nation exhibit at the National Museum of American History. Rendering courtesy of the National Museum of American History.

Prince’s yellow “Cloud” guitar, Muhammad Ali’s boxing robe, the dress that Ali Wong wore during her Baby Cobra stand-up special, and Tejana singer Selena’s leather jacket are just a few of the objects that will be included in the new permanent entertainment exhibit coming to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. (Dorothy’s ruby slippers—a longtime favorite attraction at the museum—will be there, too.)

The 7,200-square-foot bilingual exhibit, Entertainment Nation/Nación del espectáculo, will open December 9, with more than 200 notable artifacts from pop culture. Objects that will be publicly displayed for the first time include the sneakers worn by Fred Rogers on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood; former NFL player Randy Moss’s necktie commemorating victims of police brutality; guitars from Prince, Jose Feliciano, Toby Keith, and Paul Simon; and actress Michelle Yeoh’s Star Trek: Discovery costume.

Other parts of the exhibition will examine how entertainment mediums have provoked conversations about complex topics, such as the invasion of Native lands, Reconstruction, civil rights, and immigration. Another  presentation will explore the themes of love, heroes, and belonging in Hollywood movies.

“The power of American entertainment lies in the rich diversity and power of its voices,” said Anthea M. Hartig, director of the National Museum of American History, in a press release. “For generations, entertainers and athletes have used their platforms to reveal and respond to the nation’s many struggles, challenge injustice and create change. As the nation’s flagship and largest history museum, we are poised to help audiences better understand the value, role and influence of entertainment as most broadly defined.”

Once Entertainment Nation/Nación del espectáculo opens, a bilingual website will debut so that visitors can explore the exhibit virtually. The museum’s Warner Bros. Theater, which has been closed due to the pandemic, also reopens December 9.

David Tran
Editorial Fellow