|The first event in the new National Museum building, even before |
This view shows the East Hall of the National Museum, with a temporary wooden flooring installed for the inaugural. Note the initials of President James A. Garfield and Vice President Chester A. Arthur stenciled on the walls near the Rotunda. Buntings were hung from the balconies and garlands draped from the ceilings and walls. The seal and flags of each state were hung on the lower walls.
In the Rotunda, a statue "America," holding an electric torch above her head, was installed for the occasion. The sculpture was representative of the skill, genius, progress, and civilization of the United States in the 19th century. In addition to two electric lights in the Rotunda, 3,000 gas lights were installed throughout the building. Some 10,000 bins for hats and coats were also built for the celebration.
Initially, the ground floor was completely open and devoted to exhibits. The halls were furnished with mahogany exhibit cases that were 8 feet, 8 inches long, to fit the architectural design of the building. They were easy to move so exhibits could be reconfigured without great difficulty.
When the U.S. National Museum opened its doors to the public in 1881, it was the realization of Baird's dream to create a great national museum to educate the citizens of a democracy and display his country's accomplishments to visitors from all over the world.
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