|In the two decades after World War II, the Arts and Industries Building underwent a profound transformation as a result of an Exhibits Modernization Program. This program was spearheaded by Frank Taylor, who joined the staff in 1922 right out of high school. He had gone to college and advanced to curator of the history of technology. When he returned after World War II, the exhibits looked old and dilapidated to him, so he led a campaign to revitalize the Smithsonian. |
His exhibits modernization program renovated the exhibits in both A&I and Natural History and gave the National Museum a whole new look.
The modernized First Ladies Hall
hides the building's structure
During the 1950s and 1960s, virtually all of the exhibit halls were dismantled and completely reinstalled. The exhibits were moved out of the old mahogany cases into well-lit displays with elaborate graphics. There were far fewer objects. Visitors saw conceptual exhibits, rather than entire collections. In many of these exhibits, you could barely see the structure of the building.
Frank Taylor was so successful in creating a new image for the National Museum that he also succeeded in his lifelong dream. In 1955, Congress passed the legislation to build a new Museum of History and Technology, now the National Museum of American History. When it opened on January 23, 1964, it was the end of an era for the Arts and Industries Building.
The A&I Building was largely taken over by the National Air Museum. Congress passed the legislation for the air museum in 1940 but, never appropriated the money for a separate building. Curator Paul Garber and his colleagues used the building and a temporary shed, located where the National Museum of African Art is today, to house modernized displays of early aircraft as well as more recent artifacts such as rockets and moon landers.
South Yard with the National Air
Museum shed on the right