Home National museum The National Museum of American History opens “Discovery and Revelation”

The National Museum of American History opens “Discovery and Revelation”


The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History will open “Discovery and Revelation: Religion, Science, and Making Sense of Things” on March 18. The exhibition, presented chronologically and thematically, explores the complex and ever-changing relationship between science and religion that has been the subject of philosophies and debates for centuries. Visitors to the museum’s Nicholas F. and Eugenia Taubman Gallery will be able to examine how religious and scientific ideas influenced and continued to shape each other in surprising ways throughout American history. The exhibition ends in March 2023.

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“Discovery and Revelation” examines critical religious and scientific crossroads over three centuries, beginning with a 1721 controversy over smallpox and Puritan notions of divine judgment, and ending with encounters of technology and belief in the digital age. Many of the artifacts on display are drawn from the museum’s extensive collections, ranging from medical and scientific objects related to the work of theologian-chemist Joseph Priestley, to technological collections related to Samuel Morse and his telegraph, and objects illustrating recent research on religion and the brain. . Items on loan from other Smithsonian museums include a portrait of Henrietta Lacks and a rare letter written by Galileo Galilei. The National Library of Medicine lent rare pamphlets from the 1720s on the fierce debate for and against vaccination, and a Benjamin Franklin lightning rod is on loan from the Franklin Institute, depicting a theological dispute over the will of God.

Using these objects, some of which are rarely seen, “Discovery and Revelation” takes a look at humanity’s curiosity and the many perspectives people have about the world and how it works.

The exhibit is anchored by three key images or “touchpoints”: the famous Earthrise photograph from the Apollo 8 lunar orbital mission, a photograph of a Buddhist monk wearing a neural network that tracks brain activity, and a towering portrait of Lacks, the African-American woman whose immortal cells (taken without consent) led to many medical advances. As visitors move from touchpoint to touchpoint, they will find themselves among quotes, thoughts and artifacts from a wide range of religious and scientific thinkers. The exhibition asks questions such as: “Did science come out of religion? “Are religion and science in conflict? and “Can religion and science be true?”

“For centuries the American people have been diverse in their religious beliefs and in their scientific pursuits,” said Peter Manseau, curator of the Lilly Endowment of American Religious History. “’Discovery and Revelation’ explores the complex interplay of two types of knowledge; religion and science are not always in conflict, but they have often influenced each other in surprising ways throughout the nation’s history.

The companion book of the same name, co-authored by Peter Manseau with Smithsonian scholar Andrew Ali Aghapour, is published by Smithsonian Books. Access to further information is available at companion website and at the museum history of religions resources page.

“Discovery and Revelation” was made possible by Lilly Endowment Inc., The John Templeton Foundation, The Religious Literacy Foundation and H. Bruce McEver, and Ambassador Nicholas F. Taubman and Mrs. Eugenia L. Taubman.

Through unparalleled collections, rigorous research, and dynamic public outreach, the National Museum of American History seeks to empower people to create a more just and compassionate future by examining, preserving, and sharing the complexity of our past. The museum, located on Constitution Avenue NW between 12th and 14th Streets, is open Friday through Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Admission is free and no pass is required. The doors to the museum are always open online, and the virtual museum continues to expand its offerings, including online exhibits, K-12 educational materials, and programs. The public can follow the museum on the social networks Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. For more information, visit https://americanhistory.si.edu. For information about the Smithsonian, the public can call (202) 633-1000.