Smithsonian Institution


National Museum of American History, Star Spangled Banner Conservation Lab

Washington, DC

2,500 GSF, 232 M2

Architecture, Lighting Design


Part conservation lab and part historical show, this unusual facility benefits from SmithGroupJJR's integrated design approach. The main challenge was allowing visitors to witness the sensitive restoration of a national patriotic symbol: the flag that flew over Fort McHenry during the British bombardment of Baltimore, inspiring Francis Scott Key's famous poem and the National Anthem.

Yet the lab also must look secure and reflect professionalism. SmithGroupJJR went far beyond meeting key technical specifications, using architecture and interiors to instill reverence and patriotism while also reinforcing the processional quality of the visit. Frameless glass guardrails and glass viewing walls allow ample sightlines while protecting the working area and the flag.

Inside the restoration area, SmithGroupJJR focused on ergonomics and comfort for the conservators' workstation. An inventive yet practical solution was adopted, improving the team's productivity. From outside the glass walls, this innovation is undetected: Visitors simply enjoy a temporary exhibit facility that deepens respect for a famous flag, confident their national treasure is in capable hands.

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