Riches, Rivals, and Radicals: 100 Years of Museums in America

Discover the commanding and charismatic characters whose fervor fueled the 20th-century revolution that changed America’s museums from dusty and elitist to dynamic and democratic! This landmark public television special features museum stories coast-to-coast.

Riches, Rivals, and Radicals is hosted by award-winning national correspondent Susan Stamberg, who has covered the world of museums and the arts throughout her broadcasting career.

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The National Museum of the American IndianView larger

The National Museum of the American Indian

The National Museum of the American Indian represents more than 500 tribes in the U.S. and the nearly 35 million native people of Central and South America. Indian people wanted a museum that was not just filled with objects, but one that provided a place for cultural exchanges to happen.


A Hands-on ExperienceView larger

A Hands-on Experience

Founded in 1913 the Boston Children's Museum began a "hands-on" tradition long before that phrase became commonplace. In the 1960's, Museum Director Michael Spock revolutionized the museum world with the concept of "play is learning." By getting objects out of cases and into children's hands, they can interact, experiment, and follow their own curiosity.


A Museum of MasterpiecesView larger

A Museum of Masterpieces

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has over 5,000 years of master works from every civilization and every culture, all under one roof. Stretching 1,000 feet along 5th Avenue in Manhattan’s Central Park, the museum is an icon of the splendid Beaux Arts style.


The SanctuaryView larger

The Sanctuary

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s medieval collection is housed in a cathedral-like space that is defined by the exterior – now interior – walls of the original structure.


 The VisionaryView larger

The Visionary

Portrait of James Smithson by James Roberts. 1786; Oil on Canvas

James Smithson, the founding donor of the Smithsonian Institution, was an English scientist who never even visited the United States. Today more than a dozen separate national museums make up the Smithsonian – the museum of the American people.


The Blockbuster is BornView larger

The Blockbuster is Born

The nation’s first museum blockbuster was the great King Tut exhibit in the 1970s. With over 55 glittering treasures from Egypt, this ingenious special exhibition transformed the museum world.


Flying Through HistoryView larger

Flying Through History

At the Smithsonian National Museum of Air and Space, the Wright Brothers’ Flyer is on display as well as moon-landing vehicles and Apollo spacecrafts. With the 1976 bicentennial, this museum of the flight industry got its own home on the National Mall.



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