A History Of Museums, 'The Memory Of Mankind' Each year, 850 million people visit America's museums. That's more than six times the annual attendance of all major-league sporting events combined. Bob Mondello kicks off an NPR series about museums in the 21st century.
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A History Of Museums, 'The Memory Of Mankind'

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A History Of Museums, 'The Memory Of Mankind'

A History Of Museums, 'The Memory Of Mankind'

A History Of Museums, 'The Memory Of Mankind'

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/97377145/97420558" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

A young visitor tours the dinosaur exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution's Museum of Natural History in 1989. Renato Rotolo/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Renato Rotolo/AFP/Getty Images

A young visitor tours the dinosaur exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution's Museum of Natural History in 1989.

Renato Rotolo/AFP/Getty Images

Museums In The Movies:

Watch A Scene From 'Night At The Museum'

American showman P.T. Barnum (left) and Commodore Nutt, pictured circa 1862. Nutt was "exhibited" at Barnum's American Museum in New York, which Barnum claimed attracted 15,000 visitors per day. Hulton Getty/Getty Images hide caption

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Hulton Getty/Getty Images

American showman P.T. Barnum (left) and Commodore Nutt, pictured circa 1862. Nutt was "exhibited" at Barnum's American Museum in New York, which Barnum claimed attracted 15,000 visitors per day.

Hulton Getty/Getty Images

The Smithsonian "castle" on the National Mall, (pictured above in 1867 and below in the present day), was the first Smithsonian building — construction began in 1847. Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution Archives hide caption

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Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution Archives

The Smithsonian "castle" on the National Mall, (pictured above in 1867 and below in the present day), was the first Smithsonian building — construction began in 1847.

Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution Archives

A group of schoolchildren sketch a stuffed koala bear and baby under the guidance of a museum zoologist in 1938. Harry Todd/Fox Photos/Getty Images hide caption

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Harry Todd/Fox Photos/Getty Images

A group of schoolchildren sketch a stuffed koala bear and baby under the guidance of a museum zoologist in 1938.

Harry Todd/Fox Photos/Getty Images

Schoolchildren visiting New York's Junior Museum of the Metropolitan Museum of Art watch slides of artists at work in the 1950s. Carsten/Three Lions/Getty Images hide caption

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Carsten/Three Lions/Getty Images

Schoolchildren visiting New York's Junior Museum of the Metropolitan Museum of Art watch slides of artists at work in the 1950s.

Carsten/Three Lions/Getty Images

Architect Daniel Libeskind says that his idea for the design of the Hamilton Building at the Denver Art Museum came to him during a plane ride over the Rocky Mountains. Jeff Wells/Courtesy Denver Art Museum hide caption

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Jeff Wells/Courtesy Denver Art Museum

Architect Daniel Libeskind says that his idea for the design of the Hamilton Building at the Denver Art Museum came to him during a plane ride over the Rocky Mountains.

Jeff Wells/Courtesy Denver Art Museum

The Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian was built steps from the U.S. Capitol on the National Mall. The golden limestone museum sits in simulated wetlands and was modeled to evoke natural rock formations. Alex Wong/Getty Images hide caption

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Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian was built steps from the U.S. Capitol on the National Mall. The golden limestone museum sits in simulated wetlands and was modeled to evoke natural rock formations.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Will Murphy, 7, inspects the teeth of a Theropod dinosaur at the Melbourne Museum. William West/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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William West/AFP/Getty Images

Will Murphy, 7, inspects the teeth of a Theropod dinosaur at the Melbourne Museum.

William West/AFP/Getty Images

Correction July 31, 2009

Statements by Kevin Guilfoile Stephen Asma were drawn from NPR interviews done in 2006 and 2002, respectively. They should have been identified as such in the audio for this story. The text has been corrected to reflect the timing.