The 44-year-old museum, closed since September 2006, has undergone an $85 million physical renovation and reordering of how it tells the American story. The Star-Spangled Banner flag, one of the icons of the Smithsonian Institution, has received a totally new treatment that includes an expanded history of the War of 1812 and the flag’s preservation.

Long criticized as dark, cluttered and confusing to navigate, the museum’s new design includes a brighter entrance off the National Mall. Officials hope the atrium will become a public square and “a place for human connection,” museum director Brent D. Glass said today.

The museum has also added several “artifact walls” built into the exhibition areas with items from its collections, arranged by historical American themes. They cover politics and reform, business and popular culture, among others.

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