Smithsonian to reopen museum for first time in two decades with debut exhibit "FUTURES"

The Smithsonian is temporarily reopening its historic Arts and Industries Building (AIB) in November for the first time in nearly two decades for the debut exhibition "FUTURES," an "exploration of the future."

PHOTO: Smithsonian

The exhibit will fuse art, technology, design and history, presenting nearly 32,000 square feet of new immersive site-specific art installations, interactives, working experiments, inventions, speculative designs and "artifacts of the future," as well as historic objects and discoveries from 23 of the Smithsonian’s museums, major initiatives and research centers.

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Of the nearly 150 objects on view, several are making their public debut: an artificial intelligence (AI)-driven rover from Alphabet’s X that could transform agriculture; a Planetary Society space sail for deep space travel; a Loon internet balloon; the first full-scale Buckminster Fuller geodesic dome built in North America; the world’s first controlled thermonuclear fusion device; and more.

PHOTO: Smithsonian

"FUTURES" will also debut a series of new art commissions and a selection of large-scale technology projects to be unveiled throughout 2021, from artworks based on intelligent technology, to new ways to design cities, to hyper-fast travel and air taxis. 

The exhibit will unfold across four unique environments, one in each of AIB’s four monumental halls: Past Futures, Futures that Inspire, Futures that Unite and Futures that Work. 

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In Past Futures, visitors can discover an experimental Alexander Graham Bell telephone, early androids and barrier-breaking rockets, and activist art and ephemera created by groups striving to change the course of their own futures.

PHOTO: Smithsonian

Futures that Inspire will feature worldbuilding Afrofuturist artists, AI that helps people meditate and Indigenous storytelling for the 21st century.

In Futures that Unite, visitors can see a COVID-friendly support robot that reduces loneliness, a video game that can be played using the eyes and biohacked insulin.

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And in Futures that Work, visitors can experience future foods, a spacesuit that fits like a second skin, a working water harvester pulling liquid from air, an algae bioreactor that cleans as much air as a 400-acre forest and much more.

PHOTO: Smithsonian

"In a world that feels perpetually tumultuous, there is power in imagining the future we want, not the future we fear," said Rachel Goslins, director of AIB. "For 175 years, the Smithsonian has been helping people better understand who we are, where we have been and where we want to go. With ‘FUTURES,’ we want to invite all visitors to discover, debate and delight in the many possibilities for our shared future. There’s no place better to do this than in the Arts and Industries Building, the nation’s original home for big ideas."

"FUTURES" will be free and open to visitors through July 2022. For more information, the public can visit