Detail of Tim Brauch's skateboard. Courtesy National Museum of American History.


Archived exhibitions are no longer available for booking but are maintained as a virtual record of past Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) programs.

“I always turn to the sports pages first . . .”
—Earl Warren, former Chief Justice, U.S. Supreme Court

In many American homes, the newspaper’s sports pages are read first every morning. Beyond the scores and plays, issues surprisingly significant to our identity and history can be found. Sports illustrate many facets of American life, from Althea Gibson’s struggle to break the color barrier and excel as a tennis champion, to the humanitarian efforts of baseball star Roberto Clemente, to the “Battle of the Sexes” waged between tennis players Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs. Sports: Breaking Records, Breaking Barriers seeks to evoke moments that have captured the nation’s collective memory.

Baseball signed by Babe Ruth. From the collection of the National Museum of American HistoryDrawn from the outstanding collection of the National Museum of American History and sponsored by Audi, Sports celebrates athletes’ accomplishments—the perfect game, the close race, the broken record, and the unheralded triumph. More significantly, the exhibition reflects broader changes in the United States and shows how many cultural, political, and even physical barriers have, through the help of sportsmen and -women, been shattered. Sports reminds us of the racial, ethnic, and gender issues that athletes encounter and the effect their personal victories, both on and off the field, exert on the nation’s consciousness.

The exhibition presents an opportunity to see objects that illuminate our nation’s sporting past and to understand an athlete’s relationship to sports, the media, and society at large. Curated by NMAH’s Ellen Roney Hughes, Sports is organized into six perspectives—Firsts, Olympians, Game Makers, Barrier Removers, More Than Sports Champions, and Superstars. Each section focuses on exceptional athletes and amazing events through objects such as Michael Jordan’s basketball jersey, Hank Aaron’s baseball uniform, Muhammad Ali’s fight robe, Brian Boitano’s ice skates, Mia Hamm’s Olympic soccer jersey, Bonnie Blair’s speed skating skins, and the goggles Gertrude Ederle wore when she swam the English Channel in 1926. Each sports treasure is accompanied by photographs and engaging text describing the competitor’s story.

An inspiring portrayal of sacrifice, challenge, and ultimate victory, Sports will appeal to athletes and non-athletes of all ages.

Audi is the exclusive National Sponsor of Sports: Breaking Records, Breaking Barriers

>> Visit the OFFICIAL Sports Website

Up button


Exhibition specifications

Contents 46 objects; mannequins; brackets and cases; original audio-video presentations; photo panels; text panels; labels.
Supplemental Companion book, brochure, docent material, programming guide, speaker list, bibliography, discography, film guide, promotional resources
Participation Fee $50,000 for a 12-week booking period, plus prorated shipping
Size 3,000 sq. feet (370 sq. meters)
Security High
Category History & Culture
Shipping Prorated, SITES-designated carrier
SITES Contacts

Michelle Torres-Carmona, 202.633.3143 

Toured Through December 2006
Up button


Tour itinerary

Dates   Host Institution Status
10/9/04 1/9/05 National Museum of American History, Washington, DC Booked
2/26/05 5/31/05 Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh, PA Booked
6/25/05 9/18/05 Gerald R. Ford Museum, Grand Rapids, MI Booked
10/15/05 1/8/05 New York State Museum, Albany, NY Booked
2/4/06 4/30/06 Union Station Kansas City, Kansas City, MO Booked
5/27/06 8/20/06 National Constitution Center, Philadelphia, PA Booked
9/16/06 12/31/06 The Oakland Museum of California, Oakland, CA Booked
2/8/07 4/29/07 Ohio Historical Center, Columbus, OH Booked
6/2/07 8/26/07 Oregon Historical Society, Portland, OR Booked
9/22/07 12/31/07 Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, Spokane, WA Booked
Up button


Related publications

Sports: Breaking Records, Breaking Barriers by Ellen Roney Hughes. Scala Publishers Ltd. with the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, Behring Center, and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, 2004, $9.95.

Sports: Breaking Records, Breaking Barriers is the companion book to a new SITES traveling exhibition that highlights the pioneering men and women who dominated their sports; championed their country, race, or sex; and helped others to achieve. Part of the Scala 4-fold series (pages open out horizontally and vertically), the book contains a foreword by Bill Russell and more than 60 color and b&w photographs of artifacts from the Smithsonian’s sports history collection and of the athletes themselves.






Up button



Role of Sports and Athletes in American Life Explored in Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition

Ali.Pelé.Althea.Jackie.Mia.Jordan. We recognize their names from the sports section and know their accomplishments as athletes. They, and others like them, have the strength to succeed, to inspire, to make their mark. The dynamic interaction of athletes, audiences, and the media has had an extraordinary impact on American life over the past century and a half. A new traveling exhibition from the Smithsonian focuses on athletes' participation in significant events and the social contexts that inescapably influenced them.

Sports: Breaking Records, Breaking Barriers will kick-off a seven-city, two-year national tour on Oct. 7 at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. The exhibition will remain on view through Jan. 9, 2005.

"Sports" was developed by the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES). Audi is the exclusive national sponsor of the exhibition.

The exhibition focuses on 35 athletes and their performances in 17 different sports. Artifacts selected emphasize such issues as women's changing roles, racial and ethnic integration, the emergence of sports celebrities and superstars, nationalism, perceptions about human physical limitations and handicaps, and technological breakthroughs that enhanced performance and participation. Sports: Breaking Records, Breaking Barriers reminds visitors of all these issues that athletes encounter and the effect their personal victories, both on and off the field, exert on the nation's consciousness.

"The exhibition vividly portrays the men and women who pioneered, performed better, influenced their sport, championed their country, race or sex, and helped others to achieve," stated Ellen Roney Hughes, the exhibition's curator and a cultural historian at the Museum of American History. "These individuals broke records for themselves and broke barriers for all."

Spotlighting the Smithsonian's sports collection, the exhibition opens with Abraham Lincoln's handball and closes with Michael Jordan's basketball jersey. Gertrude Ederle's English Channel swim goggles, Roberto Clemente's batting helmet, Lance Armstrong's yellow jersey and a "Miracle on Ice" hockey shirt are among the dozens of artifacts.

The national traveling exhibition is complemented by a small-format, full-color book with a forward by basketball legend Bill Russell. Sports: Breaking Records, Breaking Barriers will be published in October by Scala Publishers. For more information, visit

Audi of America is headquartered in Auburn Hills, Michigan, and markets a line of premium vehicles.

The National Museum of American History traces American heritage through exhibitions of social, cultural, scientific and technological history. The museum, located at 14th Street and Constitution Avenue N.W., is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., except Dec. 25. For more information, visit the museum's Web site at or call (202) 633-1000.

SITES has been sharing the wealth of Smithsonian collections and research programs with millions of people outside Washington, D.C., for more than 50 years. SITES connects Americans to their shared cultural heritage through a wide range of exhibitions about art, science and history, which are shown wherever people live, work and play, including museums, libraries, science centers, historical societies, community centers, botanical gardens, schools and shopping malls.

Up button


Exhibition Specifications

Tour Itinerary

Exhibition Images

Related Publications

Press Release

In the News

More Exhibitions from SITES


| | | |

Mailing Address
PO Box 37012
MRC 941
Washington, DC 20013-7012
202.633.3168 (tel.)
202.633.5347 (fax)

Delivery Address
470 L'Enfant Plaza, SW
Suite 7103
Washington, DC 20024



SITES Home SITES blog SITES on Facebook SITES on YouTube SITES on Twitter SITES RSS