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"American Democracy:
A Great Leap of Faith"

Inspired by the new permanent exhibition at the National Museum of American History, "American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith," explores America's bold experiment in a government "of, by and for the people."

“The Bloody Massacre,” by Paul Revere, 1770
Courtesy Library of Congress

The exhibition is on display through Nov. 10, 2019 in the Gettysburg Museum of the American Civil War at the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum & Visitor Center.

From the Smithsonian Institution, the exhibition features engaging multimedia experiences, immersive design and artifacts from the Smithsonian as well as the Gilder Lehrman Collection and Gettysburg National Military Park.

"American Democracy" demonstrates that democracy relies on every citizen’s active participation in the quest to form a “more perfect union.”

Featuring artifacts from the Smithsonian and supplemental items from the Gettysburg collection and artifacts on loan from The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, “American Democracy” demonstrates that self-government relies on every citizen’s active participation in the quest to form a “more perfect union.” Exhibition sections explore the origins of American democracy, the changing identity of eligible voters, the machinery of democracy, the right to petition and protest beyond the ballot, and the rights and responsibilities of citizens.

The exhibition is divided into five sections:

  1. Setting the scene, “The Great Leap” examines the system that the colonists inherited and the issues that founding generation debated to change that world. 
  2. “A Vote, A Voice” looks at Americans grappling with the expansion and contraction of voting rights as they debated who should have a direct voice in the political process.
  3. “The Machinery of Democracy” investigates the informal institutions and activities not spelled out in the Constitution, but which make America’s participatory system possible and motivate citizens to join political parties, support candidates and vote. 
  4. “Beyond the Ballot” explores the ways in which Americans have shaped their country through petitioning, protest and lobbying throughout the country’s history and across the political spectrum. 
  5. Concluding the exhibition, “Creating Citizens” examines the basic questions of: How diverse should the citizenry be? Is there a need to share a common national story? And what are the rights and responsibilities of citizens? These questions have shaped the most contested debates in America’s more than 200-year-old political history

"American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith" was developed by the National Museum of American History and adapted for travel by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service.

To learn more about the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, visit

At A Glance

American Democracy Exhibit offered through Nov. 10, 2019, at no additional charge with a Film, Cyclorama & Museum Experience ticket or a Museum Experience ticket
Wheelchair accessible
Starts and Ends at the Museum & Visitor Center (MAP)
Free parking at Museum & Visitor Center lots

"American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith" is sponsored in partnership with the Gettysburg National Military Park.

Learn more about National Park Service programs

Exhibits & Tours

Film, Cyclorama & Museum Experience

Set the scene.
Feel the fury.
Share the journey.

The Film, Cyclorama & Museum Experience provides you with a backdrop to the battle and prepares you for a more meaningful tour of the battlefield. 

Battlefield Value Package

Film Cyclorama & Museum + Battlefield Bus Tour

Make the most of your Gettysburg visit. Package the Film, Cyclorama and Museum with a battlefield bus tour for one memorable Gettysburg experience.

Tour the Battlefield

Bus. Car. Bike.

Step onto the hallowed ground and experience Little Round Top, Devil's Den and the Angle beyond the history books and movies. You'll tour the battlefield with a Licensed Battlefield Guide either in your car, by motor coach or bicycle.

Battlefield Car Tour

Personalized Experience

Ride along with your Licensed Battlefield Guide and don’t miss a thing. Your guide will drive your car, answer your questions and conduct your own, personal tour of the battlefield.

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