Seeing America

A portal to American history and art

Seeing America was created by Smarthistory with 16 leading museums and examines the long history of the United States, from before European settlers to the modern era.

Explore American art and history

You can access this content by theme, historical period or by common classroom topics (the same content appears in each filter). You can also view all the Seeing America content here.

National identity

National identity

The phrase "We the People" may be only three words, but it is a complicated and ever-shifting expression.

Politics and power

Politics and power

From the humble taproom to national television, political parties have vied for power since the 18th century.

Work, exchange, and technology

Work, exchange, and technology

From the silver used to make colonial sugar bowls to the steel used in submarines—how work, exchange, and technology have shaped the United States.

Culture and Society

Culture and Society

How have ideas, beliefs, and art shaped the United States?

Migration and settlement

Migration and settlement

Explore how the various people who moved to and within the United States both adapted to and transformed their new environments.

Geography and the environment

Geography and the environment

Explore the role of geography and both the natural and human-made environments on social and political developments.

America in the world

America in the world

Explore the interactions between nations that affected North American history.

Before 1607

Before 1607

The area that would one day become the United States — before and after European settlement and colonization.

1607 – 1754

1607 - 1754

European settlers had different imperial goals and came from varied cultures.

1754 – 1800

1754 - 1800

Britain attempts to assert tighter control over its North American colonies and the colonists resolve to pursue self-government.

1800 – 1848

1800 - 1848

Americans look to define the nation’s democratic ideals and change their society and institutions to match them.

1848-1877: Civil War, reconstruction and westward expansion

1848-1877: Civil War, reconstruction and westward expansion

As the United States was extending its territories, the nation was torn apart by civil war. But in the relative calm of the post war era, Native and African Americans continued to be violently persecuted.

1877 – 1898

1877 - 1898

Technological advances and the opening of new markets encouraged the rise of industrial capitalism.

1898-1945: Gilded Age to World War II

1898-1945: Gilded Age to World War II

This era began with promises of technological improvement and uncertain steps into global engagement and ends with world war and the sublime power of technological destruction.

1945 – 1980

1945 - 1980

In the unstable postwar world, the United States works to maintain a position of global leadership, with far-reaching domestic and international consequences.

1980 to now

1980 to now

It's never been harder to define "art" than it is today, but one thing is for sure — artists are always having a conversation with the time they live in.

Native America before colonization

Native America before colonization

America had large cities (some with pyramids) connected by trade networks long before the arrival of Europeans.

European colonies in the Americas

European colonies in the Americas

We often think about the history of the United States as linked with Britain, but what about the Spanish, Dutch and French?

From slavery to civil rights

From slavery to civil rights

American art shows us the reality and effects of racism and slavery, and often points the way to social justice.

The American Revolution and Early Republic

The American Revolution and Early Republic

From a renegade colony to the early years of the United States. What did this transitional period look like?

Native American culture, 1500 – present

Native American culture, 1500 - present

Native American art has always been part of the history of the United States.

Antebellum America, Civil War and Reconstruction

Antebellum America, Civil War and Reconstruction

Though the Civil War began in 1861, its roots go back decades, and its effects continue to be seen today.

The Frontier, Manifest Destiny, and The American West

The Frontier, Manifest Destiny, and The American West

The expansion of the United States and the removal of Native Americans were bound up in the idea of Manifest Destiny.

Immigration

Immigration

The United States is a country of immigrants, but the issue of immigration has long divided its citizens.

City and country

City and country

We think about the city and the country as opposites, but they have more to do with one another than you would expect.

Cold War, media, and popular culture

Cold War, media, and popular culture

Artists during this period asserted their individuality, but also brought mass-produced objects and mass media into their art.

Contemporary America

Contemporary America

From the skyscapes to shoelaces — art as diverse as our contemporary culture.

Teaching guides

Guides to help your students explore works of art as primary documents (more coming soon).

All teaching guides for "Seeing America" (more coming soon)

Explore the diverse history of the United States through its art. Seeing America is funded by the Terra Foundation for American Art and the Alice L. Walton Foundation.