Seeing America

A portal to American art and history

Seeing America was created by Smarthistory with 17 leading museums collections. Together we examine the long history of the United States, from before European settlers to the modern era.

Use the tabs below to sort Seeing America content by theme, historical period, and classroom topic or view all Seeing America content here.

American and national identity

American and national identity

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

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.

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.

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.

Politics and power

Politics and power

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

American and regional culture

American and regional culture

How and why have national, regional, and group cultures developed and changed and how has culture shaped government policy and the economy?

Social structures

Social structures

Social categories and roles are always changing. How do these shape government policy, culture and people’s lives?

America in the world

America in the world

The American colonies have transitioned from being mere foreign holdings of European superpowers, to being perhaps the preeminent superpower of our own

Before 1607

Before 1607

Native Americans were used to difference — there were more than 300 languages spoken in North America alone.

1607 – 1754

1607 - 1754

With the seventeenth century came European settlers, slavery in America, and tensions between British and French forces.

1754 –  1800

1754 - 1800

The Revolutionary War, the Declaration of Independence, and the birth of the two-party system..

1800 – 1848

1800 - 1848

Americans looked to define the nation’s identity, independence, and their ideals in the nineteenth century.

1848-1877

1848-1877

The United States extended its territories, fought a civil war, and violently persecuted African and Native Americans.

1877 – 1898

1877 - 1898

A period of technological and commercial success, the Gilded Age was also an era of immense social problems.

1898-1945

1898-1945

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: War, Peace, and the American Dream

1945 - 1980: War, Peace, and the American Dream

In the unstable postwar world, the United States' involvement in global conflicts had far-reaching consequences, while at home, social activism, popular culture, and the American Dream broke new ground.

1980 – now

1980 - now

It's never been harder to define "art" than it is today, but one thing is certain — 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.

Labor and leisure

Labor and leisure

From the factory to the home — examining where American's spend their time.

Teaching guides

Guides to help your students explore works of art as primary documents

All teaching guides for Seeing America

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.