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O Say Can You Sing? National Anthem Singing Contest

National Museum of American History
Night Kitchen in collaboration with NMAH staff

The Star-Spangled Banner is an important American symbol and one of the most treasured objects at the National Museum of American History. We thought that a singing contest would be an innovative way to dispel the notion that history is boring and engage people with the story of their flag and national anthem. The notion of inviting the public to participate with us on YouTube fits well with the idea that the Star-Spangled Banner belongs to everyone. We're excited to be the first at the Smithsonian to reach out in this new way.

Getting the word out was crucial to the success of the contest.  To achieve this, we sought a promotional relationship with USA Weekend magazine.  The contest was also promoted via the museum Web site, blog, and social media outlets.  Over 800 eligible entries were submitted to YouTube and thousands of viewers rated and commented on their favorite singers. Fifteen semi-finalists were selected according to popularity on YouTube, overall appeal of vocal performance, originality, and lyrical accuracy.  The top video was then chosen by a panel of judges.

In summary, this project was able to creatively merge both "old" and "new" media to:

  • reach a diverse audience that might not have been aware of the museum or the Star-Spangled Banner exhibition;
  • promote direct user participation in a way that complemented the museum's mission and goals;
  • experiment with new ways to engage the public in history and the work of the museum.
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