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Michelle Obama's second inaugural gown on display at Smithsonian now-Jan. 2015

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The Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in January celebrates its 50th anniversary, and the centennial of the Smithsonian's First Ladies exhibition, by displaying Michelle Obama's second inaugural gown for one year.

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Her ruby red chiffon gown's display, from Jan. 14, 2014 - Jan. 19, 2015, is one of many special exhibitions and programs throughout 2014, celebrating the National Museum of American History's (NMAH) opening Jan. 23, 1964.

The gown First Lady Michelle Obama wore to the January 2013 inaugural balls will temporarily replace the white chiffon gown she wore to the first Obama inaugural ball. Her first inaugural gown, a gift to the Smithsonian, had been on display since 2010. The second gown is on loan from the White House.

Both are by New York-based designer Jason Wu. The Taiwan-born Wu moved with his family to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada when he was 9. There, he learned how to sew, draft patterns, and sketch by using dolls as mannequins, according to the biography on his website. At age 14, he studied sculpture in Tokyo, and later spent his senior year of high school in Paris. Then he moved to New York and studied at the prestigious Parsons School of Design.

More than two dozen inaugural gowns, including those worn by Jacqueline Kennedy, Frances Cleveland, and Mary Todd Lincoln, are part of the Smithsonian's First Ladies exhibition, which originated 100 years ago.

The current exhibition at the NMAH "explores the unofficial but important position of first lady and...their own contributions to the presidential administrations and the nation."

A section entitled "Changing Time, Changing First Ladies" highlights the roles and contributions of Dolley Madison, Mary Lincoln, Edith Roosevelt, and Lady Bird Johnson.

Another exhibition honoring the museum's 50th anniversary is "Camilla's Purse". It traces Holocaust survivor Camilla Klauber Gottlieb's life, from Vienna, through her imprisonment in Theresienstadt concentration camp, and eventual reunion with her daughter in New York.

Theresienstadt (Terezin) near Prague is the camp that Hitler had attempted to portray as an artists colony instead of a concentration camp and holding prison. Some 86,900 Jews were eventually shipped from Theresienstadt to Auschwitz and other death camps.

The purse, discovered by Camilla Gottlieb's family after her death in New York in 1964, contained letters, papers, and other personal items. The poignant exhibit runs from Jan. 24-May 4, 2014.

Celebrate America, its history, and the National Museum of American History throughout its 50th anniversary in 2014.

For more info: National Museum of American History,, on the National Mall, Constitution Avenue at 14th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C., 202-633-1000.



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