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Michelle Obama's second inaugural gown went on display Jan. 14 at Smithsonian

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First Lady Michelle Obama's second inaugural gown went on display Jan. 14 at the National Museum of American History to celebrate the centennial of the Smithsonian's First Ladies exhibition, and the museum's 50th anniversary.

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The ruby red chiffon gown Michelle Obama wore to the January 2013 inaugural balls will be shown for one year. It temporarily replaces the white chiffon gown she wore to the first Obama inaugural balls. Both were designed by Jason Wu.

The first lady's first inaugural gown, a gift to the Smithsonian, had been on display since 2010, and will return to the exhibit in 2015. The second inaugural gown is on loan from the White House.

The exhibit includes the Jimmy Choo shoes she wore.

The gown's display is one of many special events throughout the year, honoring Smithsonian's First Ladies exhibition that originated in 1914, and the National Museum of American History's (NMAH) opening on Jan. 23, 1964.

More than two dozen inaugural gowns, including those worn by Jacqueline Kennedy, Frances Cleveland, and Mary Todd Lincoln, are part of the First Ladies' exhibit, one of the most popular attractions in all the Smithsonian museums. It also includes china and jewelry of First Ladies.

The oldest inaugural gown was worn by Andrew Jackson’s niece, Emily Donelson, to his 1829 inaugural ball. The oldest gown belonged to Martha Washington.

The NMAH exhibit "explores the unofficial but important position of first lady and...their own contributions to the presidential administrations and the nation," says exhibit curator Lisa Kathleen Graddy.

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

Here is a video tour by exhibit curator Graddy.

Another exhibition honoring the museum's 50th anniversary is "Camilla's Purse", that will run from Jan. 24 through May 4.

It traces Holocaust survivor Camilla Klauber Gottlieb's life, from her childhood in 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.

These two very different, but very important and interesting exhibits, pay tribute to America, its history, and the National Museum of American History.

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

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