As the authors demonstrate, views of history change over time, methods of historical investigation evolve and improve, and Americans' understanding of the past matures. Shifts in focus and attitude lie at the heart of Legacies, which is organized around four concepts of what a national museum of history can be: a treasure house, a shrine to the famous, a palace of progress, and a mirror of the nation. Thus, the museum collects cherished or precious objects, houses celebrity memorabilia, documents technological advances, and reflects visitors' own lives. Taking examples from each of these components of the museum's mission, the authors provide historical context for the work of the Smithsonian, from its evolving treatment of Native American artifacts to its handling of popular culture and scientific discoveries. Throughout its history, Lubar and Kendrick conclude, the museum has played a vital role in both shaping and reflecting America's sense of itself as a nation.