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Digital Exhibits

Featured Exhibit

The Forgotten National Aquarium

Aquatic Adventures at the Department of Commerce, 1932-2013 


Finding a Home at the Herbert C. Hoover Building

In 1903, the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Fisheries opened the first iteration of the National Aquarium in Washington at its offices on 6th St SW. The tiny aquarium housed a variety of freshwater fish whose visitors were primarily government employees. Calls for a larger National Aquarium that could serve as a major tourist attraction inspired the installation of an aquarium in the basement of the department’s new Herbert C. Hoover building on 14th St NW. The fish moved into their new home in the winter of 1932, after nearly being abandoned due to cost concerns in the midst of the Great Depression.

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Hoover Exhibit

Our Third Secretary of Commerce

Before he became president, Herbert Hoover rose to prominence as one of the most effective and influential members of Presidents Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge’s cabinets. Hoover transformed the Department of Commerce into one of the most powerful federal agencies of its time. This display explores Hoover’s time as Secretary of Commerce, and the many initiatives the department took on under his leadership. 

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Building HCHB

Building HCHB

During the 1920's, the Department of Commerce grew massively under Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover.  By 1926, the department's numerous bureaus were scattered about the city in ten separate buildings; the construction of the Federal Triangle complex would provide the opportunity to bring them all under one roof.

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Recording America's Story

The Crisis

By the 1930s, unemployment seemed to be the new normal for many Americans. The stock market crash of 1929 marked the beginning of an economic depression that resulted in the loss of millions of jobs. In a campaign speech he delivered in 1932, Franklin D. Roosevelt promised Americans a “New Deal”—a committed, federal effort to alleviate the pressures of the Great Depression.

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