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WASHINGTON, D.C.–January 18, 2024—On Sunday, January 21, 2024, the National Building Museum opens its landmark new, multigenerational exhibition Building Stories.

Building Stories is a new long-term exhibition that will bring kids and adults alike on an immersive exploration of the world of architecture, engineering, construction, and design found in the pages of children’s books. Occupying 4,000 square feet of prominent exhibition space on the Museum’s ground floor, Building Stories is the most ambitious exhibition ever undertaken by the Museum and will be on display for ten years.

Photo Credit: Elman StudioPartnering with curator Leonard Marcus, the nation’s leading expert on children’s literature, and Portland, OR-based exhibition and experiential design studio Plus And Greater Than, Building Stories provides a portal into the wonder of the built environment through the imaginative lens of children’s books.

Designed for a multigenerational audience – children, parents, grandparents, and caregivers – Building Stories brings children’s books to life through a series of linked and immersive landscapes guided by the principles that the built world is exploratory, personal, surprising, inspiring, and transformative. The exhibition is organized into four galleries:

Gallery One: “Building Readers”

This introductory gallery explores a child’s first experiences of shapes, forms, imagery, and words as they become building blocks of language and the built environment. “Building Readers” also shows how the presentation of a story can be influenced by aspects of a book’s physical design and construction. The many parallels between the design of books and the design of buildings are revealed as visitors are invited to consider both the process of building and that of book-making through a selection of rare book dummies, original sketches, and architectural models.

Gallery Two: “Your Home, My Home”

Three archways inspired by the Three Little Pigs (with books that explore “finding your way” using maps in children’s literature) connect “Building Readers” to “Your Home, My Home.” Visitors encounter an immersive round theater with a multimedia presentation which uses light, projection, and sound to bring Tar Beach, Shadow, and The Snowy Day to life. This gallery explores the idea and expression of “home” in its many forms: a bedroom, a house, or a neighborhood and community. Many Homes, One World explores what home (or perhaps the loss or absence of one), looks like in cultures and locations around the world.

Gallery Three: “Scale Play”

“Scale Play” is entered through a ‘magic portal’ threshold where a tapered tunnel makes visitors feel like they are changing size as they enter. This gallery challenges our perceptions of the world around us through ‘scale play,’ a recurring theme in children’s literature. What does it feel like to navigate the world when you are small? What is the impact of monumental architecture on how we perceive the spaces around us? Can zooming in or zooming out help us understand it all?

Gallery Four: “Wider World”

“Wider World” brings all of the exhibition concepts together to focus on the possibilities for children’s real-world empowerment and participation. How can we build a better world, together? Visitors enter a light-filled landscape pulled from the illustrations of award-winning author/illustrator Oliver Jeffers. Oversized soft blocks with imagery and words from his books, such as Here We Are, What We’ll Build, and Begin Again, invitevisitors of all ages to write (and build) three-dimensional stories of their own – even in collaboration! The books on display in Wider World explore the connections between the natural world and manmade systems and how we might engage more responsibly by understanding their relationship. Stories emphasize characters who use their imagination and work together to shape their future and inspire other young visitors to do the same.

“We are ecstatic to open Building Stories to the public and we hope that with it the Museum can be an anchor in the revitalization of downtown D.C.,” said Aileen Fuchs, president and executive director of the National Building Museum. “Recognizing the enduring power of storytelling to shape perspectives and engage us in envisioning a better world, our goal is to bring more than 1 million visitors to witness the power of Building Stories, fostering a cultural resurgence. Additionally, the exhibition and affiliated programming will add capacity to the District’s early learning networks, providing out-of-school learning opportunities for students, particularly those in K-3 grades.”

Building Readers Club

The exhibition’s primary educational program is the Building Readers Club. A collaboration with the DC Public Library and DC Public Library Foundation, the free club serves as a guide for families interested in further exploring the world of architecture, engineering, construction, and design found in the pages of children’s books.

Children in kindergarten through eighth grade are encouraged to sign up for the club. Membership includes a monthly newsletter with age-appropriate activities and book suggestions, complimentary access to the Building Stories exhibition and special family-friendly club activities at the Museum four days per year, and early access to Building Stories programming.


Building Stories is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities, The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, Institute of Museum and Library Services, DC Public Library Foundation, AARP, National Endowment for the Arts, DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, Events DC, HITT Contracting, National Association of Homebuilders, STUDIOS Architecture, The Field Fund, Philip L. Graham Fund, The American Institute of Architects, Bookey Family Foundation, Whayne and Ursula Quin, SmartLam, American Society of Landscape Architects, DAVIS Construction, DPR Construction, Anonymous, George Corey and Cynthia Krus, Anthony and Keiko Greenberg, Monumental Sports & Entertainment, RCM&D, Forsythe Inc., AECOM, Armstrong World Industries, Rebecca Ballard and John Means, Leanna Beaber, Capital One, Bonnie and Louis Cohen, Howard and Shirlee Friedenberg, Sue Kemnitzer, In Memory of Donald B. Myer, FAIA, REX LUMBER, Judy and Darrel Rippeteau, TJ and Elizabeth Wilkinson.

IMAGES: Images for Building Stories are available HERE.

MEDIA CONTACT: Karen Baratz,, 240.497.1811

The National Building Museum inspires curiosity about the world we design and build. We believe that understanding the impact of architecture, engineering, landscape architecture, construction, planning, and design is important for everyone. Through exhibitions, educational programs, and special events, we welcome visitors of all ages to experience stories about the built world and its power to shape our lives, our communities, and our futures. Public inquiries: 202.272.2448,, or visit Connect with us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter