Smithsonian Premieres Traveling Exhibition on the Role of Sports in American History

By -

October 7, 2004

Source: Audi of America

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – Records and barriers are meant to be broken. Nowhere is this more true than in sports.

The greatest champions stand for more than the records they break. They stand for the barriers they shatter–physical, social, psychological, racial, cultural–and change the way we think about our world. A new traveling exhibition from the Smithsonian focuses on athletes’ participation in significant events and the social contexts that inescapably influenced them.

“Sports: Breaking Records, Breaking Barriers” will launch a seven-city, two-year national tour on Oct. 7 at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. The exhibition will remain on view through Jan. 9, 2005.

“Sports” was developed by the National Museum of American History and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES). Audi of America, Inc. is the exclusive national sponsor of the exhibition, in partnership with The Condé Nast Media Group.

The exhibition focuses on 35 athletes and their performances in 17 different sports. Artifacts selected emphasize such issues as women’s changing roles, racial and ethnic integration, the emergence of sports celebrities and superstars, nationalism, perceptions about human physical limitations and handicaps, and technological breakthroughs that enhanced performance and participation. “Sports: Breaking Records, Breaking Barriers” reminds visitors of all these issues that athletes encounter and the effect their personal victories, both on and off the field, exert on the nation’s consciousness.

“The exhibition vividly portrays the men and women who pioneered, performed better, influenced their sport, championed their country, race or sex and helped others to achieve,” stated Ellen Roney Hughes, the exhibition’s curator and a cultural historian at the Museum of American History. “These individuals broke records for themselves and broke barriers for all.”

Spotlighting the National Museum of American History’s sports collection, the exhibition opens with Abraham Lincoln’s handball and closes with Michael Jordan’s basketball jersey. Gertrude Ederle’s English Channel swim goggles, Roberto Clemente’s batting helmet, Lance Armstrong’s yellow jersey and a “Miracle on Ice” hockey shirt are among the dozens of artifacts.

“Audi is proud to be working with the Smithsonian Institution in sponsoring this exhibition so that it can motivate and inspire future pioneers in all fields of endeavor,” stated Axel Mees, Vice President in charge of Audi of America. “These athletes demonstrate so vividly that it is truly greater to lead than follow–and that the possibilities of the future can be very different from the reality of today.”

The exhibition also features a short video that further explores the athletes featured in the section “More than Sports Champions.” Produced and donated by The History Channel, the video is narrated by basketball legend Bill Russell. It looks at the athletes, such as Billie Jean King, Roberto Clemente and Mohammad Ali, who take their roles as public figures seriously and move beyond being sports champions to become champions for a cause.

An interactive Web site has been developed and includes a virtual tour of the exhibition, resource lists, a historical timeline and sports trivia. Visit the virtual exhibition at

The national traveling exhibition is complemented by a small-format, full-color book by Hughes with a foreword by basketball legend Bill Russell. “Sports: Breaking Records, Breaking Barriers” will be published in October by Scala Publishers.” For more information, visit

Audi of America, Inc. is headquartered in Auburn Hills, Mich. and markets a line of premium vehicles. For more information about Audi, visit

The National Museum of American History traces American heritage through exhibitions of social, cultural, scientific and technological history. The museum, located at 14th Street and Constitution Avenue N.W., is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., except Dec. 25. For more information, visit the museum’s Web site at or call (202) 633-1000.

SITES has been sharing the wealth of Smithsonian collections and research programs with millions of people outside Washington, D.C., for more than 50 years. SITES connects Americans to their shared cultural heritage through a wide range of exhibitions about art, science and history, which are shown wherever people live, work and play, including museums, libraries, science centers, historical societies, community centers, botanical gardens, schools and shopping malls. Exhibition descriptions and tour schedules are available at


Sports: Breaking Records Breaking Barriers is a celebration of the pioneering men and women who dominated their sports. Both on and off the field, these undaunted athletes broke records for themselves and barriers for us all.

We at Audi of America, Inc. are proud to sponsor this exhibition so that it can motivate and inspire future pioneers in all fields of endeavor. Since our founder, August Horch, started his own company in 1899, our business and our culture have been founded around the ideas of constant innovation, of challenging conventions and finding better solutions.

The individuals celebrated in this exhibition are lights for us all. They remind us that anything that we set our minds to is possible if we work towards it steadfastly. As examples, these athletes demonstrate so vividly that it is truly greater to lead than follow — and that the possibilities of the future can be very different than the reality of today.

Comments ()