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Laura & Matthew Maasdam

When Matthew Maasdam first visited the National Museum of American History, he was drawn to the display of a reconstructed house and its contents. He later remarked to his wife Laura, “I don’t feel that our house is representative of what is important to us.” So the Maasdams did a little redecorating, adding family photographs and mementoes from their alma maters and military service. “That exhibition influenced how we represent ourselves,” said Laura.

The Maasdams recognize that the Smithsonian has the power to positively shape lives, in ways both small and large. With their sons, they have chosen to start early. “What is amazing about the Smithsonian is that it grows with you,” said Laura. “You can see and touch pieces of history. You can travel without leaving the museums. We want to plant those seeds.”

Living on Capitol Hill, the Maasdams take several stroller trips a week to visit favorites like the aircraft carrier at the National Air & Space Museum, the whales at the National Museum of Natural History and the trains at the National Museum of American History. “By exposing our children to science, history and culture at such a formative age, we hope to fuel their pursuit of knowledge and education,” said Matthew.

Some days, the Maasdams will explore a museum together until closing. “It is amazing to see the museums not only through our own eyes, but also through the eyes of our children,” said Laura. Since joining the James Smithson Society in 2013, the Maasdams have also been inspired by the insights of curators, researchers and fellow members, all of whom share a passion for the Smithsonian’s mission and work. “Now we are looking to get a younger generation involved in the Smithson Society,” said Matthew.

“Both of us have a military backgrounds and have spent time serving others,” said Laura. “We want to continue to do that, and as Smithson Society members, we are part of a group of people who want to give back. There is a sense of service to mankind.”

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