No museum contains more Americana than this branch of the Smithsonian, and its collection is presented here in captivating, if chaotic, splendor. Legendary items like George Washington's false teeth (ivory, not wood) and Judy Garland's ''ruby slippers'' nestle amid an exhaustive array of historical fashions, furniture, tools, and much more. Browsing through the 390 color plates, readers will note how closely US history is linked to technological innovation.
One unique asset is inclusion of many reconstructed interiors. Among them: a Massachusetts kitchen as it appeared in 1776; an 1863 one-room schoolhouse; a 1915 Brooklyn dining room; a 1940s Army barracks; and the cabin of John F. Kennedy's 1960 presidential campaign jet.
Unfortunately Shirley Abbot's text, although generally interesting, is loosely organized, and the photographs seem almost randomly distributed.