George Washington Letters

Touchscreen interactive and accompanying website


Information Architecture, Experience Design, Flash Development

“To Bigotry No Sanction” is an exhibition at The National Museum of American Jewish History that explores faith and politics in the early days of the United States.

The centerpiece of the exhibition is historic correspondence between George Washington and a representative of the Jewish community in Newport, Rhode Island. These letters shed light on the first president’s views on religion and religious freedom. We developed a touchscreen interactive and companion website that lets visitors explore the meaning behind the letters and helps them understand their significance.

Making Sense of the Letters

Visitors explore annotated versions of each letter through an elegant and intuitive touch interface. An in-line transcription deciphers the old-fashioned script without hiding the original writing, and annotations link to associated media for key terms and phrases. Annotations range from simple explanations to Biblical verses to photographs, drawings, and prints; each serves to explain what the writer meant and draw the reader more deeply into the text.

We also created an online version of the interactive that lets visitors explore the letters at their own pace, before or after the museum visit. Optimized to run on the iPad, the experience is as intuitive as the touchscreen version, but suited for a smaller screen.

It is notoriously difficult to make documents and letters interesting for museum visitors, given that on the surface they’re just words on a page. This interactive lets visitors learn about the meanings and ideas behind these words. This touchscreen has been so successful with visitors that the museum has since decided to keep it in the permanent exhibition.

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