Smithsonian Museums, Washington D.C.
There are a number of museums associated with The Smithsonian Institute. All are located on or near The National Mall and are easily accessible albeit a long walk. The museums include:
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery/Freer Gallery of Art
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
National Air and Space Museum
National Museum of African American History and Culture
National Museum of African Art
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
National Museum of the American Indian
National Museum of Natural History
Donald W. Reynolds Center: Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery
National Postal Museum
S. Dillon Ripley Center
Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian/American Art Museum
Smithsonian Institution Building, The Castle (Information Center)
Arts and Industries Building
The Smithsonian is a unique museum. It is a complex of 18 museums, many set around the National Mall. There are even 2 museums in New York City and other around Washington, D.C. The eastern end of the 'Mall' is lined by the various buildings of the Smithsonian. The Northside, from the Capitol, includes the National Gallery of Art (East), the National Gallery of Art (West), the National Museum of Natural History and the National Museum of American History. Along the south side going back eastward (from the Washington Memorial are the Freer Gallery of Art, Smithonian Castle (Visitor Center); Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, the National Museum of African Art, the Arts and Industries Building, the Hirshorn Museum, the National Air and Space Museum, and the National Museum of the Ameircan Indian.
Each has it's own unique set of exhibits and can be found in individual tips in this section. As I said in my other mall related tip, the National Mall is really a place of memories. Here, you can view the great masters of ages long gone in the National Gallery. The flag that waived over Fort McHenry in Baltimore's Harbor in 1812 can be seen. Great beasts from the American west and around the world stand tall in the National Museum of Natural History and across the way to the south, the "Spirit of St. Louis" still flies (static flying) in the Air and Space Museum. Nearby, you can witness the trials and triumphs of the American Indian and the African-American experience.
Smithsonian National Museum of Art
4th and Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20565 * (202) 737-4215 * http://www.nga.gov/
One of the Smithsonian's most fabulous of art galleries and museums. Always a fascinating gallery on exhibit from ancient or historic world to the modern era. One of my favorite places to visit in D.C. Two exhibits I caught on 2/17/09: Pride of Place: Dutch Cityscapes of the Golden Age : From the 17th century comes an exquisite collection of over 48 paintings in a new genre, "the cityscape emerged" which was fostered by the booming economy of the Dutch Republic and its affluent urbanites. Presented in these themes are images of towns and cities with expressions of enormous civic pride. In addition to the paintings are 23 maps, atlases, illustrated books, prints, demonstrating this new genre. Wide-angle panoramas showing the urban skyline with its fortifications, windmills, steeples to renderings of daily life along the canals. Featured are Jacob van Ruisdael's celebrated "Haarlem with the Bleaching Fields" (ca. 1670-1675), Gerrit Berckheyde, Aelbert Cuyp, Jan van der Heyden, Jan van Goyen, Hendrick Vroom, Pieter Saenredam, and Jan Steen. Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5.
Pompeii and the Roman Villa Exhibit 2/17/09
The second exhibit I visited brought back memories of my Archaeology days and wanderings in Pompeii. What a blast from the past, literally. Pompeii and the Roman Villa: Art and Culture from around the Bay of Naples
Archaeology and Art from the first century BC displaying the picturesque Bay of Naples which was culturally known as a retreat in B.C. for vacationing emperors, senators, and other prominent Romans. Inside their lavish seaside villas under the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, treasures abound flamboyantly portraying leisure, art, life, reading, writing, exercise, painting, sculptures, and decorative arts ... enjoyment of their sensuous gardens and views, entertaining house guests and frolicking in the sun. Artists of the region painted murals on the walls, mosaics, paintings, luxury arts, and sculptures. Some of these recent archaeological discoveries are for the first time on display in the U.S. A spectacular 30 minute film is also presented telling the history of life and destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum. An excellent, not to be missed exhibit. Rating: 5 stars out of 5.
The mail is something that most people take for granted. Most of us don't think too much about all that goes into delivering it. This fine museum may help to remedy that.
Here, one can learn all about the history and traditions of the US Post Office--starting with the first Postmaster General, Benjamin Franklin. See authentic Post Office stagecoaches, trucks, railcars, aircraft, and other memorabilia. Also, check out the stamp collection. And see the work of the unsung heroes of the USPS, the Postal Inspectors. These dedicated lawmen have dealt with mail fraud, corruption, shipments of contraband, letter bombs, and more hazards to public safety.
This building was the main Washington Post Office from 1914 to 1986. The museum opened in 1993. Donations come from the USPS, the Smithsonian, and private donors.
Here lies a wealth of exhibits ranging from the Star Spangled Banner to Archie Bunker's chair. There are priceless coins, musical instruments used by famous artists, and items used in various periods of American life. It would take a long time to really get to know this place. The museum is close to the Natural History Museum and is on the National Mall. Admission is free.
You could easily spend your entire trip just looking through all of these museums - there are many more than most people know about. Besides the big favorites like the Natural History Museum and the National Air and Space Museum, there are the Museum of African Art, the Design Museum, the Portrait Gallery, the Postal Museum, and more.
One of my favorites was the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, where you can find modern and contemporary artwork by the likes of Brancusi, Jackson Pollock, Thomas Hart Benton, and Louise Bourgeois. Admission to all the museums is free and they're open every day except Christmas.
National Museum of American History. There are great exhibits on the history of television, technology, transportation, agriculture, social and political history, labor, photography, music, and many more. Exhibits are added and closed frequently.
One of the more popular exhibits in the museum is the Star-Spangled Banner - the flag that inspired the National Anthem and which flew over Fort McHenry in 1814 during the War of 1812.
The museum is open daily except December 25 from 10 AM - 5:30 PM. Admission is free.
The Smithsonian Institution is the world's largest museum complex and research center, and some of the best museums I have ever visited.
Museums in Washington DC include:
Anacostia Museum and Center for African American History and Culture, Arts and Industries Building, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, National Air and Space Museum, National Museum of African Art, National Museum of American History (Behring Center), National Museum of Natural History, National Portrait Gallery, National Postal Museum, National Zoological Park, Smithsonian American Arts Museum and its Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian Institution Building (the Castle).
I only had a chance to visit 3 of the museums listed, so budget your time and plan on what you want to see most. It would probably take a whole week to see all of these museums. All Smithsonian museums in Washington DC have free admission. Check the website for hours.
There are tons of exhibits at the Smithsonian every year. Most people checkout the Natural History Museum and the Air and Space Museum which are cool and great for the kids.
However, as a local, I never go to those two because the I think the exhibits at the other Museums are much more interesting. The Freer and Sackler Galleries (asian art) have had some of my favorite exhibits.
Before you come, check out Smithsonian and National Gallery of Art websites to find out what is being exhibited and plan your visit.
The Smithsonian Museum of American History
This museum displays nearly every aspect of American history including Archie Bunker's chair (a fixture on the set of 'All in the Family'), just about every kind of vehicle from all points of American history, and there used to be at least at one time an exhibit on the American first lady.
The Smithonian museums are absolutely fantastic. There are many of them but the most popular are the Air and Space museum and the American History museum. Some of the others are the Museum of Natural History, the National Portrait Gallery and the Arts and Industries Building.
I spent the better part of 2 days just walking through the Air and Space museum and the American History museum. There is an amazing amount to see in each of them. There are various hands on exhibits for young people and each has a cafe for when you need a break. The best part of these museums is that they are all FREE!
What can I say ? It has one of the greatest collections of the world... and it's free ... what else can you ask for?