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.
One of the obligatory stops on your Washington tour will no doubt be the Smithsonian Museum. It is impressive, for sure, and has a fame of being the one of the most popular museum attractions in the world, right up there with the Mona Lisa. One of the star attractions of the Smithsonian has to be the Hope Diamond and the diamond collection, they are stunning!
The star of the show is the Hope Diamond (45.5 carats). It was donated to the Smithsonian in 1958 by Harry Winston. The Hope has a long history of ownership and an equally long and often difficult to believe reputation for bringing terrible misfortune to those who have owned it. Many of these tales have been established to be barely believable if not outright false.
I definitely recommend that you take a good look at the diamonds, the collection is exceptional. That room is somewhat dark, which is deliberate, to bring out the amazing properties of the diamonds. The Hope Diamond, for example is a blue diamond, that gives off a reddish hue when exposed to light.
Once you have struggled with the crowds gasping at the diamonds I would recommend that you go back into the minerals and geology exhibit, it is far less crowded and is an amazing collection. You will get an exhibit of each of the elements and an explanation of why adding a few atoms of this or that makes quartz (for example) look totally different. It is a well laid out, well described exhibit that you can enjoy quite slowly.
Significantly, it includes a collection of 16,850 distinct meteorites.
The Smithsonian Folklife Festival is held in the two weeks around 4th of July. The whole area immediately adjacent to the Smithsonian will be filled with great exhibits, performances. (please see the website for schedules)
The Festival celebrates the cultural heritage of the world. You will have wonderful exhibits about dancing, folk arts, eating, cooking. One exhibit, for example, that i remember was particularly well done, was the Silk Road exhibit where they showed items from the places that were along what used to be the Silk Road. It was fascinating.
There are plenty of food concessions and prices are fairly reasonable. I have also found some great photo opportunities at this festival in previous years and sometimes there are some real interesting things available for sale.
It is especially important that you stay well hydrated. For example, this year (2012), temperatures in Washington in the first few days around the start of the Festival were close to 100F, so make sure not to over-exert yourself and drink LOTS of fluids.
This is a wonderful museum; I have made several visits and seen new things each time. Truly, the "Museum of American History", this Smithsonian museum houses: Dorothy's Ruby Slippers from the Wizard of Oz, and original Dumbo ride from Disneyland, the living room set from "All in the Family", artifacts from American Presidents, the hat Lincoln was wearing when he was shot at Ford's Theatre, the original Kermit the Frog, a faithful reproduction of Julia Child's kitchen, displays on transportation, and the "Star Spangled Banner" - the actual flag flown over Ft. McHenry which inspired the song by Francis Scott Key which later became our National Anthem. How much more American can you get?? All of this, and so much more - you cannot see it all in one day. Don't even try - take it little by little and marvel as you go along.
There are many themed gift shops if your mind should turn towards souvenirs or Christmas shopping.
As with the other Smithsonian Museums here in DC, admission is free. There are many donation boxes throughout the museum if you should feel the urge to assist financially.
The Sackler Gallery, which shares the building with the Freer Gallery, is the Smithsonian's specialized museum in Asian art. This covers both the near and far east. In my own experience their collections of Egyptian and Islamic art are exceptional. There is a section dedicated to China and Korea, which usually features ceramics. Their Japanese art is heavy on graphics and illustration. Their Islamic collections feature a section on Mughal India, metalworking, manuscripts, and a divine collection of calligraphy.
Another section of the Gallery features American painter James Whistler. The only connection I can think of it is his famous decoration of the Peacock room in London, which is replicated at the museum.
This museum is one of the smaller ones on the Mall, it has always had great exhibits that are tastefully displayed, well lit and well explained. Check their websites, the exhibits tend to change often. This is one of the parts of the Smithsonian I recommend highly.
Hours- 1030 to 5 daily (except Christmas Day)
Security- your bags will be checked before entering the building.
Photography (with flash) is permitted in all areas of the museum except as noted.
Gift Shop- this is one of the best places to pick up fantastic gifts!
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.
Having visited Liang Bua, the site where their fossilized remains were found, we took a special interest in the display of homo floresiensis at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. This small-sized human species lived on the island Flores in Indonesia and became extinct as recently as 17,000 years ago. Because of their small size they are nicknamed the Flores Hobbit. The Smithsonian shows a reconstruction of what they may have looked like, and places them on the human evolutionary tree just one step below ourselves, homo sapiens, together with homo neanderthalensis and homo heidelbergensis.
Contrary to what was suggested in Flores, the Smithsonian does not classify the Flores Hobbit as homo sapiens having suffered dwarfism, but as a homo species in its own right.
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.
Qhapaq nan: The Way of the Inka
American Indian Museum
Some of the engineering accomplishments of the Inca in building roads, civil construction.
Treaties: Great Nations in Their Own Words
American Indian Museum
Sept 21,2014- 2016
The treaties concluded between the US and the native american tribes.
Natural History Museum
Unintended consequences of climate change.
Chinese Narrative Painting
April- October 2013
Central American Ceramcs
American Induan Museum
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 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!
We went to the American History Museum and in addition to the First Ladies' dresses there were exhibits on how transportation -- from 1876 to 1999 -- has shaped our American identity, an exhibit on Power Machinery which follows the development of the increasingly efficient power machinery that helped the United States become a world leader during the Industrial Revolution and exhibits on various artifacts of modern (and historic) culture.
This was an exhibit that was particularly of interest and I took a lot of photos of it. The First Ladies Hall was housed in the Arts & Industries Building from 1912 until it moved in the 1960's to the Museum of History and Technology, now the National Museum of American History. From 1912 until 1955 the gowns were displayed in cases. The lady's gowns are now on the third floor.
The ones pictured:
Dolly Madison’s silk satin open robe is hand-embroidered with flowers, butterflies, dragonflies, and phoenixes. It is typical of the style of the late 1810s.
Caroline Harrison’s Evening Gown. Burgundy velvet and gray satin evening gown embroidered in a floral design with gray pearls and steel beads. The dress was later altered by a family member.
Mary Lincoln’s purple velvet skirt and daytime bodice are believed to have been made by African-American dressmaker Elizabeth Keckley. The first lady wore the gown during the Washington winter social season in 1861–62.
Lucy Hayes wore this gold damask and cream satin gown to the White House New Year’s reception in 1880. It was made by Mrs. M. A. Connelly, a New York dressmaker.
The Smithsonian’s First Lady collection came to be soon after Edith Roosevelt, wife of Teddy Roosevelt, left the White House. When the museum’s advocates asked her for a contribution, Roosevelt said that she wasn’t sure she could help: she often cut up dresses for the material after she wore them. Turns out her inaugural gown was no exception. Her daughter later donated the remaining bottom half, and the Smithsonian refashioned the bodice using photographs
Does the artist make the music or the music make the artist? In the beginning, artist makes the music then time and chance transcends their original intentions. Introducing the sonorous tenor JOE BATAAN! Spanish Harlem Asian-African-American!
JOE BATAAN ’s tunes roll and tones skip the creases created between decades of times once forgotten. Just as people snapped their figures and danced back in the 1960s & 1970s, they were all up and swaying Friday, October 19, 2012 @ the Smithsonian’s Asian-Pacific Center’s Joe Bataan Concert. The APC team partnered with their Latino and African-American counterparts to make this event a “HUGE” success. They brought down the HOUSE!!!
JOE BATAAN is much more than an “Ordinary Man” (as one of his title songs along). Maybe, you have heard of Gypsy Woman? If you haven’t then you have some catching up to do just like myself. This rhythmic Filipino-African-American musician’s Soulful Latino brings together an amazing lively crowd of old and new fans. His music has a natural unifying force where the audience can feel as one family.
Growing up in Spanish Harlem, JOE BATAAN became one with his Latin environment. Learning the language while truly embracing the Latin culture as a part of his expanded heritage. Much of his music (like “Meztizo”) conveys the pride and inclusion of Latino diversity of location, feelings, beats, and color. Often, we forget that location and personal choices enhance the cultivation of our heritage.
Both the Spanish and English lyrics will carry you to another place. Dance along with everyone else.
You can download JOE BATAAN’s “Anthology”, “Salsoul”, etc. Albums via iTunes or from his own website. Here is JOE BATAAN’S WEBSITE http://www.joebataan.com.
He was nominated for Salsa Legacy Award. The Salsa Music Awards scheduled March 2013.
Over 100 years ago, the Philippines once was a part of the Spanish international dominion. So, Spanish blood runs through many Filipinos veins too. But, genetics only can determine a part of who we are. Our environment has lasting influences as well. JOE BATAAN is a perfect example becoming one with Asian, African, and Latin heritage. You’ll love his soulful Latino tenor voice and his impressive band.
You will love to know that a number of his band members remained with him over the decades. He even has his lovely wife sharing the microphone!
If you haven’t attended an event hosted by Smithsonian’s Asian-Pacific Center then you’re really missing something special. Over the years, have you become tired of the same old concert set up? Here, you have a chance to participate in a Panel Discussion (which included JOE BATAAN). JOE BATAAN was joined by a number of esteemed scholars and social advocates (some from the 1960s / 1970s era). The Panel brought back the feelings of the populace during that period. Representation from Asian (Japanese & Filipino)-, African-, and Latino-Americans spoke very bluntly and with eloquence regarding the youthful aspirations and sense of meaning of the times.
Society was changing THEN. Being stretched and challenged by all social groups who often found common alignment. CAN WE MAINTAIN THE MISSION OF UNITY?