Washington, D.C. is home to dozens of museums and landmarks that commemorate the American way of life and history. Among D.C.’s famed establishments is the largest museum complex in the world, the Smithsonian, and its staggering 19 museums and galleries. Here are seven of the best that offer all of the history, culture, and art your group is searching for.
National Museum of American History
The first museum on our list is fitting for a trip to D.C. as it is devoted to exploring the past of our country in order to inspire a better future. The American History Museum possesses more than three million artifacts from the Revolutionary War to the present including the original American flag, President Lincoln’s top hat, and pop-culture iconic items like Dorothy’s ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz. The interactive, multi-media displays and extensive exhibits offer a wide range of history with exhibitions on American war conflicts and their influence on the country, the evolution of transportation, and a look at the American presidency among others.
Freer Gallery of Art
While there are plenty of galleries dedicated to European and American art, Asian art galleries tend to be overlooked. The Freer Gallery, however, has held its own as a premier collection of Asian art since its opening in 1923 with an intention to engender an appreciation for art as a form of cultural and personal expression particularly from the Asian continent. See exhibitions on archaeological finds in “Unearthing Arabia,” Islamic art, “Silk Road Luxuries from China,” contemporary Asian art, and historical artifacts from ancient Egypt. This beautiful gallery also includes collections from American artist James McNeil Whistler and his iconic Peacock Room.
National Museum of the American Indian
The American Indian is often misunderstood and underrepresented in American history and modern culture. As Native American tribes are unfortunately disappearing, museums such as this one strive to preserve their diverse cultures and to promote an unbiased understanding of the American Indian. Here you will see collections from nearly every corner of the Western Hemisphere including the indigenous Caribbean tribes, South and Central American Indians, as well as collections of modern and contemporary art. Temporary exhibitions include those on Native American treaties with the U.S., the 1862 war between the Dakota and America, as well as contemporary views of Native American life and identities.
Our modern world is constantly evolving, as does the world of modern art. The Hirshhorn Museum continuously transforms itself by acquiring new pieces to be the artistic platform of the people. Permanent collections include artists such as Mark Rothko, Paul Gauguin, Henri Matisse, Paul Adkins, Cartier, Nick Cave, and many more. See traveling exhibitions on “Speculative Forms” or the works of Barbara Kruger.
National Air and Space Museum
We are a curious people with a dream to soar, and the history of that dream is worthy of preservation. This aeronautic collection began in 1876 with a group of kites and has grown to include Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis, a 1903 Wright Flyer, and the Apollo 11 Command Module. The National Air and Space Museum brings in nearly eight million visitors every year with exhibit topics from military personal items to the space race and national security in space research during the Cold War. Attend a workshop, take a tour, or simply wander through and marvel at the Boeing planes, the space modules and rovers, and the historic artifacts that commemorate our nation’s evolution of aviation technology.
National Museum of Natural History
Step millions of years into the past or look hundreds of years into the future with the science of the Natural History museum. Interactive naturalist exhibits and displays work to inspire the public into passionately preserving our environments in the hopes of creating a better future for our planet. Collections span the entire length of recorded time from the dinosaur halls to the living Butterfly Pavilion and contemporary photography of nature’s evolving beauty. See a stuffed African elephant, live tarantula feedings, mummified cats, reconstructions of cavemen, and more.
American Art Museum
As the nation’s first collection of American art, this museum is devoted to preserving and promoting history and culture in every form of artistic expression. The melting pot philosophy of the United States makes for an interesting and wholly unique conglomeration of artistic styles that is unparalleled. See all forms of American art from the oldest works of Puerto Rico dating back to the late 17th century to contemporary movements. Collections include Early American art, Latino and African American art, Folk and Craft art, among the standard chronological collections. See works by John Singleton Copley, Thomas Moran, Horace Pippin, the Hudson River School, Thomas Cole, and Georgia O’Keeffe among others.
The extensiveness of the Smithsonian is meant to encapsulate a survey of the world over and do justice to the richness of human culture as a whole. At the Smithsonian, see more than just a memorial to American history but galleries and collections devoted to the world and a passionate hope for a better, brighter future.