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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

Museums in Washington, D.C.

Museums in Washington, D.C.

Museums in Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C., is the political capital of the United States, with all three branches of the U.S. federal government are centered in the District: Congress, the legislative branch, the President, the executive branch, and the U.S. Supreme Court, the judicial branch.

Washington is also home to many national monuments, and museums, primarily situated on or around the National Mall. With over 80 Museums, Art Galleries and Historic Houses, the most famous museums in Washington, D.C. include the following.

A Tour of Washington, D.C. Museums

Best Museums in Washington DC?

  • National Gallery of Art
    • The National Gallery of Art and its attached Sculpture Garden is the national art museum in Washington, D.C., located on the National Mall. The museum was originally privately established in 1937 for the American people by a joint resolution of the United States Congress. Andrew W. Mellon donated a substantial art collection and funds for construction. The Gallery’s collection of paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, sculpture, medals, and decorative arts traces the development of Western Art from the Middle Ages to the present.
  • National Museum of American History
    • The National Museum of American History collects the heritage of the United States in the areas of social, political, cultural, scientific, and military history. The museum is part of the Smithsonian Institution and located on the National Mall.
  • National Air and Space Museum
    • The National Air and Space Museum displays the largest collection of historic aircraft and spacecraft in the world. It was established in 1946 and opened its main building in 1976. The museum contains historical objects such as the Apollo 11 module, the Friendship 7 capsule, the Bell X-1 which broke the sound barrier, and the Wright brothers’ plane. The main building of the National Air and Space Museum is on the National Mall near L’Enfant Plaza. The Museum also operates an annexe at Dulles International Airport, which opened in 2003 and itself encompasses 760,000 square feet (71,000 m2).
  • National Museum of African American History and Culture
    • The National Museum of African American History and Culture is a Smithsonian Institution Museum on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. It has over 35,000 objects in its collection related to African American History and Culture and is open to the public for free of charge. The museum was established in 2003, and it opened in 2016, in a ceremony led by U.S. President Barack Obam. Its collection relates to African American subjects of community, family, the visual and performing arts, religion, civil rights, slavery, and segregation. The museum has separate 12 exhibition areas with multiple interactive activities and videos across five floors.
  • National Museum of Natural History
    • The National Museum of Natural History is a natural history museum administered by the Smithsonian Institution. The museum was one of the first Smithsonian buildings explicitly constructed to hold the national collections and research facilities. The museum’s collections contain over 126 million specimens of plants, animals, fossils, minerals, rocks, meteorites, human remains, and human cultural artefacts.
  • National Portrait Gallery
    • The National Portrait Gallery is part of the Smithsonian Institution, and its collection focuses on images of famous Americans. The museum is housed in the Old Patent Office Building, as is the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
  • Smithsonian American Art Museum
    • The Smithsonian American Art Museum is part of the Smithsonian Institution. It holds one of the largest collections of art, from the American colonial period to the present. The museum has more than 7,000 artists represented in the collection. The museum’s main building is the old Patent Office Building which it shares with the National Portrait Gallery. Craft-focused exhibitions are shown in the Renwick Gallery.
  • The Phillips Collection
    • The Phillips Collection is an art museum with a collection that includes paintings by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Gustave Courbet, El Greco, Vincent van Gogh, Henri Matisse, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso and other leading artists.
  • Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
    • The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden is a museum of contemporary and modern art and currently focuses its collection-building and exhibition-planning mainly on the post–World War II.
  • International Spy Museum
    • The International Spy Museum is dedicated to the tradecraft, history and contemporary role of espionage. The Museum features a collection of international espionage artefacts and displays on the history of espionage.
  • National Museum of Women in the Arts
    • The National Museum of Women in the Arts is dedicated to celebrating women’s achievements in the visual, performing, and literary arts. The museum’s collection includes over 4,500 paintings, sculptures, works on paper, and decorative art. Highlights of the collection include works by Mary Cassatt, Frida Kahlo, and Élisabeth Louise Vigée-Le Brun.
  • United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    • The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is adjacent to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and focuses on the documentation, study, and interpretation of Holocaust history. It is dedicated to helping the world confront hatred, prevent genocide, promote human dignity, and strengthen democracy. The museum’s collections contain more than 12,750 artifacts, 49 million pages of archival documents, 85,000 historical photographs, a list of over 200,000 registered survivors and their families, 1,000 hours of archival footage, 93,000 library items, and 9,000 oral history testimonies.

Washington, D.C. Museums

  • City:                  Washington, D.C.
  • District:             District of Columbia (DC)
  • Country:           United States
  • Created:           1790
  • Demonym:       Washingtonian
  • Population:       6 million – Metro
  • Named after:   George Washington, 1st President of the US

Quotes about Washington, D.C.

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“Washington is a very easy city for you to forget where you came from and why you got there in the first place.”
– Harry S. Truman

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“A community of Southern efficiency and Northern charm.”
– John F. Kennedy

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“You want a friend in Washington? Get a dog.”
– Harry S Truman

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“What Washington needs is adult supervision.”
– Barack Obama

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“I go to assume a task more difficult than that which devolved upon Washington. Unless the great God, who assisted him, shall be with me and aid me, I must fail; but if the same omniscient mind and almighty arm that directed and protected him shall guide and support me, I shall not fail – I shall succeed.”
– Abraham Lincoln

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“I’ll be long gone before some smart person ever figures out what happened inside this Oval Office.”
– George W. Bush

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“Washington DC is corporate-occupied territory”.
– Ralph Nader

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“The mystery of government is not how Washington works but how to make it stop. ”
– P. J. O’Rourke

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“The constant drive for campaign dollars has distorted decision-making in Washington, DC, to the point where our systems can no longer effectively address complex, long-term problems like the climate crisis”.
– Al Gore

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“The need for reflection and restraint of power is what led Louis Freeh to order that all new agent classes visit the Holocaust Museum here in Washington so they could see and feel and hear in a palpable way the consequences of abuse of power on a massive, almost unimaginable scale.”
– James Comey

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“Where the criminals cover their crimes by making them legal.”
– Frank Dane

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“Washington isn’t a city; it’s an abstraction.”
– Dylan Thomas

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“America’s middle class is getting hammered, and Washington is rigged to work for the big guy.”
– Elizabeth Warren

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“Political life at Washington is like political life in a suburban vestry.”
– Oscar Wilde

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“What’s fascinating is, people in Washington would rather spend time in Hollywood, and people in Hollywood would rather spend time in Washington.”
– Arnold Schwarzenegger

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“When it comes to Washington, most people tend to think first of politics. But Washington is also a geographic and physical place. It is, for instance, one of the few cities in the world where you can talk endlessly about trees.”
– Katharine Graham

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“When they go low, we go high.”
– Michelle Obama

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“I think a lot of Americans are not sure which side Washington is on: the side of banks or the side of the people”.
– Elizabeth Warren

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“Washington and Congress are steeped in history and tradition, and that’s been very male-oriented.”
– Nancy Pelosi

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“I date the end of the old republic and the birth of the empire to the invention, in the late thirties, of air conditioning. Before air conditioning, Washington was deserted from mid-June to September. … But after air conditioning and the Second World War arrived, more or less at the same time, Congress sits and sits while the presidents — or at least their staffs — never stop making mischief.”
– Gore Vidal

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“It is sometimes called the City of Magnificent Distances, but it might with greater propriety be termed the City of Magnificent Intentions. … Spacious avenues, that begin in nothing, and lead nowhere; streets, mile-long, that only want houses, roads, and inhabitants; public buildings that need but a public to be complete; and ornaments of great thoroughfares, which only lack great thoroughfares to ornament — are its leading features.”
– Charles Dickens

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A Tour of Museums in the USA

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“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” 
– Abraham Lincoln

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Photo Credit: Carol M. Highsmith [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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