Considered to be the country's only public museum devoted to the history of global espionage, the International Spy Museum teems with multimedia displays, hands-on activities, and educational events. Filled with low-lit halls and mysterious doors, the museum backs up its exhibits with experience; many of its board members, staff, and speakers are former spies. Executive Director Peter Earnest, for one, spent more than 35 years in the CIA and its National Clandestine Service; frequent speaker Oleg Kalugin once held a position as major general of the KGB. Through special talks and an array of exhibits, the group reveals several hundred years of spy techniques and gadgetry, showcases connections between real spies and pop culture, and draws from international backgrounds to grant a global perspective.
In the Exquisitely Evil: 50 Years of Bond Villains exhibit, visitors explore the most memorable villains from throughout the James Bond film series, discovering the role the series played in shaping public perception of spying and exploring how the villains changed to reflect their times. Featuring over 110 movie and historic artifacts, a series galleries allows visitors to learn about the wide variety of evildoers from many perspectives. For an additional charge, guests can opt to embark on a simulated covert mission entirely based on real intelligence case files in Operation Spy, a one-hour interactive exhibit during which participants ride in simulated truck beds and use video surveillance to find leaked nuclear-trigger technology in a fictional country.
William Wilson Corcoran believed in American artists at a time when most collectors bought only European paintings. The financier-turned-philanthropist made friends with masters such as Thomas Doughty and George Inness, bought what interested him, and even opened up his home twice a week so the public could view his collection. And that practice was the seed which grew into the Corcoran Gallery of Art. The formal location opened in 1874 with 98 paintings and sculptures from Corcoran's personal collection. Today, that collection exceeds 16,000.
The focus on 18th- to 20th-century American artists such as Mary Cassatt and Andy Warhol remains—but that doesn't mean the gallery has blinders on. It also holds works by European luminaries such as Pablo Picasso and Edgar Degas. The collection even extends into decorative art such as the Salon Doré, an 18th-century French period room once housed in Paris's Hôtel de Clermont.
In the same way the Corcoran Gallery extends beyond American art, it pushes its purpose beyond simply displaying masterpieces. Year-round events include lectures from prominent critics as well as live performances and wine mixers. The Corcoran even nurtures the next generation of talent with after-school and weekend classes that teach students how to draw everything from landscapes to landscapes covered with bowls of fruit.
The Phillips Collection emerged from one man's passion for art. Duncan Phillips filled his 19th-century Georgian Revival house with artwork, and he invited others to come and look at his collection. In 1921, the home formally became a museum of modern art. Impressionist and modern works fill its walls, and the collection continues to grow to accommodate contemporary artists.
The story of the descendants of the nation’s First Family is told at Tudor Place, an historic home hidden away on a Georgetown side street. The five-acre estate was the home of Martha and George Washington’s granddaughter Martha Parke Custis Peter. Five more generations of the family lived here before it became a National Historic Landmark in the 1980s, and now the notable home contains more of George and Martha’s memorabilia than anywhere outside of Mount Vernon. But because the home was occupied by members of the Washington family for nearly 200 years, its riches span the centuries, from original keepsakes handed down by Martha herself to more current pieces that tell the family’s rich history. The extensive gardens are particularly lovely in the spring, when many of the period flowers bloom.
Madame Tussauds Washington D.C. escorts guests on an interactive journey through American history. Only here, the past isn't manifested through movies, but through wax. Inside, The President's Gallery brings visitors face-to-face with all 44 US presidents, from Harry Truman to Abe Lincoln and his signature spinning bowtie. Cultural leaders, such as Martin Luther King Jr., stand tall nearby, and rock stars such as Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan compose silent jam sessions in the Music Room. Hollywood stars, sports heroes, and nonpresidential political figures round out the collection, which can be visited 365 days a year.
With an arsenal of informative magazines, elegant photographs, and illuminating documentaries, National Geographic has inspired planetary responsibility and natural wonderment for more than 120 years. Their latest filmed adventure, The Last Lions, ushers viewers into the wetlands of Botswana's Okavango Delta, where a lioness named Ma di Tau and her cubs fight for their survival. From fleeing raging fires and cub-killing rival prides to wading through crocodile-infested rivers and the supermarket at rush hour, this family suffers perils that leave audiences touched and awestruck. Crafted by award-winning filmmakers, Dereck and Beverly Joubert, and narrated by Jeremy Irons, The Last Lions aims to raise awareness of dwindling big-cat populations while sharing a compelling story of hope. The film is rated PG for depictions of the food-chain cycle without the accompaniment of an Elton John song.