The world-renowned, research-centric Smithsonian Institution houses more than 136 million artifacts in 19 museums and galleries, publishes two popular magazines, and cares for nearly 2,000 animals at the National Zoo. Premium members can learn about history and science with an annual subscription to Smithsonian (a $12 value) and then flip through a year's worth of Air & Space magazine to discover the origin of MoonPies (a $19 value). Premium membership also gets you two tickets to the Einstein Planetarium at the Air and Space Museum or two passes to visit one of three Smithsonian IMAX theaters, which feature films such as Grand Canyon Adventure, a journey down the Colorado River, and Fighter Pilot, a tour of the clouds led by an ornery aviator (each an $18 value). Members can also live out monarchic mad collector fantasies at the Smithsonian Castle, stuffing tuxedo pockets with a handy visitors' guide, chock-full of museum floor plans, information on current exhibitions, and the whereabouts of shopping and eating establishments (a $2 value).
The National Museum of Women in the Arts brings recognition to the achievements of women artists of all periods and nationalities by exhibiting, preserving, acquiring, and researching art by women and by teaching the public about their accomplishments.
Originally the residence of U.S. Capitol architect Edward Clark, O Street Museum’s five interconnected townhouses today enfold a private club, luxury hotel, conference center, and museum. The O Street Museum explores the creative process with more than 1,500 ever-changing exhibits, including handwritten manuscripts, animation stills, and autographed items from such musicians as Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen. Shedding the restraints of a standard museum, O Street grants guests the freedom to leaf through collections of photographs and letters from visual artists or gently cradle sleeping sculptures in their bare hands.
Themed tours for groups or individuals unveil the subtleties of the museum’s elegant space, adorned with original, hand-painted ceilings and Tiffany stained-glass windows. Immersive special events include the Raw and Exposed program, which draws from the museum’s vast archives as it presents rare recordings from artists such as Janis Joplin and The Beatles. Amateur and seasoned musicians unite on stage during weekly jam sessions, and the SRO concert series fills the museum’s intimate space with one-of-a-kind gospel performances, drag shows, and sock-puppet reenactments of the Revolutionary War.
In 1959, David and Carmen Kreeger began a personal collection of modern art, forming a shared vision based on creative passion instead of investment. David Kreeger himself said, “Art that embodies the creative spirit of men transcends the value of money." In 1994, four years after David’s death, the Kreeger Museum opened under the direction of Judy A. Greenberg with the mission of enhancing “the understanding and appreciation of art, architecture and music,” three of the Kreegers’ lifelong passions and favorite Jeopardy! categories.
Today, their personal acquisitions form the foundation of a collection of 19th- and 20th-century paintings from masters such as Monet, Cézanne, and Picasso, along with works of traditional African and Asian art. Art pervades every inch of the museum campus, from the 5.5-acre wooded sculpture garden surrounding the building to the building itself designed by Pritzker Prize–winning architect Philip Johnson using a modernist approach and limestone imported from Italy. The building uses light and movement to guide visitors through the great hall, gallery spaces, and recital hall for performances of Beethoven’s B-sides.
It’s only fitting that a museum devoted to architecture is itself housed in a formidable structure. The National Building Museum's 19th-century edifice greets visitors with somber Union soldiers sculpted into the exterior’s 1,200-foot frieze. Corinthian columns 75 feet high and built with 70,000 bricks lead into the cavernous Great Hall, which soars up to 159 feet in height and captures the echo of groups as they follow the color-coded banners towards exhibits devoted to American and international architecture, engineering, and design. Drawing on hands-on children’s toys, drawings, photographs, and models, the exhibits delve into everything from the history of the American home to the evolution of building blocks and other architectural toys. Future-facing exhibits, meanwhile, focus on topics such as sustainable school buildings that employ recycled construction materials and singing plants instead of teachers. The museum shop practices what it preaches with an award-winning selection of sustainable housewares, toys, and books.
The Textile Museum is finding a new home in 2014, moving to the campus of George Washington University. There, inside their roomy, airy new digs, the unique facility will continue to dutifully display fabrics and rugs from around the world, highlighting cultural works and important pieces across time. Since the museum was founded nearly 90 years ago, the collection has expanded to encompass some 19,000 objects, and spans a full spectrum of non-Western textile arts across nearly 5,000 years. Featured shows cluster objects together thoughtfully to create unique displays, while the overall mission of the museum is to unite textiles from across cultures to explore expressions of individual, cultural, political and social identity. The facility will also showcase the Textile Museum’s world-renowned historic collections, and will present special exhibitions covering everything from contemporary textiles to fashion.