The history of heavier-than-air flight goes back more than 100 years. So does the history of the College Park Airport. In fact, the hangar's story is intertwined with the Wright brothers'—Wilbur Wright once gave flight lessons to military pilots at the airport.
Today, the airport—located next to the world's oldest continuously-operating airport—is home to a Smithsonian-affiliated aviation museum with 1.5 stories of exhibit space. Hands-on interactive exhibits offer engaging entertainment for all ages. The Imagination Plane allows museum-goers to use their imagination to travel around the world, while the latest exhibit teaches about the Ercoupe—the Maryland-manufactured plane that "drives like a car". Gravity-defiers can visit a reproduction of the Wrights' 1910 Model B, as well as a prototypical helicopter from 1924 and a flock of the same geese used in theoretical bird-drawn sleighs.
Whether you're an artist or just someone who appreciates art, The Ratner Museum in Bethesda is the perfect museum choice for you.
Parking is plentiful, so visitors can feel free to bring their vehicles.
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.
Many of the rooms in President Lincoln's Cottage resound with the voices of Lincoln and his houseguests, in the form of actor-interpreted recordings broadcast through audio speakers. Though not all rooms are accessible to the public, daily tours through this Gothic Revival home use interactive multimedia to tell the stories of Abraham Lincoln's ideas, struggles in passing emancipation, and family during the three summers they spent here during the Civil War. Knowledgeable guides divulge facts about the president's meditations and meetings, often tailoring tours to their areas of personal expertise, such as war or politics. They showcase video screens populated by images about Lincoln's life. Guides also invite visitors to engage in conversation throughout the tour while welcoming them to sit on furniture.
The adjacent Robert H. Smith Visitor Education Center, built in 1905 and restored as a LEED-certified building, houses a range of both permanent and temporary exhibits. Visitors engage with interactive displays, photos, and manuscripts revealing the presidential Cabinet's feelings on emancipation, life in Washington DC during the Civil War, and the president's role as commander in chief. The cottage also hosts a lecture series with guests that have included historians, Lincoln experts, and an artist who sculpted a life-size statue of the president and his horse, which today stands watch over the cottage.
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.
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.