Our Nation’s Capital is home to a bounty of world-class museums. Today, Renee Sklarew, shares with us six Washington, D.C., museums to put on your must-see list.
- Renwick Gallery of Art
A branch of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the gallery sits across the street from the White House. It contains uncommon art exhibits, such as “Wonder” and “Burning Man”—shows that have transformed the historic mansion into a wildly popular social media experience. The Renwick focuses installations on contemporary craft and decorative arts, like a room wallpapered in bugs or a metal dragon on wheels. The Renwick offers gallery talks with curators and art experts. The Renwick Gallery is located across the street from the White House and admission is free of charge.
- National Archives
Located on the National Mall, The National Archives’ main floor is devoted to housing the country’s most important documents, including the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.
Below that is an under-appreciated and totally fascinating museum devoted to “Records of Rights,” documents ranging from the Revolutionary War to women’s suffrage, slavery, civil rights, immigrant prejudice, unions, and labor injustice. Admission to the museum is free. For more information visit the website.
- The Capitol Visitor Center
Visitors meet for tours of the Capitol at the visitor center located beneath the East Front plaza of the U.S. Capitol at First Street and East Capitol Street. The visitor center also houses a cafeteria, a gift shop, and exhibits. Public tours offer a small sampling of the Capitol’s spaces, including the Rotunda, Statuary Hall, and the Crypt. To see the galleries, you need a pass obtained in advance through your Congressional representative. The tour and pass are free of charge. More information is available here.
- Ford’s Theatre & Museum
Iconic Ford’s Theatre is the place where assassin John Wilkes Booth shot President Abraham Lincoln during a play back in 1865, right after the Civil War ended. The National Park Service offers tours of the building that also houses a museum focused on the conspiracy to murder the President and Lincoln’s life leading up to his death. Artifacts of note include letters between Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, as well as the murder weapon.
Go across the street to the Peterson House, where the President died. It’s dedicated to the aftermath of his death and the monumental legacy President Lincoln left behind. Please note that Ford’s Theater is both a working theater and a museum and is located at 511 10th St. N.W. Admission is free of charge. Advance tickets are available online for a $3 convenience fee.
- Museum of the Bible
This museum immerses visitors in the impact and history of the Bible using innovative technology. There are six floors of exhibits that showcase elements of Biblical history, such as how the history of the written word can best be explained by following the progress and distribution of the Bible. Some highlights are a first-edition King James Bible and several ancient Torah scrolls. The second floor focuses on the impact of the Bible on America and the world. The third level has the most powerful experience, with theatrical presentations of Bible stories you might remember from the movie The Ten Commandments. The fly-over virtual reality tour of Washington D.C.’s locations with religious significance is an additional $10, but it’s truly amazing. On the top floor, there’s an excellent restaurant by Chef Todd English called Manna. Dine in the outdoor garden and enjoy the impressive views of the Washington Monument from this observation level. The Museum of the Bible is located on 4th Street, S.W., within steps of the Federal Center S.W. Metro Station. Admission is $19.95 when purchased online, day-of tickets are $24.99.
Located at 555 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., the striking glass-and-steel, six-story museum displays 80 front pages culled from 600 newspapers every day. This is the museum’s last year in this location, so now is the time to see it in its magnificent glory. From the upper floors, you’ll have extraordinary views of the Mall and government buildings. A 4-D film features the history of investigative reporting; while a display of noteworthy events, like the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and Nixon’s resignation stretches up the walls. The museum displays sections of the Berlin Wall and the World Trade Center. These exhibits are quite moving. Families love playing interactive games, and everyone enjoys taking a turn as a reporter using the museum’s blue-wall video. For admission prices and opening hours, check their website.
For information on all Washington, D.C., museums, check out The Unofficial Guide to Washington, D.C.