USS Constitution Museum (Boston, Massachusetts, USA)

USS Constitution Museum

The USS Constitution Museum serves as the memory and educational voice of the still floating and docked frigate USS Constitution (“Old Ironsides”) and provides engaging and hands-on experiences for all visitors. An interpretive complement to this still active duty naval vessel (first launched in 1797) but managed separately, it tells the story of the ship and the people who designed, built and sailed her through its collection of artifacts related to the ship’s history and interactive exhibits.

Check out “USS Constitution – Old Ironsides

Fully rigged model of USS Constitution

Part of the Boston National Historical Park, it is housed in a restored shipyard building at the foot of Pier 2, just across the pier from the Constitution, at the end of Boston’s Freedom Trail. Highly recommended for naval history fans, both ship and museum are a “must see” for anyone visiting Boston.

Check out “Freedom Trail”

Painting of the launching of the USS Constitution

The museum, a Smithsonian Institution Affiliate, was honored to be rated a prestigious 4 stars on Charity Navigator.  It has won many awards including the 2003 National Award for Museum and Library Service, the 2010 Excellence in Exhibition Label Writing Award, the 2011 Leadership in History Award of Merit, the 2011 Muse Award for Online Presence and the Parent’s Choice Award.

A Hero’s Welcome

A private, award-winning non-profit organization incorporated in 1972, the museum opened its doors at its present facility in 1976. Its founding enabled the Constitution to clear its decks of display cases so that visitors who tour aboard would see a frigate ready to sail, rather than a floating museum. It is also home to the Samuel Eliot Morison Memorial Library and includes a comprehensive archival repository of records related to the ship’s history.

All Hands on Deck – A Sailor’s Life in 1812

The fantastic All Hands on Deck: A Sailor’s Life in 1812, a permanent all-ages interactive  exhibit (combined with images, sound, theater, artifacts and physical and mental tests) located at the second floor geared specifically toward children, was opened on n July 3, 2009. 

A scaled model of a yard and work ropes

Based on the museum’s ongoing historical research into lives of 1243 sailors’ and officers’ that served aboard the USS Constitution during the War of 1812, it explores the harsh realities of life at sea, through a combination of authentic storytelling and hands-on activities, just as the War of 1812 is declared.

The author tries out a hammock

Here, you can discover the unique world afloat as you swing in a authentic canvas hammock that sailors used to bed down, climb onto a scaled model of a yard and work ropes to try to shorten and furl a sail; get on your hands and knees and grab a holy stone to scrub a deck; experience battle and learn how they survived for months, sometimes years at sea.

Ship’s Store

Along the walls are life-sized cutouts of notable crew members, each with a plaque telling their own unique story aboard the ship.  You can also find out the dramatic twists in the life story of 8 year old David Debias, an African-American boy that joined Constitution’s crew in 1812. There are also actual artifacts from the ship including an actual biscuit that a sailor saved as a souvenir.

There’s also a station where you can test your knot-tying abilities and, at the end of the exhibition, spin a wheel to determine your ultimate fate at sea.

Forest to Frigate – a cross section of the Constitution

Forest to Frigate, the museum’s newest hands-on exhibit, chronicles the ship’s first 200 years, how and why she was built, how she earned her fame in the War of 1812, and why the US Navy still preserves the the over two century old wooden frigate as a commissioned warship. 

Enter the 1790’s to follow the story from the forest in which “Old Ironsides’” timbers grew to her launch as a fully formed frigate.  Decide for yourself what kind of ship to build, meet men like Paul Revere who labored to bring her to life, and test your shipyard skills.

Old Ironsides in War and Peace

Old Ironsides in War and Peace” provides an in-depth look at the ship’s storied history, including how and why she was built, how she earned her fame during the War of 1812, and why she is preserved at the United States Navy‘s oldest commissioned warship. The exhibits on the War of 1812 and the Barbary War are especially interesting. Here you can trace the birth of the US Navy during these relatively unknown conflicts.

Weapons Chest with a musket, rifle, 2 pistols and 2 cutlasses

On display are  scores of artifacts, documents, and photographs illustrating Constitution‘s decisive and symbolic role in US history.  They include a spike made by Paul Revere’s shop and phenomenal period paintings of USS Constitution and her captains

Old Ironsides – War of 1812 Discovery Center

“Old Ironsides” War of 1812 Discovery Center, an interactive exhibit designed for families in mind, explains the causes and consequences of the War of 1812 through games, multi-media, books, and other hands-on activities.

Old Ironsides – War of 1812 Discovery Center

Constitution vs HMS Java” tells the story of the battle between Constitution and HMS Java, through artwork, archival records, and artifacts associated with the battle.

Model Shipwright Guild

The Model Shipwright Guild, at the ground floor of the museum, operates a workshop, where visitors can see volunteer modelers working on fantastically detailed miniatures of the USS Constitution and other ships.

Museum Store

USS Constitution Museum : Building 22, Charlestown Navy Yard88 Constitution Rd., 
BostonMassachusetts 02129, USA.  Tel: +1 617-996-1954 and +1 617-426-1812.Open daily, 10AM – 5PM. The museum is closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. ​ Admission: free (a suggested donation of US$5 for adults and US $3 for children is welcome). Website:

How to Get There: The GPS address is 1 Constitution Road, Charlestown. For thos with cars, you can park in the Nautica Parking Garage across from the Naval Yard Visitor Center.  For those taking public transporation, take the MBTA Green Line (to North Station) or Orange Line (to Bunker Hill Community College). Walk east on Causeway Street towards the Zakim Bridge/North End. At the first light (North Washington Street), turn left and cross the Charlestown Bridge. Follow the Freedom Trail red line to the Charlestown Navy Yard and enter through Gate 1.

National Museum of American History: Kenneth E. Behring Center (Washington D.C., USA)

National Museum of American History: Kenneth E. Behring Center

The National Museum of American History (NMAH): Kenneth E. Behring Center, a museum that is part of the Smithsonian Institution, collects, preserves, and displays the heritage of the United States in the areas of social, political, cultural, scientific and military history. The first of the National Mall’s post-war Brutalist behemoths. It consists of three H-shaped floors with a central axis leading to exhibition space on either side.

The south facade of the museum

Opened in 1964 as the Museum of History and Technology, it was one of the last structures designed by the renowned architectural firm McKim Mead & White, the firm that initiated the Classical Revival on the Mall with its 1910 Beaux Arts National Museum of Natural History. In 1980, the museum was renamed the National Museum of American History to represent its mission of the collection, care, study, and interpretation of objects that reflect the experience of the American people.

1 West

From September 5, 2006 to November 21, 2008, the museum was closed when it underwent an US$85 million renovation.   Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, led by Gary Haney, provided the architecture and interior design services for the renovation.

Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology

Major changes made include a new, five-storey, skylit atriums surrounded by displays of artifacts that showcase the breadth of the museum’s collection; a new, grand staircase that links the museum’s first and second floors; a new welcome center; the addition of six landmark objects to orient visitors; new galleries such as the Jerome and Dorothy Lemelson Hall of Invention; and an environmentally controlled chamber to protect the original Star-Spangled Banner.

Archive Center

In 2012, the museum began a US$37 million renovation of the west wing; adding new exhibition spaces, public plazas, an education center, panoramic windows overlooking the National Mall on all three floors and new interactive features to the exhibits. On July 1, 2015, the first floor of the west wing reopened and, in 2016 and 2017 respectively,  the second and third floors of the west wing were reopened.

Linda and Pete Clausen Hall of Democracy

Visitors can enter the vast NMAH building either from the on-grade National Mall entrance or from the below-grade Constitution Avenue entrance (a walled terrace bridges the differing heights), both minuscule apertures that are not fitting entrances that furnish a sense of grandeur or importance to a museum built to tell America’s story.  At its National Mall entrance is Infinity, a 7.3 m. (24-ft.) tall abstract sculpture (one of the first abstract sculptures displayed at a major public building in Washington D.C.) dedicated in 1967. Designed by José de Rivera and created by Roy Gussow, the sculpture is a 4.9 m. (16-ft.) long, polished stainless steel ribbon on top of a granite tower.

Alexander Calder’s steel sculpture Gwenfritz.  In the background is the National Museum of African American History and Culture

We entered the museum via the latter. Here, on the west side, is Alexander Calder‘s sculpture, Gwenfritz, a 35-ton steel abstract stabile (named after its socialite patron Gwendolyn Cafritz) installed in a fountain and dedicated to the museum on June 2, 1969. The long entrance hall, like many other areas of the building, is poorly illuminated and dispiriting. During our visit, the west side of the second floor was undergoing refurbishment through the end of 2017, and the west side of third floor until 2018.

Artifact walls line the first and second floor center core, with dimly lit 84 m. (275 ft.) of glass-fronted cases, each crammed with hundreds of random objects, big and small, are organized around themes that include arts; popular culture; business, work and economy; home and family; community; land and natural resources; peopling America; politics and reform; science; medicine; technology; and the United States’ role in the world.

A landmark object highlights the theme of each wing of the museum’s three exhibition floors. These include the John Bull locomotivethe Greensboro, Woolworth’s North Carolina lunch counter (where four legends from North Carolina A&T State University staged a sit-in in 1961 to protest segregation), a one of a kind draft wheel and, from pre-existing exhibits, the 1865 Vassar Telescope, a Red Cross ambulance and a car from Disneyland‘s Dumbo Flying Elephant ride.

John Bull Locomotive of 1831

The first floor contains a café, the main museum store, the Constitution Avenue lobby (1 Center) as well as a space for temporary exhibits. 1 East, the first floor’s East Wing, houses the General Motors Hall of Transportation which has series of two transportation-related exhibits that are roughly related – “America on the Move” (opened November 22, 2003) and its companion exhibition, “On the Water: Stories from Maritime America” (opened on May 20, 2009).  One of the best parts of the museum, the John Bull locomotive is the signature artifact.

America on the Move: On the Interstate – 1967 Pontiac Grand Prix convertible and 1986 Dodge Caravan

America on the Move,” designed by the Museum Design Associates of Cambridge, Mass.; AMAZE Design of Boston; and the Smith Group, of Washington, D.C., encompasses nearly 26,000 sq. ft. on the first floor of the museum, and includes 340 objects and 19 historic settings in chronological order.

Roadside Communities: Tourist cabin at Ring’s Rest (Muirkirk, Maryland).  On the left is a 1934 Ford Deluxe Roadster

City and Suburb: Fageol Twin Coach “Old Look” Liquefied-Propane Gas-Powered Bus, 1950 (2)

It takes visitors on a fascinating journey, from the coming of the railroad to a California town in 1876 to the role of the streetcar and the automobile in creating suburbs to the global economy of Los Angeles in 1999, as they travel back in time and experience transportation, through multimedia technology and environment, as it changed America, seeing historic artifacts as they once were, a vital part of the nation’s transportation system and of the business, social, and cultural history of the country.

1926 Ford Model T Roadster on its side on a Turn Auto

A Streetcar City: Electric streetcar, 1898

The Smithsonian’s popular and voluminous collection of the many and varied forms of rare, fascinating, and important transportation is showcased in historic settings brought to life by large mural backdrops, 73 cast figures and soundscapes.

On the School Bus: 36-passenger Dodge school bus, 1936

The People’s Highway: Route 66

It  includes the horse-drawn cart, early automobiles, the electric car, buses, a Chicago Transit Authority “L” car,  a massive 199-ton, 92-foot-long “1401” Southern Railway locomotive and a gigantic 1930’s steam engine plus a 40-foot stretch of the famed Route 66.

On the Water:  Stories from Maritime America

The brilliantly conceived and beautifully executed “On the Water: Stories from Maritime America,” a pleasing and instructive museum experience on the left side of the entrance of General Motors Hall of Transportation, leads the visitor through 7 topical/chronological sections that span American maritime history from 1450 to the present.

Ocean Crossings

It explores the many ways in which Americans, from Colonial times to the present, have pursued commerce at sea and on America’s extensive coastal and inland waterways through impressive artifacts, flawless audiovisual aids, instructive texts, and a powerful aesthetic.

Web of Connections

The 8,500 sq. ft. exhibit seamlessly carries the visitor through topics as diverse as commercial fishing, passenger liners, the slave trade, container ships, and the contributions of the merchant marine to victory in World War II.

Tobacco ship Brilliant

On display are rigged ship models (including a large model of the tobacco ship Brilliant) representing the web of vessels that transported sugar, tobacco and slaves; a wooden snuff box carved into the shape of a potbellied man (with one eye bulging, the other missing) that connects vast trade systems to everyday consumer habits; a real-life steam engine room; a Fresnel lighthouse lens that lit waters 17 miles afar; a tucked-away safety vest invention that appears to be a twin mattress folded, diaper-like, under the wearer’s torso; and the first sliver of gold found at Sutter’s Mill that precipitated the California Gold Rush.

Lighting a Revolution

The “Lighting a Revolution” exhibition, opened at 1 East to commemorate the centennial of Thomas Edison’s light bulb, considers experiments with electricity before Edison’s, the “Invention Factory” at Menlo Park, how Edison created a market for his product, and the impact of electricity in factories, on city streets, and in the home.

The exhibition features a bulb from a public demonstration of Edison’s light in Menlo Park during Christmas week, 1879; and early electrical appliances for the home, some of which caught on, such as electric fans, and some which did not, namely the electric marshmallow toaster.

Lemelson Hall of Invention and Innovation

The large but sparsely furnished “Lemelson Hall of Invention and Innovation,” opened July 1, 2015, features “Places of Invention,” Draper Spark!Lab and “Inventive Minds.”  “Places of Invention” is centered on the theme of innovation, where the museum is transforming how its audiences will experience history.

Inventive Minds

“Inventive Minds,” a small gallery, introduces visitors to the work of the Lemelson Center, particularly its efforts to document diverse American inventors.  Draper Spark!Lab, a hands-on exhibit, has the Vassar Telescope as its signature artifact.

Places of Invention

The exhibition features 37 objects illustrating the inventions at the heart of each case study. Highlighted objects include a Technicolor camera used to film The Wizard of Oz; a turntable used by Grandmaster Flash; the prototype of the first computer mouse invented by Douglas Engelbart at the Stanford Research Institute (on loan from SRI International); 1886 Columbia Light Roadster men’s high-wheel bicycle; an example of the Medtronic 5800 Model External Pacemaker invented by Earl Bakken; and several prototypes representing cutting-edge clean energy inventions coming out of Fort Collins.

In addition, there are five interactive stations set up on tables where visitors can participate in fun, hands-on learning experiences such as designing their own eight-bit icon (Silicon Valley section) or learning and practicing their DJ “scratching” skills (The Bronx section). However, objects such as a jukebox, a Howdy Doody puppet and a pink Patsy Cline costume do not necessarily bring the word “invention” to mind.

Vault door marking the entrance to the Gallery of Numismatics

The Gallery of Numismatics, opened July 1, 2015 at 1 West, delves into the world-class National Numismatic Collection (NNC), one of the Smithsonian’s oldest and most treasured collections (with more than 1.6 million objects), to uncover stories related to the origins, innovations, messages, artistry and allure of money.

Collecting Money and the World’s Gold

Entered via a vault door, it showcases more than 400 objects from the NNC, some of which are among the rarest in the world. The exhibition, thematically organized into five sections, allows visitors to learn about the origins of money, new monetary technologies, the political and cultural messages money conveys, numismatic art and design, and the practice of collecting money.

Origins – 168 pound stone ring from Yap Island

Featured American objects includes a storied 1933 Double Eagle, a personal check signed by Pres. James Madison in 1813, a 1934 US$100,000 note and a Depression-era $1 clam shell. International artifacts include a 168-pound stone ring used to make payments on Island of Yap, a 465 B.C.; a decadrachma coin from Syracuse, Sicily; a 14th-century Ming Note from China and a 1762 8 Real Coin from Mexico (also known as a Spanish piece of eight).  The gallery will also showcase the famous Josiah K. Lilly Jr. collection of gold coins and the Grand Duke Georgii Mikhailovich collection of Russian coins (thought to be the finest outside of Russia).

Stories on Money

Stories on Money,” a numismatic exhibition housed in a small room, comprehensibly traces the historical and aesthetic evolution of US banknotes and coinage through a skillfully culled collection.

Female Figures on Money

Food: Transforming the American Table, 1950-2000,” a 3,800 sq. ft. exhibition opened last November 20, 2012 in 1 East, is a creative blend of objects, graphics, video and an interactive, communal table that highlights how American eating and shopping habits have changed during those five decades.

Julia Child’s Home Kitchen

Julia Child‘s Home Kitchen, the opening story of the museum’s first major exhibition on food history, contains the tools, appliances, equipment, and furnishings arranged exactly as they were when Julia donated it to the museum. New and Improved!” explores the innovations behind some of the major changes in food production, distribution, preparation, and consumption since the 1950s.

Wine at the Table: Innovations at the Vineyard and the Winery

At Wine for the Table, discover how new technologies, innovators, and changing attitudes led to the tremendous growth and expansion of wine and winemaking, an important story in postwar America, in all 50 states by 2000.

The large, communal table in the center of the exhibition

At Open Table, the public is invited take a seat at a large, communal table, in the center of the exhibition, and engage in conversation about a wide range of food-related issues and topics, sharing their own thoughts and experiences about food and change in America.

American Enterprise

The 8,000 sq. ft. American Enterprise, opened last July 1, 2015 at 1 West, focuses on the role of business and innovation from the mid-1700s to the present.  It chronicles the tumultuous interaction of capitalism and democracy that resulted in the continual remaking of American business—and American life.

Westinghouse Compound Engine

Visitors are immersed in the dramatic arc of labor, power, wealth, success, and failure in America. It traces the development of the United States from a small dependent agricultural nation to one of the world’s largest economies through the following 4 chronological eras: the Merchant Era (1770s – 1850s), the Corporate Era (1860s – 1930s), Consumer Era (1940s – 1970s), and the Global Era (1980s – 2010s). On display are John Deere’s plow, Eli Whitney’s cotton gin, Barbara McClintock’s microscope, Stanley Cohen’s recombinant DNA research notebook, Alexander Graham Bell’s first telephones, Alfred Bloomingdale’s personal credit cards, a New York Stock Exchange booth from 1929, an early Monopoly board game and one of Michael Dell’s early computers.

The second floor of the museum, whose lobby leads out to Madison Drive and the National Mall, houses the museum’s new welcome center and a store. 2 West, the west wing of the second floor, has the George Washington statue (created in 1840 for the centennial of Washington’s birthday) as its signature artifact. The Wallace H. Coulter Unity Square, at 2 West, is the floor’s new program space dedicated to immersive activities and performances that richly illustrate America’s participatory democracy. At the center of Unity Square, is the Greensboro lunch counter, a small section of the original F.W. Woolworth’s Lunch Counter from Greensboro, N.C. 2 East, at the east wing of the second floor, has exhibitions that consider American ideals.

The Star Spangled Banner Exhibit

The original, newly conserved Star Spangled Banner Flag, in 2 East, the center of the second floor, is displayed in a dimly lit room, at the heart of the museum, with a climate-controlled environment to help preserve its color and fabric..  During the War of 1812, it was the same flag seen by Francis Scott Key come morning, after a long nighttime battle, above Fort McHenry, outside Baltimore, Maryland, signifying that the U.S. defenses had held.

Check out “Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine – Birthplace of the Star-Spangled Banner

This marked the penultimate major battle in the war, which ended a few weeks later. It inspired him to write the poem which is now the U.S. national anthem. In the days and years after the battle, the flag was flown in all kinds of weather, and parts were snipped off as souvenirs. Just across the room from the flag is an interactive display by Potion Design featuring a full-size, digital reproduction of the flag that allows patrons to learn more about it by touching different areas on the flag.

LEGO Statue of Liberty

The 9 ft. tall Statue of Liberty, at 2 West, is made of sand green LEGO bricks and weighing 125 pounds without its steel support.

George Washington Statue (Horatio Greenough, 1841)

The 12-ton marble George Washington Statue, atop a granite pedestal and base, was created in 1841 (on the occasion of the centennial of the first president’s birthday) by Horatio Greenough.  Envisioned to be a symbolic representation of Washington as a great exemplar of liberty, it depicts Washington wearing a chest-baring toga.

Within These Walls Exhibit

The 4,200 sq. ft. Within These Walls Exhibit, opened last May 16 2017 in 2 West, tells the stories of five families who lived in Ipswich, Massachusetts, about 30 miles north of Boston, over the years and made history in their kitchens and parlors, through everyday choices and personal acts of courage and sacrifice. Through their lives, the exhibition explores some of the important ways ordinary people have been part of the great changes and events in American history.

The partially reconstructed Georgian-style, two-and-a-half-story timber-framed house, built around 1700

At the center of the gallery is the largest artifact in the museum, a partially reconstructed Georgian-style, two-and-a-half-story timber-framed house, built around 1700, that stood for 200 years at 16 Elm Street and was saved from demolition by an Ipswich citizen and then brought to the Smithsonian Institution.

The exhibition also features an 18th-century tea table; an anti-slavery almanac and the Wedgwood Anti-Slavery medallion; a Philco radio from the 1930s; and World War II-era cookbooks, posters, rationing coupons and a proximity fuse used to detonate bombs and artillery shells.

The American Presidency – A Glorious Burden

3 Center, the center of the third floor, presents The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden, which explores the personal and public lives, ceremonial and executive actions of the 43 men who have held that office and had a huge impact on the course of history in the past 200 years. Composed of 11 thematic sections, the exhibition addresses such topics as inaugural celebrations, presidential roles, life at the White House, limits of presidential power, assassinations and mourning, the influence of the media, and life after the presidency.

Hat worn by Lincoln to Ford’s Theater on the night of his assasination

The role of the presidency in American culture is brought to life by more than 900 objects, including national treasures from the Smithsonian’s vast presidential collections.

The horse-drawn carriage that carried Ulysses S. Grant in his second inaugural parade in 1873

They include Abraham Lincoln‘s life mask; a Lewis and Clark Expedition compass; the horse-drawn carriage that carried Ulysses S. Grant in his second inaugural parade in 1873; a radio microphone used by Franklin D. Roosevelt to give his fireside chats during World War II; an early teddy bear (named after Theodore Roosevelt) and Bill Clinton‘s saxophone.

The First Ladies of America

The First Ladies of America, a popular permanent exhibit also at 3 center, encourages visitors to consider the contributions and changing role played by the first lady and American women over the past 200 years by exploring the unofficial but important position of First Lady and the ways that different women have shaped the role to make their own contributions to the presidential administrations and the nation.

White House China Collection

The exhibition features, as a mark of changing times, more than two dozen gowns from the Smithsonian’s almost 100-year old First Ladies Collection.  It includes those worn by Frances Cleveland, Lou Hoover, Jacqueline Kennedy, Laura Bush and Michelle Obama.  A section, entitled “Changing Times, Changing First Ladies,” highlights the roles played by Dolly Madison, Mary Lincoln, Edith Roosevelt, and Lady Bird Johnson and their contributions to their husband’s administrations.

Martha Washington’s Silk Gown, 1780s

National Museum of American History: Kenneth E. Behring Center: 14th Street and Constitution Avenue NW,  National MallWashington, D.C. Admission is free. Open daily (except December 25), 10 AM – 5:30 PM.

National Museum of Natural History (Washington D.C., USA)

National Museum of Natural History

The Neo-Classical style  National Museum of Natural History, administered by the Smithsonian Institution, is a natural history museum dedicated to maintaining and preserving the world’s most extensive collection of natural history specimens and human artifacts.

It fosters significant scientific research and produces educational programs and exhibitions that present the work of its scientists to the public. Its facilities include the Museum Support Center (Suitland, Maryland), a marine science center in Fort Pierce (Florida) and field stations in Belize, Alaska and Kenya.

Petrified Wood

Pre-Cambrian Banded Iron Ore (Jasper Knob, Michigan)

Here are some interesting trivia regarding the museum:

  • It has the largest natural history collection in the world, with over 146 million specimens of human remains, human cultural artifacts, plantsanimalsfossilsmineralsrocks and meteorites. They include 30 million insects, 4.5 million plants preserved in the Museum’s herbarium, 7 million fish (stored in liquid-filled jars) and 2 million cultural artifacts (400,000 of which are are photographs housed in the National Anthropological Archives). Through an off-site active loan and exchange program, the museum’s collections can be accessed. Around 3.5 million specimens are out on loan every year and the rest of the collections not on display are stored in the non-public research areas of the museum and at the Museum Support Center.
  • It is the third most visited museum in the world
  • The museum on was one of the first Smithsonian buildings constructed exclusively to hold the national collections and research facilities.
  • It is the most visited natural history museum in the world
  • It is the most visited museum (of any type) in North America.
  • With 8 million visitors in 2013, it is the most visited of all of the Smithsonian museums
  • The main building has an overall area of 122,632 sq. m. (1,320,000 sq. ft.) with 30,200 sq. m. (325,000 sq. ft.) of exhibition and public space.
  • The  building, as part of the 1901 McMillan Commission plan, was the first structure constructed on the north side of the National Mall
  • The structure cost US$3.5 million (about US$85 million in inflation-adjusted 2012) dollars.
  • It houses 415 full time employees
  • It is also home to about 185 professional natural history scientists, the largest group of scientists dedicated to the study of natural and cultural history in the world.
  • It is only one of about six museums in the United States that has a T. rex skeleton.
  • Research in the museum is divided into seven departments: mineral sciences, anthropologybotanyentomologyinvertebrate zoologypaleobiology and vertebrate zoology.

Replica of Olmec Collosal Head (Tenochtitlan, Veracruz, Mexico, 1200-900 BCE)

Here’s the historical timeline of the museum:

  • In 1846, the United States National Museum, initially housed in the Smithsonian Institution Building (better known today as the Smithsonian Castle) was founded as part of the Smithsonian Institution.
  • In 1858, a formal exhibit hall opened.
  • On June 28, 1902, due to its growing collection, Congress authorized construction of the new National Museum Building (known today as the Arts and Industries Building), covering a then-enormous 9,100 sq. m. (2.25 acres) and built in just 15 months at a cost of US$310,000.
  • On March 1881, the National Museum Building was opened.
  • On January 29, 1903, in order to provide the Smithsonian Institution with more space for collections and research, a special committee (composed of members of Congress and representatives from the Smithsonian’s board of regents) published a report asking Congress to fund a much larger structure than originally planned.
  • On March 1903, the regents began considering sites for the new building
  • On April 12, 1903, they settled on a site on the north side of B Street NW between 9th and 12th Streets. The D.C. architectural firm of Hornblower & Marshall was chosen to design the structure.
  • On July 1903, testing of the soil for the foundations.
  • On March 17, 1910, the Natural History Building (as the National Museum of Natural History was originally known) opened its doors to the public.
  • On June 1911, the building was fully completed.
  • In 1997, Kenneth E. Behring donated US$20 million to modernize the museum.
  • On November 2003, the museum opened the US$100 million Behring Hall of Mammals
  • In 2004, the museum received US$60 million for the Sant Hall of Oceans and received a US$1 million gift from Tiffany & Co. for the purchase of precious gems for the National Gem Collection.
  • In June 2008, the Victoria and Roger Sant family donated US$15 million to endow the new Ocean Hall at the museum.
  • On August 2009, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of its acquisition of the Hope Diamond, the gemstone was given its own exhibit and a new setting
  • In March 2010, the museum opened its US$21 million human evolution hall.
  • On March 2012, the museum received a US$35 million gift to renovate its Dinosaur Hall.

The Rotunda with its centerpiece stuffed African bush elephant named Henry

We entered the museum from the National Mall side.  At the Rotunda, we were greeted by the 8 ton, 14 ft. tall male African bush elephant (Loxodonta africana) named Henry (at that time was the world’s largest land mammal on display in a museum), an iconic centerpiece installed here since 1959.  It was donated to the Smithsonian by  Josef J. Fénykövi. Fénykövi, a Hungarian big-game hunter who, in November 1955, tracked the elephant in the Cuando River region of southeastern Angola. 

Easter Island moai (stone figure)

This museum has 3 floors, but only 2 really have exhibits. At the north lobby entrance (Constitution Ave.), there is a Tyranosaurus rex skull, an intriguing Easter Island stone figures or moai (one of two acquired in 1888, one a complete statue, the other a head), probably one of the most photographed objects in the museum.

Skull of a Tyrannosaurus rex

Near a staircase is the 19th century Tsimshian Totem Pole from the  from Fort Simpson, British Columbia, at the American Northwest Coast, in 1876.

The Totem Post

The David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins, opened on March 17, 2010 (the museum’s 100th anniversary), is “dedicated to the discovery and understanding of human origins.”  Named for David H. Koch (who contributed US$15 million to the $20.7 million exhibit), it occupies 1,400 sq. m. (15,000 sq. ft.) of exhibit space at the first floor.

Walking Upright

This permanent exhibition focuses on the epic story of how the human species evolved over 6 million years, adapting and surviving during an era of dramatic climate change.

Creating a World of Symbols

It features more than 285 early-human fossils and artifacts, lifelike full-size reconstructions of several hominid species and 23 interactive experiences, including a morphing station where visitors can see what they would look like as early humans.

Specimens include 75 replica skulls and an interactive human family tree that follows six million years of evolution.  The Changing the World Gallery focuses on issues surrounding climate change and humans’ impact on the world.

The What Does It Mean To Be Human Exhibit, designed by Reich + Petch, is the Hall’s core concept idea.  It focuses on milestones of Human Evolution (Walking Upright, Bigger Brains, Creating a World of Symbols, etc.).  It also covers the Smithsonian’s significant research on the geological and climate changes which occurred in East Africa during significant periods of Human Evolution.

Meet Homo Floresiensis

The exhibit highlights an actual fossil Neanderthal and replicas created by John Gurche, a famed Paleo artist. The exhibit also provides a complementary web site (which provides diaries and podcasts directly from related fields of research) and a Companion Book, What Does It Mean To Be Human (written by curator Richard Potts and Christopher Sloan).

Kenneth E. Behring Family Hall of Mammals

The multi-award-winning   Kenneth E. Behring Family Hall of Mammals, a permanent first floor exhibition designed by Reich + Petch, represents the oldest exhibition in the National Museum of Natural History. It has the largest collection of vertebrate specimens in the world (nearly twice the size of the next largest mammal collections), including historically important collections from the 19th and early 20th centuries. Its collection, initiated by C. Hart Merriam, was expanded in the 1890s-1930s by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (later the Department of the Interior).

It tells the story of mammal evolution across 225 million years, with more than 274 meticulously preserved specimens on permanent display, classified by continent and habitat. They include a koala, hippopotamus, gorilla, the tiny Spix’s disk-winged bat, the massive walrus, the familiar Eastern gray squirrel, the rare okapi,  a white rhinoceros (collected by U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt in 1909) and  a short-beaked echidna (one of only five species of monotremes, or egg-laying mammals).  There’s also a bronze recreation of Morganucadon oehleri, the earliest-known mammal, which lived 210 million years ago.

Designed with families in mind, its mammal specimens are presented as works of modern art within strikingly minimal environmentals. Here, we discovered mammal’s evolutionary adaptions to hugely diverse contexts, and ultimately discovered that they too are mammals.

Wide Open Prairie

The hall includes four discovery zones with hands-on activities that help visitors explore an array of mammal adaptations and habitats around the world. An 8-minute film at the Evolution Theater  surveys the mammal family tree and the vast changes its members have been through in the past 225 million years.

Sant Ocean Hall

The 23,000 sq. ft. Sant Ocean Hall, the largest renovation of the museum since it opened in 1910, was named for the Roger Sant family, who donated US$15 million to endow the new hall and other related programs. Opened on September 27, 2008, this hall includes 674 marine specimens and models drawn from the over 80 million specimens in the museum’s total collection, the largest in the world.

Basilosaurus cetoides

This one-of-a-kind interpretive, permanent exhibition, at the first floor,  demonstrates how the ocean is intrinsically connected to other global systems and the daily lives of people around the world.

North Atlantic Right Whale

The collection includes: a real, life-size, coelenterate-long North Atlantic Right Whale named Phoenix (who scientists have been tracking since her birth in 1987), a 1,500-gallon aquarium, one female giant squid displayed in the center of the hall and a male displayed off to the side, an adult coelenterate, a Basilosaurus cetoides and 3 skeletons of ancient whale relatives (one of which had legs).

At the Ocean Explorer Theater, we watched a short film inviting visitors to explore the multitude of life that thrives two miles below the surface on board Alvin, a deep-ocean submersible. We also watched an innovative video presentation of global ocean data projected on a 6-ft. diameter sphere.

Global ocean data projected on a 6-ft. diameter sphere.

Other exhibits include bubblegum coral  (the largest-known deep sea coral, named for its bright pink color and gumball-like branch tips), a massive fossilized jaw of C. megalodon (a gigantic shark that prowled the ocean between 2.6 and 23 million years ago), carpet anemone, a snapping shrimp, a long-spined sea urchin plus 21 other species in the living Indo-Pacific coral reef.

African Voices

The African Voices  exhibit and associated website “examines the diversity, dynamism, and global influence of Africa‘s peoples and cultures over time in the realms of family, work, community, and the natural environment.”

Mud Masons of Mali

This permanent first floor exhibit includes historical and contemporary objects from the museum’s collection and commissioned sculptures, textiles, and pottery. Video interactives and sound stations provide selections from contemporary interviews, literature, proverbs, prayers, folk tales, songs and oral epics.

Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems and Materials

The 20,000 sq. ft.  Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems and Minerals, at the second floor, is one of the most significant collections of its kind in the world.

Rubies and Sapphires

This permanent exhibition currently houses over 15,000 individual gems in the collection, as well as 350,000 minerals, 300,000 samples of rock and ore specimens and approximately 35,000 meteorites (which is considered to be one of the most comprehensive collections of its kind in the world).

Anthromorphic Stone

It showcases the most famous pieces of gems and minerals in the collection include the Hope Diamond (donated in 1958 by Harry Winston), the Star of Asia Sapphire (one of the largest sapphires in the world) and the Gachalá Emerald, one of the world’s largest, at 858 carats (172 g.)

Hope Diamond

It also encompasses re-created mines and galleries that present important research in mineral chemistry and physics; plate tectonics, seismology and the study of volcanoes; and planetary science.

Shattered Worlds

The specimens are augmented by two dozen interactive computer presentations and videos, large panels of stunning artwork, and a real-time display of global earthquake data.

Calcite (Elinwood Mine, Smith County, Tennessee)

Some its most important donors, besides Janet Annenberg Hooker, are Washington A. Roebling (the man who built the Brooklyn Bridge)  who gave 16,000 specimens to the collection; Frederick A. Canfield, who donated 9,000 specimens to the collection; and Dr. Isaac Lea, who donated the basis of the museum’s collection of 1312 gems and minerals.

Macleay’s Spectre (Extatosoma tiaratum, Australia)  at O. Orkin Insect Zoo

The O. Orkin Insect Zoo,  a permanent second floor exhibition sponsored by Orkin (a pest control company), offers visitors a variety of exhibits about insects, plenty of hands-on activities and entomologists and features live insects as well as daily tarantula feedings.

Brazilian red and white tarantula

Different habitats have been created to show the type of insects that live in different environments and how they have adapted to a freshwater pond, house, mangrove swampdesert and rain forest.

Osteology: Bone Hall – Man and the Manlike Apes

The Osteology: Bone Hall, the oldest exhibition in the National Museum of Natural History, displays almost 300 vertebrate skeletons grouped by their evolutionary relationships.

Perciform Fishes

This permanent second floor exhibition highlights the diversity and unity of every major group of vertebrates, supporting ideas of evolution and common ancestry.

The diversity and unity of every major group of vertebrates is highlighted, supporting ideas of evolution and common ancestry.

Pinniped Fossil

Objects of Wonder: From the Collections of the National Museum of Natural History, a new exhibition opened  at the second floor just last March 10, 2017, presented 145 rarely displayed artifacts and specimens from the extraordinary collections of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

The “Blue Flame,” one of the world’s largest and finest pieces of gem-quality lapis lazuli

The exhibition, which will remain on view through 2019, will examine how scientists use Smithsonian collections to enlighten and illuminate our understanding of nature and human culture.

Martha, the Last Passenger Pigeon

Objects featured in the exhibition include Martha (the last known passenger pigeon), the “Blue Flame” (one of the world’s largest and finest pieces of gem-quality lapis lazuli), the Pinniped fossil (one of the earliest members of the group of animals that includes living seals, sea lions and walruses) and the 1875 Tsimshian House Front (one of the best examples of Native Alaskan design artwork). The exhibition also features visually striking displays of exotic wood, tiger cowries, and a remarkable array of insects and tiny deep-sea corals.

22nd Nature’s Best Photography Windland Smith Rice International Awards Exhibition

At the 22nd Annual Nature’s Best Photography Windland Smith Rice International Awards Exhibition (named after nature photographer and conservationist, Windland Smith Rice) at the second floor, we saw 60 extraordinary images (to showcase the work of photographers in 59 countries), selected from more than 26,000 submitted entries, that capture the beauty and diversity of the natural world.

Grand Prize – Polar Bear & Cubs (Wapuska National Park, Manitoba, Canada)

Opened last October 24, 2017, this exhibition will run till 2019.

Korea Gallery

The Korea Gallery, a special showcase of 85 objects at the second floor North Corridor, celebrates Korean traditions and examines its unique influence and complex role in the world today.  It expresses the continuity of the past by highlighting enduring features of Korean culture that have influence and resonance today.

Contemporary Korean Art

To communicate and connect to both the local Korean community and an international audience, the exhibit, designed by Reich + Petch, uses the Smithsonian ceramics collection as well as a rich selection of photographs, stone and wooden sculptures, textiles, paintings, ritual objects and traditional Korean carpentry and furniture.

Honoring Family

Traditional art forms, such as ceramics and calligraphy, along with mythological figures, language, large feature photographs and illustrations speak to a range of shared historical memories that connect Koreans at home and abroad.

The Korean Wedding

Personal stories of modern Koreans, as told in their own voices, provide a context to discuss some of the many issues that face the divided country today.

Landscapes of Korea

Korea’s incredible transformation from ‘The Hermit Kingdom’ to a world power is traced through its impact on the arts, the economy and popular culture.

Eternal Life in Ancient Egypt

The Eternal Life in Ancient Egypt Exhibit, at the second floor, West Wing, showcases more mummies than have been on display at any time in the museum’s history. The exhibition combines rare artifacts and cutting-edge research tools to illuminate how Smithsonian scientists have pieced together the lives of ancient Egyptians through their burial practices and rituals in preparation for their eternal life.

The Butterflies + Plants: Partners in Evolution, an exhibit at the second floor (off the Rotunda, above the Mammals Hall) designed by Reich + Retch, innovatively combines a traditional exhibition with experiential learning provided by the live Butterfly Pavilion.  It allows “visitors a rare, up-close look at living butterfly and plant specimens, observing the many ways in which butterflies and other animals have evolved, adapted, and diversified together with their plant partners over tens of millions of years.”

Last American Dinosaurs: Discovering a New World – Tyrannosaurus rex

The Last American Dinosaurs: Discovering a New World Exhibit, at the second floor, tells the story of non-avian dinosaurs’ final years in western North America.  Here, we walked through time to explore scientists’ findings to the questions that help us understand America’s last dinosaurs, their the lives, and their ultimate demise.

Fossil Lab

The FossiLab features a glass-enclosed lab that allows visitors to watch museum paleontologists and trained volunteers extract fossils from rock and make fossil casts and molds.

Elephant Discovery Station

Learning About Elephants, a learning station (added in the mid-2000s) on the second floor balcony, overlooking the “Fényköv Elephant” in the Rotunda, teaches the public about these endangered land mammals and their habitat, an important way to build support for their conservation. 

The 30-year-old, 2,300 sq. m. (25,000 sq. ft.) Dinosaur and Fossil Hall  was closed (since spring of 2014) during our visit as it was then undergoing a US$45 million (US$35 million of which was donated by billionaire David H. Koch on May 2012) upgrade (the largest, most extensive exhibition renovation in the museum’s history) and was anticipated to reopen in 2019.

Skeleton of Triceratops

It consists of 46 “complete and important specimens” of fossilized skeletons and cast models of dinosaurs, including casts of a Tyrannosaurus rex  facing a Triceratops. The Triceratops exhibit, showing the first accurate dinosaur skeleton in virtual motion, was achieved through the use of scanning and digital technology. Its centerpiece is the 11 m. (35-ft.) long, 85% complete skeleton of “Wankel” or “Devil” rex, the first T. rex fossil skeleton owned by the museum (which until now has only had the cast of a skull).  It was  found in 1988 on United States Army Corps of Engineers-owned land in the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge in Montana,  was obtained (via a 50-year lease) by the Smithsonian on June 2013 and arrived, packed up in 16 crates, at the National Museum of Natural History on April 15, 2014.

The museum also has an IMAX Theater for feature-length films, and the Discovery Room, a family- and student-friendly hands-on activity room on the first floor.  In the lower level, there is a bird exhibit, Urban Bird Habitat Garden, with all the migratory and native birds to Washington D.C.

Rai (status stone, Yap, quarried 1904 on Palau)

National Museum of Natural History: 10th St. & Constitution Ave. NW, National MallWashington, D.C. 20560, United States. Open daily (except December 25), 10 AM – 5:30 PM. Admission is free.

Smithsonian National Postal Museum (Washington D.C., USA)

The Smithsonian National Postal Museum, a museum located opposite Union Station in DC’s NoMa neighborhood, was established on November 6, 1990 through a joint agreement between the United States Postal Service and the Smithsonian Institution.

Smithsonian National Postal Museum

Opened on July 30, 1993, it is located in the historic historic Beaux Arts-style City Post Office Building, a building that once served as the Main Post Office of Washington, D.C. from 1914 (when it was constructed) until 1986.


Museum entrance along 1st Street

The building, which also serves as the headquarters of the United States Department of Labor‘s Bureau of Labor Statistics, as well as a data center for the United States Senate, was designed by the Graham and Burnham architectural firm (the same architectural firm as Union Station), which was led by Ernest Graham following the death of Daniel Burnham in 1912.

Museum lobby.  On the right are the four large video screens

Its historic lobby, restored in 1989, was designed to be active.  It includes a welcome center, and four large video screens with a series of vignettes.

Systems at Work Exhibit recreates the paths of letters, magazines, parcels, and other mail as they travel from sender to recipient over the last 200 years

The museum, honoring and celebrating America’s proud postal history, occupies 100,000 sq. ft. of the building with 35,000 sq. ft. devoted to exhibition space.

Statue of Benjamin Franklin, located in the foyer, done by Lithuanian-born artist William Zorach (ca. 1935)

The  museum’s award winning public spaces, shops and support facilities were designed by the Washington, D.C. firm of Florance Eichbaum Esocoff King Architects while the galleries and inaugural exhibitions were designed by Miles Fridberg Molinaroli, Inc. with Bowie Gridley Architects.

Binding the Nation – Post Secret: The Power of a Postcard (August 3, 2015 – January 1, 2018) – exhibits more than 500 artfully decorated postcards mailed anonymously from around the world

It displays a vast collection of stamps from the National Philatelic Collection, which features more than 5.9 million items (the Smithsonian’s second-largest collection after that of the National Museum of Natural History).  The museum has one of the largest and most significant philatelic and postal history collections in the world and one of the world’s most comprehensive library resources on philately and postal history.

Check out “National Museum of Natural History

Trailblazing: 100 Years of Our National Parks (June 9, 2016 – March 3, 2019) exhibit chronicles intersections between mail and US national parks

It also houses a 6,000 sq. ft. research library (more than 40,000 books and archival documents), a gift shop, a separate stamp shop and many interactive displays about the history of the United States Postal Service and of mail service around the world.

Pony Express: Romance vs Reality examines fictional and actual stories from the history of the world’s best known mail carriers.

Replica of mud wagon that crisscrossed the western territories

It also has informative exhibits, for all ages, on the Pony Express, the use of railroads with the mail and the preserved remains of Owney (the first unofficial postal mascot).

Railway mail train. The Railway Mail Service revolutionized the way mail was processed by sorting mail aboard moving trains.

Interior of train car. Mail previously untouched in bags on train floors was processed as the train sped toward its destination.

An exhibit on direct marketing, called “What’s in the Mail for You,” produces a souvenir envelope with your name printed on it and a coupon for the gift shop.

The preserved remains of Owney, the first unofficial postal mascot, who died from a bullet wound on June 11, 1897. His harness is weighed down by a number of tags.

Bronze statue of Owney

Visitors here learn the fascinating evolution of how Americans have used the mail to communicate with each other and the world.

Mail-carrying stagecoach from 1851

Guests will take a walk through history and see how mail has been transported, in a variety of eye-catching displays, whether it be early automobiles on dirt roads, stagecoaches chugging across the country, prop-planes in the skies above, or being pulled by real horsepower.

Creating Your Own Stamp Design

Visitors will see the diversity of postage from around the globe and also discover the art of stamp making and design, as well as how to start their own collection.

William H. Gross Stamp Gallery

In 2005, the museum acquired John Lennon‘s childhood stamp collection and, on September 2009, the museum received a US$8 million gift from Pimco investment management firm founder William H. Gross  to help finance the expansion of the museum. Every two years, since 2002, the museum has presented the Smithsonian Philatelic Achievement Award.

The 12,000 sq. ft. William H. Gross Stamp Gallery, the largest of its kind dedicated to philately, was named in his honor and opened on September 22, 2013. It houses the first American stamps, from 1847, a piece of mail from the 1860 Pony Express with “recovered from a mail stolen by the Indians” written on the envelope, and the 1918 “Inverted Jenny” with its biplane printed upside down — the most famous U.S. stamp-printing error. 

The author (right) at the atrium

The Postal Museum’s atrium, sporting a 90 ft. high ceiling, has vital objects from the postal past hanging overhead such as 3 airmail planes –  a De Havilland DH-4 airmail plane No. 249; a Wiseman-Cooke airplane and the Stinson Reliant SR-10F.

Stinson Reliant SR-10F was used in 1939 to test a unique airmail service for communities that did not have landing fields.

De Havilland DH-4 airmail plane No. 249 was used in the early 1920s to carry mail primarily in the western U.S. Henry Boonstra crashed this aircraft into a snow covered mountain on December 15, 1922.

Wiseman-Cooke airplane. Fred Wiseman took off in his airplane on February 17, 1911, the first heavier-than air flight sanctioned by a U.S. post office

The room is also adorned with a stagecoach from 1851 and a 1932 Ford Model A postal truck. They can also browse through a 1920s-style post office.

Jandy (right) beside a 1931 Ford Model A postal truck

Among its permanent exhibitions are: “Binding the Nation” (opened July 30, 1993), “Systems at Work” (opened December 14, 2011), “Moving the Mail,” “Mail Call” (opened November 10, 2011), “Customers and Communities” (opened July 30, 1993) and “Pony Express: Romance vs. Reality” (opened April 3, 2010).

Modular post office was in operation in Dillsburg, Pennsylvania from 1913 to 1971. Prefabricated panels, produced by the Federal Equipment Company of New York, New York and Carlisle, Pennsylvania, included one with a designated “Money Order” window, another for “Registry” mail and a third for “General Delivery.” The post office door was marked “Postmaster” and “private.” A separate section offered brass drops for letters, papers and packages.

The 1856 British Guiana One-Cent Magenta, dubbed “The World’s Most Famous Stamp,” is on display here through November 2017. 

The 1986 Long Life Vehicle (LLV), a white, boxy postal truck, marked a major change in how postal officials approached buying vehicles

Museum Shop

Smithsonian National Postal Museum: Postal Square Building, 2 Massachusetts Avenue NE, Washington, D.C. 20002. Tel: (202) 357-2700. Website: Open daily (except December 25), 10 AM – 5:30PM. As a Smithsonian museum, admission is free.The library is open to the public by appointment only.

How to Get There: take the Metro‘s Red Line to Union Station and use the Massachusetts Avenue exit.  The museum is across the street. The DC Circulator also connects the museum and Union Station to the National Mall. Street parking is available nearby and all-day paid parking can be had at Union Station (2,000 slots), located right next to the museum. The museum is accessible by wheelchair, with ramps at its 1st Street entrance and North Capitol Street entrance, via the U.S. Post Office.

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (Washington D.C., USA)

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, an art museum  sited halfway between the Washington Monument and the US Capitol, anchoring the southernmost end of the so-called L’Enfant axis (perpendicular to the Mall’s green carpet), is part of the Smithsonian Institution.

Interior court and fountain

Conceived as the United States’ museum of contemporary and modern art, it currently focuses its collection-building and exhibition-planning mainly on the post–World War II period, with particular emphasis on art made during the last 50 years. The museum has a budget of US$8 million, which does not include the US$10 to US$12 million in operational support supplied by the Smithsonian Institution.

Geometric Mouse, Variation I, Scale A (Claes Oldenburg, 1971)

The museum was initially endowed, during the 1960s, with the permanent art collection of more than 6,000 items of Joseph H. Hirshhorn (who enjoyed great success from uranium-mining investments), started  in his forties, which consisted of works from classic French Impressionism as well as those by living artists, American modernism of the early 20th century, and sculpture brought from the Hirshhorns’ Connecticut estate and other properties.

Subcommitee (Tony Cragg, 1991, steel)

Here is the museum’s historical timeline:

  • In 1966, an Act of Congress established the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Most of its funding was federal, but Hirshhorn later contributed US$1-million toward its construction.
  • On July 1967, an original plan, with an elongated, sunken rectangle crossing the Mall with a large reflecting pool across the Mall, designed by architect Gordon Bunshaft, was approved.
  • In 1969, groundbreaking takes place on the former site of the Army Medical Museum and Library (built in 1887) after the brick structure was demolished.
  • On July 1, 1971, after excavation was started, a revised design, with a smaller footprint, was approved. The revised design, deliberately stark, using gravel surfaces and minimal plantings to visually emphasize the works of art, also shifted the garden’s Mall orientation from perpendicular to parallel and reduces its size from 8,100 sq. m. (2 acres) to 5,300 sq. m. (1.3 acres).
  • In 1974, the museum was opened with three floors of painting galleries, a fountain plaza for sculpture, and the Sculpture Garden. In the first six months, one million visitors saw the 850-work inaugural show.
  • In the summer of 1979, the Sculpture Garden was closed.
  • In September 1981, the Sculpture Garden was reopened after a renovation and redesign by Lester Collins, a well-known landscape architect and founder of the Innesfree Foundation. The design introduces plantings, paved surfaces, accessibility ramps, and areas of lawn.
  • In 1985, the Museum Shop is moved to the lobby, increasing exhibition space at its former location on the lower level.
  • On December 1991, the Hirshhorn Plaza is closed.
  • In 1993, Hirshhorn Plaza is reopened after a renovation and redesign by landscape architect James Urban. The 11,000 sq. m. (2.7-acre) area around and under the building is repaved in two tones of gray granite, and raised areas of grass and trees are added to the east and west.
  • In 2013, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden drew around 645,000 visitors.
  • In 2014, the Museum Shop is moved back to the lower level.

Museum Shop

Here are some technical information on the museum:

  • The building and its walls were surfaced with precast concrete aggregate of “Swenson” pink granite
  • The building has a diameter of 231 ft., 115 ft. for the interior court and 60 ft. for the fountain.
  • The building is 82 ft. high and elevated 14 ft. on 4 massive, sculptural piers.
  • The museum provides 5,600 sq. m. (60,000 sq. ft.) of exhibition space on three floors inside and nearly 4 acres outside in its two-level Sculpture Garden and plaza for a total of 197,000 sq. ft. of total exhibition space, indoors and outdoors.
  • It has a 274-seat auditorium at the lower level.
  • There are 2.7 acres around and under the museum building.
  • The 1.3-acre Sculpture Garden, across Jefferson Drive, was sunk 6–14 ft. below street level and ramped for accessibility.
  • The second and third floor galleries have 15-ft. high walls, with exposed 3-ft. deep coffered ceilings.
  • The lower level includes exhibition space, storage, workshops, offices while the fourth floor includes offices and storage.

Pumpkin (Yayoi Kusama, 2016)

The building, an open cylinder elevated on four massive “legs,” with a large fountain occupying the central courtyard, itself is an attraction.  The new federal museum’s modern look and intrusively expansive sculptural grounds is a striking contrast to everything else in the city.

Still Life with Spirit and Xtile (Jimmie Durham, 2007)

At the museum entrance is the deceptively simple Still Life with Spirit and Xitle , one of the most well-known works of art by artist Jimmie Durham (a sculptor who is known for his sense of humor and irreverence), features a slapstick disaster scene (intended to capture the clash between industrial and ancient spirits) of a 1992 Chrysler Spirit being crushed by a 9 ton red basalt boulder with a comical smiley face painted on it.

Woman Verso Untitled (Willem de Kooning, 1948)

Woman Before an Eclipse With Her Hair Disheveled by the Wind (Joan Miro, oil on canvas, 1967)

Notable artists in the Hirshhom collection include Pablo PicassoHenri MatisseMary CassattThomas EakinsHenry MooreJackson PollockMark RothkoFranz KlineHans HofmannMorris LouisKenneth NolandJohn ChamberlainFrancis BaconWillem de KooningMilton AveryEllsworth KellyLouise NevelsonArshile GorkyEdward HopperLarry Rivers, and Raphael Soyer among others.

Sleeping Muse I (Constantin Brancusi, 1909-1910, marble)

The Master Works from the Hirshhorn Collection, on view from June 9, 2016 to September 4, 2017, is a new rehanging of the permanent collection galleries at the third-level.  It features more than 75 works in virtually all media, highlights of Joseph Hirshhorn’s original gift, alongside some of the newest additions to the collection.

Untitled – Big Man (Ron Mueck, 2000, pigmented polyester resin on fiberglass)

They include several major artworks returning to view after more than a decade (such as Candian painter Jean-Paul Riopelle’s 1964 Large Triptych), as well as in-depth installations devoted to some of the most important artists in the collection.

Large Triptych (Jean-Paul Riopelle, 1964, oil on canvas)

Dog (Alberto Giacometti, 1951-57)

Exhibited are more than a dozen paintings and works on paper by Dutch abstract expressionist artist Willem de Kooning alongside sculptures by Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti, two of the 20th century’s greatest figurative artists.

Eleven A.M. (Edward Hopper, 1928, oil on canvas)

The Los Angeles County Museum on Fire (Ed Ruscha, 1965-68, oil on canvas)

Other cornerstones of the collection on view are Constantin Brancusi’s Sleeping Muse I (1909–10), Edward Hopper’s Eleven A.M. (1926), Edward Ruscha’s The Los Angeles County Museum on Fire (1965–68), French-American artist Louise Bourgeois’ Legs (1986/cast 2008) and Australian sculptor Ron Mueck’s Untitled (Big Man) (2000).

Window (Gerhard Richter, 1968, oil on canvas)

The End of Ending (Eduardo Basualdo, 2012)

In an adjacent room is The End of Ending (2012), a massive sculptural installation by Argentinian artist Eduardo Basualdo which occupies all but a sliver of walkable space in a gallery. R.S.V.P. X (1976/2014), the performative sculpture  by African-American Senga Nengudi (among a group of artists in 1970’s Los Angeles who explored conceptual art in their pursuit of a distinctly African-American aesthetic), also appears at the museum for the first time.

Spearfishing (Peter Doig, 2013)

Siren of the Niger (Wilfredo Lam, 1950, oil and charcoal on canvas)

The exhibition is augmented by a special loan of Scottish painter Peter Doig’s painting Spearfishing (2013), which hangs alongside richly colored canvases by British figurative painter Francis Bacon, American painter Richard Diebenkorn and Cuban artist Wifredo Lam.

Field for Skyes (Joan Mitchell, 1973, oil on canvas)

1962-D (Clyfford Still, oil on canvas)

Some of the most recent additions to the Hirshhorn’s collection are represented by new cultural histories. O Abuso da História  (The Abuse of History, 2014) is a video, by Brazil-based Mexican artist Héctor Zamora, of a riotously destructive group performance at São Paulo’s historic Hospital Matarazzo.

From Continent to Continent (Mario Merz, 1985)

Iris, Messenger of the Gods (Auguste Rodin)

Cuban artist Reynier Leyva Novo’s 5 Nights (2014), from his series “The Weight of History,” in the Lerner Room (overlooking the National Mall), maps revolutionary 20th-century manifestos by Vladimir Lenin, Adolf Hitler, Fidel Castro, Mao Zedong, and Muammar Gaddafi to conceptual monochromes, based on the amount of ink spilled in the writing of each text.

Markus Lupertz: Threads of History

The Markus Lupertz: Threads of History Exhibit, from May 24 to September 10, 2017, celebrates the pioneering early works of Markus Lüpertz (b. Liberec, Czech Republic, 1941), one of the most influential contemporary German artists who initiated a return to figurative painting during the late 1970s and 1980s, with an in-depth exploration of his groundbreaking paintings from the 1960s and 1970s.

Westwall – Siegfried Line (1968, distemper on canvas)

This exhibition brings more than 30 paintings to the National Mall including the 40-ft. long Westwall (Siegfried Line), a large-scale work on view for the first time in the US.

Tent – Dithyrambic (1965)

Motif – Dithyrambic II

Idyll IV (1969)

It coincides with The Phillips Collection’s exhibition Markus Lupertz (May 27 to September 3, 2017), which spans the artist’s entire career. Together, the two presentations form Lupertz’s first major US museum retrospective.

Our View from Here (Linn Meyers, 2016)

The Linn Meyers: Our View from Here Exhibition, from May 12, 2016 to August 13, 2017, creates the site-specific wall drawing Our View from Here, the largest work, to date, of American artist Linn Meyers (b. Washington, DC, 1968). Occupying the entire circumference of the inner ring galleries, it covers nearly 400 linear feet. This temporary drawing will be painted over at the end of the exhibition’s yearlong run.

Ai Weiwei: Trace at Hirshhorn

Ai Weiwei: Trace at Hirshhorn Exhibit, a collaborative artist project from June 28, 2017 to January 1, 2018, features the East Coast debut of the monumental installation Trace, which portrays 176 individuals, from more than 30 countries (the majority of whom are from Asia and the Middle East) whom Ai Weiwei (b. Beijing, 1957), one of China’s most provocative living artists, and various human rights groups consider to be activists, prisoners of conscience, and advocates of free speech who have been detained, exiled, or have sought political asylum because of their actions, beliefs or affiliations.

Ai Weiwei

The work foregrounds Ai Weiwei’s own experiences of incarceration, interrogation, and surveillance. In 2011, he was detained by the Chinese government for 81 days and then, until 2015, prohibited from traveling abroad.  Each of these portraits, comprising thousands of plastic Lego bricks, were assembled by hand and laid out on the floor.

Trace.  On the right wall is the 360-degree wallpaper installation entitled The Plain Version of the Animal That Looks Like a Llama but Is Really an Alpaca

Complementing the display of Trace is a new 360-degree wallpaper installation entitled The Plain Version of the Animal That Looks Like a Llama but Is Really an Alpaca. At first glance, the repeating graphic pattern looks merely decorative.  However, at closer inspection, it reveals surveillance cameras, handcuffs, and Twitter bird logos (which allude to Ai Weiwei’s tweets challenging authority). Together, both massive works span nearly 700 linear feet around the Hirshhorn’s second floor Outer Ring galleries.

The Last Conversation Piece (Juan Munoz, 1994-95, bronze)

The Sculpture Garden, outside the museum, features works by artists including Auguste RodinDavid SmithAlexander CalderJean-Robert IpoustéguyJeff Koons, and others. A permanent installation and a major attraction, since 2007, in the Sculpture Garden is Yoko Ono‘s famous Wish Tree for Washington, DC.

Are Years What? (Mark di Suvero)

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden: 700 Independence Ave SW & 7th St SW, National Mall, Washington, D.C. 20560, United States.  Website: Admission is free.  Open daily, 10 AM – 5:30 PM.

National Air and Space Museum (Washington D.C., U.S.A.)

National Air and Space Museum

The National Air and Space Museum (NASM) of the Smithsonian Institution is a must-see for visitors to Washington, DC. Established August 12, 1946 as the National Air Museum, it opened at its main building on the National Mall near L’Enfant Plaza in 1976.

It is a center for research into the history and science of aviation, spaceflight, planetary science, terrestrial geology and geophysics. Allow at least 2-3 hours to explore the exhibits.

Continuum of the late Charles O. Perry

Here are some interesting trivia regarding this museum:

  • It holds the largest collection of historic aircraft and spacecraft in the world.
  • In 2014, the museum saw approximately 6.7 million visitors, making it the fifth most visited museum in the world.
  • It is the largest of 19 museums included in the Smithsonian Institution.

Lockheed F-104A Starfighter at the second floor concourse

The museum features 22 exhibition galleries, displaying hundreds of artifacts. Many of the exhibits are interactive and great for kids. Almost all space and aircraft on display are either originals or the original backup craft.

Boeing Milestones of Flight – the main hall of the museum

Designed by St. Louis-based architect Gyo Obata of HOK , the museum, its mass similar to the National Gallery of Art and using the same pink Tennessee marble, was built by Gilbane Building Company and opened on July 1, 1976 at the height of the United States Bicentennial festivities.

The Mercury Friendship 7 and Gemini IV capsules

It has four simple marble-encased cubes containing the smaller and more theatrical exhibits, connected by three spacious steel-and-glass atria which house the larger exhibits such as missiles, airplanes and spacecraft. The west glass wall of the building, used for the installation of airplanes, also functions as a giant door. On display outside is “Continuum,” a curving metal map of the universe one by the late Charles O. Perry.

Bell X-1

The Boeing Milestones of Flight Gallery, the museum’s main hall, was reopened in July 2016. This expanded exhibition traces the interconnected stories of the world’s most significant aircraft, rockets, and spacecraft in history, milestones which have made our planet smaller and the universe larger, with digital displays and a mobile experience in a new design that stretches from one entrance to the other.

Ryan NYP Spirit of St. Louis

North American Aviation Inc. X-15A 56-6670 hypersonic research rocketplane

SS-20 and Pershing II ICBM Missiles

They also tell tales of ingenuity and courage, war and peace, politics and power, as well as society and culture.

Bell XP-59A Airacomet

Mock-up of Lunar Module

The displays, taking full advantage of the atrium’s two-storey height, includes the huge Apollo Lunar Module; the Telstar satellite; the model of the “Starship Enterprise” used in the Star Trek television series;, the Ryan NYP Spirit of St. Louis  (where Charles Lindbergh’s made his solo trip across the Atlantic); the Bell XP-59A Airacomet (the first American jet aircraft); the Bell X-1 (in which Chuck Yeager first broke the mythical “sound barrier”); the North American X-15 (the fastest aircraft ever flown); the Mercury Friendship 7 capsule (flown by John Glenn); the Mariner, Pioneer, and Viking planetary explorers; and SpaceShipOne (the first privately-developed, piloted vehicle to reach space). You can even touch a Moon rock.

The author touching a piece of the Moon

Jandy with the model of the Star Trek Starship Enterprise

The Space Race Gallery tells about that U.S.-Soviet Union space rivalry and its aftermath, from the military origins of the Space Race, through the race to the Moon and the development of reconnaissance satellites, to cooperative ventures between the two former rivals and efforts to maintain a human presence in space.

German V2 Rocket

Yuri Gagarin’s Space Suit

John Glenn’s Space Suit

Hubble Space Telescope

Some of the items on display include a German V-1 “buzz bomb” and V-2 missile, Soviet and U.S. spacecraft and space suits, a Skylab Orbital Workshop, and a full-size test version of the Hubble Space Telescope.

1970 Northrop M2-F3 CN 1

Apollo–Soyuz Test Project

V-1 Buzz Bomb

The Apollo to the Moon Gallery has an unparalleled display of artifacts from the Apollo and earlier missions with displays that range from a huge F-1 rocket engine, a scale model of the Saturn V rocket, spacesuits worn by Apollo astronauts on the Moon to space food and personal items that astronauts took into space.

Saturn V Rocket Engine

Lunar Roving Vehicle

The America by Air Gallery, exploring the history of air transportation in the United States, shows how the federal government has shaped the airline industry, how improvements in technology have revolutionized air travel, and how the flying experience has changed.

The nose section of a DC-7

Boeing 747 Forward Fuselage

Highlights include a Ford 5-AT Tri-Motor, Boeing 247, and Douglas DC-3 airliners; a cockpit simulation of an Airbus A320; and a nose from a Boeing 747 jumbo jet that you can enter.

Ford 5-AT-B Trimotor

Douglas DC-3

Boeing 247-D

The Barron Hilton Pioneers of Flight Gallery, having to do with people who pushed the existing technological or social limits of flight, contains an impressive, eclectic assortment of aircraft and exhibits, each representing an unprecedented feat, a barrier overcome or a pioneering step.

Douglas World Cruiser Chicago

Fokker T-2

Things to see here include the Fokker T-2 (the airplane that made the first nonstop, coast-to-coast flight across the United States); the Douglas World Cruiser Chicago (which completed the first round-the-world flight); a Lockheed Model 8 Sirius (flown by Charles Lindbergh and Anne Morrow Lindbergh), a Lockheed Vega (flown by Amelia Earhart); the Explorer II high-altitude balloon gondola; and “Black Wings,” an exhibit on African Americans and aviation.

Lockheed Model 8 Sirius

Explorer II high-altitude balloon gondola

Lockheed Vega 5B of Amelia Earhart

The Explore the Universe Gallery shows how our ideas about the Universe evolved as we developed new astronomical instruments. It presents the Universe as discerned by the naked eye, then shows how the telescope, photography, spectroscopy, and digital technology revolutionized our view. The largest section describes what astronomers today think about the nature of the Universe. Among the many amazing treasures on display are an Islamic astrolabe from 10 centuries ago; the actual telescope tube from William Herschel‘s 20-foot telescope; the observing cage from the Mount Wilson Observatory‘s 100-inch Hooker Telescope; and the backup mirror for the Hubble Space Telescope.

World War II Aviation Gallery

Supermarine Spitfire HF.MK.VIIc

The World War II Aviation Gallery focuses on land-based fighter aviation.  Fortresses Under Fire, a Keith Ferris mural filling an entire wall, features  a B 17 Flying Fortress, with contrails streaming behind it, roaring out of a clear blue sky. 

Mitsubishi A6M5 Reisen (Zero Fighter)

North American P-51D Mustang

The mural serves as a backdrop for five fighter planes – a British Supermarine Spitfire, German Messerschmitt Bf 109, Italian Macchi C.202 Folgore, U.S. North American P-51 Mustang and a Japanese Mitsubishi A6M Zero.

Messerschmitt Bf 109 G (1)

Aeronautica Macchi C.202 Folgore

Also on exhibit are engines, bombs, armament, ammunition, aircrew and service uniforms from several nations, and personal memorabilia.

Artist Soldiers Exhibit

The Artist Soldiers exhibition, a collaboration between the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum and National Museum of American History, examines this form of artistic expression from two complementary perspectives – one from professional artists who were recruited by the U.S. Army and served in the American Expeditionary Force (the first true combat artists) and the other from soldiers who created artwork.

Together, these works of art of soldiers shed light on World War I in a compelling and very human way by first-hand participants.

The Exploring the Planets Gallery takes you on a tour of this remarkable realm, as seen and sensed by the Voyagers and other robotic explorers. Initial sections present some historical highlights and show the various means we use to study other worlds. Sections devoted to each planet form the core of the gallery.

The author with the Blériot XI monoplane

The gaily decorated Early Flight Gallery, celebrating the first decade of flight, evokes the atmosphere of the fictitious Smithsonian Aeronautical Exposition of 1913, an aviation exhibition from that period. The gallery is crammed with fabric-covered aerial vehicles, some fanciful, most real, along with trade show–style exhibits featuring cutting-edge technology of the day.

Swedenborg Flying Machine

The Chanute Gliders

They include a rare 1894 Lilienthal glider; Samuel P. Langley’s Aerodrome #5 and Quarter-Scale Aerodrome (powered, unmanned vehicles that successfully flew in 1896 and 1903); the 1909 Wright Military Flyer (the world’s first military airplane, it is the most original and complete of the museum’s three Wright airplanes); a Curtiss Model D “Headless Pusher,” an Ecker Flying Boat, and a Blériot XI monoplane.

Curtiss D-III Headless Pusher

The Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) Gallery, made possible through the generosity of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc., showcases six modern military UAVs that represent a variety of missions and technologies.

Boeing X-45A

They range from large vehicles that can carry offensive weapons to a miniature system whose components are light and compact enough to be carried in a Marine’s backpack.

AAI RQ-7 Shadow UAV

The Golden Age of Flight Gallery features the 1920s and ’30s, the period between the two world wars that saw airplanes evolve from wood-and-fabric biplanes to streamlined metal monoplanes. The military services embraced air power and aviation came of age. Air races and daring record-setting flights dominated the news and aircraft displayed here include planes used for racing and record setting such as Howard Hughes‘ sleek, record-setting Hughes H-1 Racer, the Wittman Buster midget racer (hanging near the entrance) and the Curtiss J-1 Robin Ole Miss (which stayed aloft for 27 days).  There are also planes for business travel (Beechcraft C17L Staggerwing) and exploration (the Northrop Gamma 2B Polar Star, which traversed Antarctica).

MQ-1L Predator A

The How Things Fly Gallery, devoted to explaining the basic principles that allow aircraft and spacecraft to fly, emphasizes “hands-on,” with dozens of exhibits inviting you to push, pull, press, lift, slide, handle, touch, twist, turn, spin, bend, and balance. Here you can discover for yourself answers to things you’ve always wondered about flight. You can explore the nature of gravity and air; how wings work; supersonic flight; aircraft and rocket propulsion; flying in space; and more.

1903 Wright Flyer

The Wright Brothers and the Invention of the Aerial Age Gallery  celebrates the centennial of the Wright brothers‘ historic flights.  It has, as its centerpiece, the 1903 Wright Flyer, the world’s first successful airplane and historic craft that ushered in the age of flight, displayed on the floor. 

The first part of this exhibition tells the story of how Wilbur and Orville Wright invented the airplane—who they were, how they worked, and what they accomplished.

The second part shows how their monumental achievement affected the world in the decade that followed, when people everywhere became fascinated with flight. The exhibition includes many historic photographs and cultural artifacts, along with instruments and personal items associated with the Wrights.

The Moving Beyond Earth Gallery, an immersive exhibition, places visitors “in orbit” in the shuttle and space-station era to explore recent human spaceflight and future possibilities. An expansive view of the Earth as viewed from the space station drifts over one gallery wall, while a fly-around tour of the International Space Station fills another wall. A presentation stage for live events, broadcasts, and webcasts at the center of the gallery serves as the platform for Space Flight Academy, a group quiz game where visitors can test their space smarts and become “flight ready.”

Time and Navigation Gallery

Lockheed 5C Vega – Winnie Mae

The Time and Navigation Gallery explores how revolutions in timekeeping over three centuries have influenced how we find our way.

Model of USS Enterprise

The Sea-Air Operations Gallery, at the quarterdeck of the mythical aircraft carrier USS Smithsonian, a scaled-down re-creation of a hangar deck bay, has surrounding structures and equipment that are from actual aircraft carriers.

Douglas SBD-6 Dauntless

You can poke around in a ready room, a combined living room and briefing area, or go upstairs and visit the navigation bridge and PriFly, the ship’s air traffic control center. From these two rooms you can watch “cat shots” and “traps” (takeoffs and landings) filmed on a U.S. Navy carrier.

Douglas A-4C Skyhawk

Balconies overlook the four carrier aircraft in the hangar bay – a Boeing F4B-4 biplane, Grumman F4F Wildcat, Douglas SBD-6 Dauntless, and Douglas A-4C Skyhawk. Also here are exhibits on carrier warfare in World War II and on modern carrier aviation.

Boeing F4B-4

The Looking at Earth Gallery, exploring the technology of aerial and space observation and its many uses, displays aircraft and spacecraft and examples of the photographic and imaging devices used on them.

Lockheed U-2C

De Havilland DH-4

Throughout the exhibition are countless images taken from above, some are historic; others show scientific, military, or civil applications; others are simply beautiful. All allow us to examine the familiar from unfamiliar perspectives.

GOES Weather Satellite

Highlights include a De Havilland DH-4 (a World War I aircraft used for aerial observation and photography); a Lockheed U-2 (designed for Cold War aerial surveillance); personal objects of Soviet-captured U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers; and several generations of weather satellites. A “What’s New” section displays frequently updated images of current interest taken of our planet from space.

US Pilot Survival Kit

The Lunar Exploration Vehicles Gallery displays a constellation of vehicles used for lunar exploration. Dominating the space is a real lunar module, the second one built for the Apollo program. The orbital test flight of the first lunar module proved so successful that a second test flight was deemed unnecessary. The lunar module displayed here was used instead for ground testing. Six more like it landed astronauts on the Moon.

Engineering Model of Clementine

A series of unmanned lunar spacecraft preceded the manned missions. These robotic explorers transmitted images of the Moon, inspected its surface, and searched for Apollo landing sites.

Ranger Spacecraft

Examples of the three types of space probes involved in that effort—Ranger, Surveyor, and Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter—hang above the lunar module, along with a more recent lunar explorer: the Moon-mapping spacecraft Clementine.

Lunar Orbiter

The Legend, Memory and the Great War in the Air Gallery reexamines aviation during World War I and contrasts romance with reality, with displays of popular culture showing how some of these myths were passed on.

German Aircraft Factory

Model of the Hindenburg

Other exhibits examine the many new roles aircraft played during the war, from battlefield reconnaissance to strategic bombing.

Pfalz D.XII

Albatross D.Va

Fokker D.VII

The gallery features several rare airplanes such as the German Pfalz D.XII, Albatros D.Va, and Fokker D.VII fighters; a British Sopwith 7F.1 Snipe fighter; and a French SPAD S.XIII fighter and Voisin VIII bomber.

Sopwith 7F.1 Snipe

Voisin Type 8

Spad XIII Smith IV

The Jet Aviation Gallery traces the development of jet technology and features many important turbojet engines introduced over four decades, along with three airplanes that helped usher in the jet age – the German Messerschmitt Me 262 A-1a Schwalbe (the world’s first operational jet fighter),  the Lockheed XP-80 “Shooting Star” Lulu Belle (the prototype for the first full-production, operational U.S. jet fighter) and McDonnell FH-1 Phantom (the first jet fighter used by the Navy and Marine Corps).

McDonnell FH-1 Phantom

Lockheed XP-80 “Shooting Star” nicknamed Lulu Belle

Messerschmitt Me 262 A-1a nicknamed Schwalbe (German for “Swallow”)

The Lockheed Martin IMAX Theater, with its five-storey-high screen with six-channel digital surround sound, take you on a journey through space or to natural and manmade wonders of the world.

Douglas D-558-2 Skyrocket on display outside of the Lockheed Martin IMAX® Theater

The Albert Einstein Planetarium, with its high tech dual digital projection system, Sky Vision, takes you on a 20-minute tour of the universe. The museum’s three-storey gift shop is a great place to find memorable souvenirs and gifts. A food court- style restaurant is open daily from 10 AM to 5PM.

Museum Shop

National Air and Space Museum: 600 Independence Ave. at 6th St. SW, Washington, D.C. 20560, USA.  Tel: +1 202-633-2214. Open aily (except December 25), 10 AM – 5:30 PM. Website:

General Admission: free.  The 4-minute flight simulator rides cost US$6.50 per ride. IMAX movies and the Planetarium each cost US$9 per adult or US$7 per child. Shows often sell out, so purchase your tickets before viewing the rest of the museum. Tickets can be purchased in advance at (877) WDC-IMAX. After the September 11 attacks in 2001, new security measures have been created, with extensive queues  extending outside the building.

How to Get There: The closest Metro stations are Smithsonian and L’Enfant Plaza.

National Museum of the American Indian (Washington DC, USA)

National Museum of The American Indian

From the Botanic Garden, Jandy and I proceeded to the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), the first national museum in the country dedicated exclusively to Native Americans.  Part of the Smithsonian Institution, it is committed to advancing knowledge and understanding of the past, present, and future of Native cultures of the Western Hemisphere, through partnership with Native people and others.

Museum entrance

Aside from this museum,  the National Museum of the American Indian also has two other facilities – the George Gustav Heye Center (a permanent museum in Lower Manhattan, New York City) and the Cultural Resources Center (a research and collections facility in Suitland, Maryland).


Though it was a weekend, there wasn’t a long line of visitors wanting to enter the building (although the museum had 2.4 million visitors in 2004, the year it opened, it has averaged only 1.4 million in the years since due to its exhibits that feel “disjointed and incomplete”) but we were still all subjected to a security check.

Indian canoes at the lobby

The five-storey, 23,000 m2 (250,000 sq. ft.) curvilinear building, set in a 17,200 m2 (4.25-acre) site, is clad in golden-colored Kasota limestone, designed to evoke natural rock formations shaped by wind and water over thousands of years, and is surrounded by simulated wetlands.

Oculus of the dome

Fifteen years in the making, the museum was inaugurated on September 21, 2004 with an audience of around 20,000 American IndiansAlaska Natives and Native Hawaiians, the largest gathering of indigenous people in Washington D.C. to its time.

The museum’s design architects are GBQC Architects of Philadelphia and Severud Associates was the structural engineering firm chosen for this project. Project architects are Jones & Jones Architects and Landscape Architects Ltd. of Seattle and Smith Group of Washington, D.C., in association with Lou Weller (Caddo), the Native American Design Collaborative, and Polshek Partnership Architects of New York City. The landscape architects are Jones & Jones Architects and Landscape Architects Ltd. of Seattle and EDAW, Inc., of Alexandria, Virginia.

ImagiNATIONS Activity Center

Aiming to create a different atmosphere and experience from museums of European and Euro-American culture, Native Americans, in general, have filled the leadership roles in the design and operation of the museum.

Indian Chief motorcycle, 1948 at “Americans” exhibit

Canadian Douglas Cardinal, the museum’s architect and project designer, is Blackfoot.  During construction, disagreements led to Cardinal’s removal from the project, but the building retains his original design intent and, during the museum’s construction, he provided continued input.  Architect John Paul Jones is Cherokee/Choctaw while Ramona Sakiestewa (Hopi) also served as design consultant. Donna E. House (Navajo/Oneida) was the botanist who supervised the landscaping.

Our Universes – Traditional Knowledge Shapes Our World

The museum’s sweeping curvilinear architecture, its indigenous landscaping, and its exhibitions were also all designed in collaboration with tribes and communities from across the hemisphere, combine to give visitors from around the world the sense and spirit of Native America.

Nation to Nation exhibit

The landscape flows into the building and the theme of organic flow is reflected by the interior of the museum, whose walls are mostly curving surfaces, with almost no sharp corners. The museum’s east-facing entrance, its prism window and its 37 m. (120-ft.) high space for contemporary Native performances are direct results of extensive consultations with Native peoples.

Bald Eagle feather, ca. 2000

The museum’s collection, assembled by George Gustav Heye (1874–1957) during a 54-year period (beginning in 1903, he traveled throughout North and South America collecting Native objects), became part of the Smithsonian in June 1990.

Andrew Jackson’s pistol (ca. 1840)

Approximately 85% of the holdings of the NMAI, it includes more than 800,000 objects (one of the world’s largest and most diverse collections of its kind), as well as a photographic archive of 125,000 images. The collection is divided into the following areas: AmazonAndesArctic/SubarcticCalifornia/Great Basin; Contemporary Art; Mesoamerican/CaribbeanNorthwest CoastPatagoniaPlains/PlateauWoodlands.


Pana and Qolla

The museum currently has 5 exhibits.  Americans (January 18, 2018–2022), highlighting the ways in which American Indians have been part of the nation’s identity since before the country began, features pervasive, powerful and, at times, demeaning American Indian images (from the Land O’Lakes butter maiden to the Cleveland Indians’ mascot, and from classic Westerns and cartoons to episodes of Seinfeld and South Park), names (from state, city, and street names to the Tomahawk missile) and stories (historical events of Pocahontas’ life, the Trail of Tears, and the Battle of Little Bighorn) that reveal the deep connection between Americans and American Indians as well as how Indians have been embedded, in unexpected ways, in the history, pop culture, contemporary life and identity of the United States.

Inka bowl, tumi (ritual knife), armbands and ornaments with human figure design

The Great Inka Road: Engineering an Empire (June 26, 2015–June 1, 2020) explores the foundations of the more than 20,000 mile long Inka Road (which stands as one of the monumental engineering achievements in history) in earlier Andean cultures, technologies that made building the road possible, the cosmology and political organization of the Inka world, and the legacy of the Inka Empire during the colonial period and in the present day.

Maya calendar

Crossing mountains and tropical lowlands, rivers and deserts, the Great Inka Road, recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage site in 2014, linked Cusco, the administrative capital and spiritual center of the Inka world, to the farthest reaches of its empire and continues to serve contemporary Andean communities across Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and Chile.

Shan Goshorn (Eastern Band of Cherokee, b. 1957). Pieced Treaty Spider’s Web Treaty basket, 2007. Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations (September 21, 2014–Through 2021), curated by Indian rights activist Suzan Shown Harjo, is built around the 1613 Two Row Wampum Treaty which, as museum reviewer Diana Muir Appelbaum points out, is, in fact, a modern forgery. ” It is the story of that relationship between Indian Nations and the United States, including the history and legacy of U.S.–American Indian diplomacy, from the Colonial Period through the present, as well as about the equally important and influential Native diplomats and leaders of Indian Nations.

Ceremonies of Spring

Our Universes: Traditional Knowledge Shapes Our World (September 21, 2004–September 2020) focuses on indigenous cosmologies (world views and philosophies related to the creation and order of the universe) and the spiritual relationship between human kind and the natural world. Organized around the solar year, the exhibition introduces visitors to indigenous peoples from across the Western Hemisphere who continue to express the wisdom of their ancestors in celebration, language, art, spirituality and daily life.

Pueblo plates

The community galleries feature eight cultural philosophies—those of the Pueblo of Santa Clara (Espanola, New Mexico, USA), Anishinaabe (Hollow Water and Sagkeeng Bands, Manitoba, Canada), Lakota (Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota, USA), Quechua (Communidad de Phaqchanta, Cuzco, Peru), Hupa (Hoopa Valley, California, USA), Q’eq’chi’ Maya (Cobán, Guatemala), Mapuche (Temuco, Chile), and Yup’ik (Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, Alaska, USA).

Dance and Drama

The design of these galleries reflects each community’s interpretation of the order of the world.The exhibition also highlights the Denver (Colorado) March Powwow, the North American Indigenous Games, and the Day of the Dead as seasonal celebrations that bring Native peoples together.

Family Meals and Feasting

Preparing and Storing Food

At the ongoing compact exhibition Return to a Native Place: Algonquian Peoples of the Chesapeake educates visitors on the continued Native presence in the region, and provides an overview of the history and events from the 1600s to the present that have impacted the lives of the Nanticoke, Powhatan, and Piscataway tribes.

Harvesting From the Land and the Ocean

Music and Song

You will meet the Native peoples of the Chesapeake Bay region (what is now Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia, and Delaware) through photographs, maps, ceremonial and everyday objects, and interactive displays.

Southeastern Ceramics

Music and Song

The imagiNATIONS Activity Center, a fantastic interactive experience for families, allows visitors to explore genius innovations made by Native tribes, from transportation solutions (snowshoes, skateboards) to tipi-building and basket-weaving.

Native Glass

Potawatomi blouse (ca. 1890, Wisconsin)

The Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe (which translates to “Let’s eat!” in the language of Delaware and Piscataway Natives) is divided into Native regional sections such as the Northern Woodlands, South America, the Northwest Coast, Meso-America, and the Great Plains (the only Native American groups not represented in the café are the south eastern tribes such as the ChoctawChickasawCherokee and Seminole, many of which supported the United States throughout the tribes’ histories).

Museum Store

National Museum of the American Indian: Fourth Street and Independence Avenue, Southwest, National Mall , Washington D.C.. Tel: 202-633-1000. TTY: 202-633-5285. Email:  Website:  Open daily, 10 AM–5:30 PM, closed on December 25. Exhibition spaces and the store begin closing at 5:15 PM. The Mitsitam Cafe is open daily, 11 AM–3 PM (closed on December 25); the Mitsitam Espresso Coffee Bar is open daily, 10 AM–5 PM; while the imagiNATIONS Activity Center is open daily 10 AM–5 PM, closed on Mondays. Admission is free. The building is accessible to people with disabilities. The museum does not have parking. Parking is available by meter on the surrounding streets and in local paid parking garages. Visitors should be prepared for a security check upon entrance to the museum. On busy days, there may be a line to enter the building. The museum offers a range of exhibitions, film and video screenings, school group programs, public programs and living culture presentations throughout the year. 

How To Get There: The National Museum of the American Indian is located between the Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum and the U.S. Capitol Building.

Metro: L’Enfant Plaza (Blue/Orange/Green/Yellow lines), exit Maryland Avenue/Smithsonian Museums

Bus: Lines 30, 32, 34–36—Friendship Heights/Southern Avenue. There are 9 bus drop-off only spaces on Maryland Avenue accessible from 3rd Street.

The Walters Art Museum (Baltimore, Maryland, USA)

Walters Art Museum

This public art museum, founded and opened in 1934, holds collections substantially amassed by major American art and sculpture collector William Thompson Walters, (1819–1894) and his son Henry Walters (1848–1931), who refined the collection and made arrangements for the construction of a later landmark building to rehouse it. The entire collection of then more than 22,000 works was bequeathed by Henry Walters upon his death in 1931.

The museum entrance

The collection includes  masterworks of ancient EgyptGreek sculpture, Roman sarcophagi, medieval ivories, illuminated manuscripts, Renaissance bronzes, Old Master European and 19th-century paintings, Chinese ceramics and bronzes, Art Deco jewelry, and ancient Near East, Mesopotamian, or ancient Middle East items.

The palazzo-style collonade

The elaborate stone palazzo-styled structure, Henry Walters’ original gallery, was designed by architect William Adams Delano and erected between 1904 and 1909. Its exterior was inspired by the Renaissance-revival-style Hôtel Pourtalès in Paris while  its interior was modeled after the 17th-century “Collegio dei Gesuiti” (now the Palazzo dell’Università, built by the Balbi family for the Jesuits in Genoa). It houses the arts of the Renaissance and Baroque periods, French decorative arts of the 18th and 19th centuries, manuscripts and rare books.

The author at the Sculpture Court

The Centre Street Annex Building, at the rear of the original main gallery, was designed by the Boston firm of Shepley, Bullfinch, Richardson, and Abbott, in the “Brutalist” poured-concrete style, an extremely modernistic style prevalent in the 1960s. This annex building, opened in 1974, has several horizontal lines paralleled with features in the 1909 structure.

Medieval World lobby. At left is the “Virgin and Child” (Burgundian, ca. 1425) while at center is an altarpiece with the Passion of Christ

From 1998 to 2001, it was substantially altered by Kallmann McKinnell and Wood, Architects.  A soaring, four-storey glass atrium was provided, with a suspended staircase at the juncture between the older and newer buildings, and a new entrance lobby along Centre Street. Today, the conjoined buildings has five floors with 39 intimate galleries for smaller works. The collection has also grown, by later gifts and purchases, to 35,000 works.

Ancient World Lobby

The new lobby, which provides easier ground-level handicapped access along with enhanced security provisions for both collections and visitors, also has a café, an enlarged museum, gift store and a reference library.

Portrait of Henry Walters (1938, Thomas Cromwell Corner, American)

The museum’s famed art conservation laboratory, one of the oldest in the country, is also found here. With its large display walls and irregular corridors and galleries, the Centre Street Annex Building houses the ancientByzantinemedievalEthiopian, and 19th-century European collections.

Adam and Eve (ca. 1515) on main staircase to Sculpture Court

Originally called “The Walters Art Gallery,” the museum changed its long-time name to “The Walters Art Museum” in 2000 to reflect its image as a large public institution and eliminate confusion among some of the increasing out-of-state visitors.

17th Century Dutch Cabinet Rooms

In 2001, after a dramatic 3-year physical renovation and replacement of internal utilities and infrastructure, “The Walters” (as it is often known in the city) reopened its original main building.

The Upper Stair Hall. At near left is the “Allegory of Knowledge of Things” while on the right is the Choir Gate (1700-1750)

Starting on October 1, 2006, as a result of substantial grants given by Baltimore City and the surrounding suburban Baltimore County arts agencies and authorities, the museum began having free admission year-round. In 2012, “The Walters” released nearly 20,000 of its own images of its collections (one of the largest and most comprehensive such releases made by any museum), on a Creative Commons license, and collaborated in their upload to the world-wide web and the internet on Wikimedia Commons.

The two monumental 3,000-pound statues of the Egyptian lion-headed fire goddess Sekhmet at the entrance to the Egyptian Art Exhibit

The Walters’ collection of ancient art, one of the largest assemblages in the United States, includes examples from EgyptNubiaGreeceRomeEtruria and the Near East.

Egyptian Art – Seated Statue of Nehy (ca. 1250-1230 BC, New Kingdom, 19th Dynasty)

The second floor houses The Ancient World (Ancient Treasury, Near Eastern Art, Egyptian Art, Greek Art, Etruscan Art, Roman Art), European Art (Entry Hall of Arms and Armor, Chamber of Wonders, 17th Century Dutch Cabinet Rooms, 18th and 19th Century Treasury) and the Sculpture Court.

Egyptian Art – Mummy and Painted Cartonnage of an Unknown Woman (850-750 BC)

The Walters’ collection of ancient art, one of the largest assemblages in the United States, includes examples from EgyptNubiaGreeceRomeEtruria and the Near East.

Egyptian Art – Mummy Mask of a High Official (ca. 2000-1980 BCE, Middle Kingdom)

The collection of ancient Egyptian and Nubian art, dating from prehistoric to Roman Egypt (5th millennium BC– 4th century AD ), include statuary (the most impressive pieces are two monumental 3,000-pound statues of the Egyptian lion-headed fire goddess Sekhmet); stelae; the intact Walters Mummy (still in its elaborate wrappings); reliefs; sarcophagi; funerary objects; impressive jewelry and objects from daily life as well as images of private individuals and kings.

Ancient Near Eastern Art

Art from the Near East includes alabaster reliefs from the palace of Ashurnasirpal II.

Greek Art Exhibit

The Walters’ outstanding collection of ancient Greek  art, illustrating the history and culture of Greece from the Cycladic to the Hellenistic period (ca. 3rd millennium–1st century BC), includes engraved gemstones; dazzling gold jewelry (including extraordinary Greek bracelets, encrusted with multicolored gemstones, from Olbia on the shores of the Black Sea); exceptional vases, and marble statues (including the Praxitelean Satyr)

Etruscan Art

The most treasured objects in the collection of ancient Roman art at the Walters includes a large assemblage of Roman portrait heads (including powerful depictions of the emperors Augustus and Marcus Aurelius); exquisite Etruscan bronzes, a Roman bronze banquet couch, and seven marble sarcophagi, among the finest in the world, with intricate marble carvings depicting mythological scenes, from the tombs of the prominent Licinian and Calpurnian families in Rome.

Roman Art

Ancient Treasury

The 18th and 19th century Treasury displays portrait miniatures, examples of goldsmiths’ works (especially snuffboxes and watches) along with some exceptional 19th- and early-20th-century works. Among them are examples of Art Nouveau-styled jewelry by René Lalique, jeweled objects by the House of Fabergé, including two Russian Imperial Easter eggs, and precious jewels by Tiffany and Co. of New York City.

18th and 19th Century Treasury

18th and 19th Century Treasury

Three galleries (Entry Hall of Arms and Armor, Chamber of Wonders and Collector’s Private Study), dedicated to European art of the 15th to 17th centuries, suggest a 1600s collection that might have been the pride of a sophisticated nobleman in the Spanish Netherlands (present-day Belgium).

Entry Hall of Arms and Armor

The Entry Hall of Arms and Armor , reflecting traditions of chivalry and the noble values of family honor is, in part, based on the installation at the Habsburg palace Schloss Ambras just outside Innsbruck (Austria).

Chamber of Wonders

The Collector’s Private Study is where small, intricate objects were kept close at hand.  The more spacious Chamber of Art and Wonders (or Constkamer, as such a space was known in the Spanish Netherlands), is a faithful recreation of a cabinet of curiosity and has cabinets full of natural history specimens, as well as art objects from the museum’s collection.

Jandy exploring the hallway with displays of Renaissance Ceramics

The third floor houses The Medieval World Galleries (Byzantine, Russian and Ethiopian Icons, Early Byzantine Art, Migration and Early Medieval Art, Medieval World Lobby, Romanesque and Gothic Art, The Great Room, Upper Stair Hall, Islamic Art, Islamic Arms and Armor) and Renaissance & Baroque Galleries (13th-15th Century Italian Art, 15th Century Art of Northern Europe, 15th Century Italian Art, 16th Century Italian Art, 17th Century Art, 18th Century Art, Renaissance Ceramics)

Byzantine, Russian and Ethiopian Icons

The Walters’ collection contains one of the largest assemblages of art produced during the Middle Ages (extends from the 4th  to the end of the 14th century, or from the disintegration of the Roman Empire to the beginning of the Renaissance in western Europe in all the major artistic media of the period).

The author (left) entering the “15th Century Art of Northern Europe”exhibit. At right is an altarpiece with the Passion of Christ (ca. 1492-1495, Late Medieval Renaissance).

The Walters’ Medieval collection, for which the museum is best known internationally, is considered one of the best collections of Medieval art in the United States.  Spanning the Medieval world from the eastern Mediterranean to Western Europe, the museum’s Medieval art collection features a wide range of remarkable objects including examples of metalwork, sculpture, stained glass, textiles, icons, and other paintings.

Romanesque and Gothic Art

The Walters’ collection is especially renowned for its particularly strong holdings of ivories, enamels, liturgical vessels, reliquaries and illuminated manuscripts.

Early Byzantine Art

The Walters’ Medieval collection features unique objects such as the Byzantine agate Rubens Vase that belonged to the painter Rubens (accession no. 42.562) and the earliest-surviving image of the Virgin of Tenderness, an ivory carving produced in Egypt in the 6th or 7th century (accession no. 71.297). Sculpted heads from the royal Abbey of St. Denis are rare surviving examples of portal sculptures that are directly connected with the origins of Gothic art in 12th-century France (accession nos. 27.21 and 27.22). An ivory casket covered with scenes of jousting knights is one of about a dozen such objects to survive in the world (accession no. 71.264).

Migration and Early Medieval Art

The Walters also displays Late Medieval devotional Italian paintings by painters such as Tommaso da ModenaPietro LorenzettiAndrea di Bartolo (Resurrection), Alberto SotioBartolomeo di Tommaso (Death of Saint Francis), Naddo CeccarelliMaster of Saint VerdianaNiccolo di Segna (Saint Lucy), OrcagnaOlivuccio di CiccarelloMaster of Panzano Triptych and Giovanni del Biondo.

The Rubens Vase (agate, gold, Byzantine Art. ca 400)

Henry Walters  took an early interest in Byzantine art, buying at a time when there were limited collectors in this field, and the museum also holds one of the leading collections of Byzantine Art in the United States.

Jewelry Box with Dancers and Faun (4th to 6th Century)

Sarcophagus Fragment with the Good Shepherd (early 4th century)

The Walters’ Byzantine art collection, supported by an important collection of Russian and Orthodox icons, includes a group of over two thousand decorative tile fragments, early Byzantine silver, post-Byzantine art, the Kaper Koraon Treasure  and illuminated manuscripts. The museum also houses the largest and finest collection of Ethiopian Orthodox Church art outside Ethiopia.

13th-15th Century Italian Art

15th Century Italian Art

The collection of Renaissance, Baroque and 18th-century European art, the breadth of which offers a comprehensive display of the arts during this artistically fertile period, features one of the most significant holdings of Italian paintings, many of which were acquired by Henry Walters with the Massarenti Collection (a previously unprecedented purchase of the contents of an Italian villa) plus sculpture, furniture, ceramics, metalwork, jewelry, arms and armor, and locks and keys.

16th Century Italian Art

17th Century Art

The best-known works include Hugo van der Goes‘ Donor with Saint John the BaptistHeemskerck‘s Panorama with the Abduction of Helen Amidst the Wonders of the Ancient WorldGiambattista Pittoni‘s Sacrifice of Polyxena, the Madonna of the Candelabra (from the studio of Raphael), Veronese’s Portrait Of Countess Livia da Porto Thiene and her Daughter PorziaEl Greco‘s Saint Francis Receiving the StigmataBernini‘s “bozzetto” of the Risen Christ, Tiepolo‘s Scipio Africanus Freeing Massiva, and The Ideal City attributed to Fra Carnevale. The museum has one of ten surviving examples of the Sèvres pot-pourri vase in the shape of a ship from the 1750s and 1760s.

18th Century Art

The Walters’ collection presents an overview of 19th-century European art, particularly European art works by late-19th-century academic masters and Impressionists from France.  Because of his notorious Southern-leanings, William Walters, with his family, stayed in Paris during the Civil War.

The Cafe-Concert (1879, Edouard Manet)

Here, he soon developed a keen interest in contemporary European painting and he commissioned, either directly from the artists or purchased at auctions, such major works by the Barbizon masters (Jean-François Millet and Henri Rousseau); academic masters (Jean-Léon Gérôme and Lawrence Alma-Tadema) and modernists (MonetManet, Sisley and  the Italian Antonio Rotta).

Odalisque with Slave (1842, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres)

From the first half of the century comes major paintings by Ingres, Géricault, and Delacroix.  Highlights of the collection include Odalisque with Slave by Ingres (a second version); Claude Monet’s SpringtimeAlfred Sisley‘s panoramic view of the Seine Valley; and  The Café Concert, Édouard Manet’s realist masterpiece.

Fortune (1900, Sevres Porcelain Factory, Augustin Moreau-Vauthier)

The Dancer (1900, Sevres Porcelain Factory, Agathon Leonard)

The museum’s collection of Sèvres porcelain (Henry Walters was particularly interested in the courtly arts of 18th-century France) includes a number of pieces that were made for members of the Royal Bourbon Court at Versailles Palace outside of Paris.

Islamic Art

Islamic art in all artistic media, encompassing the entire realm of artistic production in those lands where, from the 7th century onward, the Muslim religion took hold (territory that, at its height, stretched from present-day Spain and North Africa westward to India), is represented at the Walters, reflecting the cultural diversity and geographical range of Islamic cultures.

Islamic Art

It includes not only objects used in the service of religion but also those created for the courts of the Middle East and Central Asia, as well as articles used in everyday life.

Iznik Plate with a depiction of an Ewer (late 16th century, Early Modern)

Basin (early mid-15th century, Late Medieval)

Among the highlights are a 7th-century carved and hammered silver bowl from Iran that demonstrates the continuation of Sassanian traditions in early Muslim Persia; a 13th-century candlestick made of copper, silver, and gold from the Mamluk era in Egypt; 16th-century mausoleum doors decorated with intricate wood carvings in a radiating star pattern; a delicate 17th-century silk sash from the Mughal Empire in India; and a 17th-century Turkish tile with an image of the Masjid al-Haram (“Great Mosque of Mecca”), the center of Islam in Mecca, (modern Saudi Arabia).

Tile with the Great Mosque of Mecca (17th century, Ottoman)

The Walters Museum owns an array of Islamic manuscripts that include a 15th-century Koran from northern India (executed at the height of the Timurid Empire); a 16th-century copy of the “Khamsa of Nizami” by Amir Khusraw (illustrated by a number of famous artists for the Emperor Akbar); and a Turkish calligraphy album by Sheikh Hamadullah Al-Amasi (one of the greatest calligraphers of all time).

Islamic Arms and Armor

The ongoing, 18-month, special exhibition “From Rye to Raphael: The Walters Story, spanning the entire fourth floor of the museum, celebrates the museum’s 80th anniversary by examining the legacy of founders William and Henry Walters.

A Roman Emperor Claudius (1871, Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema)

The Attack at Dawn (1877, Alphonse de Neuville)

It brings together, in 7 galleries, an extraordinary group of art and artifacts that illustrates the intriguing stories behind the Walters family’s magnificent gift to the city.

Walter Mountain Distilleries Whiskey Bottle and Tumblers with WTW Monogram

The “rye” in the exhibit name refers to the trade in rye whiskey that served as the basis of the family fortune while “Raphael” refers to the “Madonna of the Candelabra” (depicting Mary and Christ as divine royals) painting (not on view in the exhibition) by Renaissance master Raphael, purchased by Henry in 1901, the artist’s first Virgin and Child to enter a United States collection..

From Rye to Raphael – The Walters Story

Alongside Walters family photographs and historic material culled from the archives, it features 200 works chosen for their beauty and craftsmanship. Much of it comes from the museum’s permanent collection while other previously unseen objects were selected from the museum’s archives.

A Roman Slave Market (1884) by Jean Leon Gerome, depicting an eroticized nude female slave, seen from behind standing on a scaffold as men below call out their bids is, perhaps, the most sensuous image in the show but is also easily the most disturbing.

Its highlights include a 19th-century salon-style gallery (re-creating a room in the original Walters residence at 5 West Mount Vernon Place that was crammed floor to ceiling and wall to wall with artworks, gold frames gleaming against plum wallpaper) and a gallery of French works by such painters as Eugene Delacroix, Jean-Jacques Rosseau and Jean-Leon Gerome.

The Young Girl of Bou-Saada (Susse Freres Foundry, Ernest Barrias)

The Walters Art Museum: 600 North Charles Street, Mount Vernon-BelvedereBaltimoreMaryland 21201, United States.  Tel: +1 410-547-9000. Open Wednesdays to Sundays, 10 AM –5 PM (9 PM on Thursdays), closed Mondays,  Tuesdays, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Admission is free. Website:

USS Constellation Museum (Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.A.)

USS Constellation with Museum Gallery at left

After our visit to the World War II vintage cutter USCGC Taney, Jandy, Kyle and I walked some distance, from Pier 1, to get to Pier 5 where the museum ship USS Constellation, a sloop-of-war/corvette is berthed, the last of two ships we were to visit using our Squadron Pass. This would our first time to go aboard and explore a three-masted sailing ship.

The author with the USS Constellation in the background

Now a part of Historic Ships in Baltimore, Constellation and her companions are major contributing elements in the Baltimore National Heritage Area.

Check out “The Historic Ships of Baltimore

Exhibit at Museum Gallery

Here are some interesting trivia regarding the Constellation:

  • It had a length of 60.96 m. (200 ft.), a beam width of 13.11 m. (43 ft.), a draft of 6.4 m. (21 ft.), displaced 1,400 lbs. and had a typical operating crew of 285 including a Marine detachment of 45.
  • She was built using some recycled materials salvaged from the old, 38-gun frigate USS Constellation (launched in 1797), which had been disassembled the year before at Gosport Navy Yard in Norfolk, Virginia. She is the second U.S. Navy ship to carry this famous name.
  • In 1955, when the sloop-of-war was brought to Baltimore as a museum ship, it was under the mistaken belief that it was its predecessor, the 1797 frigate Constellation. Over the next four decades, the 1854 ship was “restored” to look like the older ship. In the early 1990s, a US Navy research team, led by Dana Wegner, conclusively proved the ship’s true identity.
  • Despite being a single-gun deck “sloop,” she was actually larger than her original frigate built, and more powerfully armed, with fewer (22) but much more potent shell-firing guns.  On commissioning, she had 16 x VIII-inch shell guns, 4 x 32-pounder guns and 2 x X-inch pivot mounted shell guns. During the American Civil War, she was equipped with 16 x VIII-inch shell Dahlgren guns (primary), 4 x 32-pounder guns (secondary), 1 x 30-pounder pivot mounted Parrott Rifle (bow) and 1 x 20-pounder pivot mounted Parrott Rifle (stern). She also had 3 x 12-pounder bronze howitzers for close-in fighting.
  • Her sail rigging, typical of the time, was set across 3 primary masts.
  • She had a surface speed of 21 knots (14 mph).
  • She is the last existing intact naval vessel, still afloat, from the American Civil War.
  • She was one of the last wind-powered (sail-only) warships built by the United States Navy.
  • She has been assigned the hull classification symbol IX-20.
  • About one-half of the lines used to rig the vessel are present (amounting to several miles of rope and cordage).

Here is the historical timeline of this ship:

  • Designed by John Lenthall, she was constructed at the Norfolk Navy Yard
  • Launched on August 26, 1854 and commissioned on July 28, 1855, with Captain Charles H. Bell in command, the Constellation  performed largely diplomatic duties, from 1855 to 1858, as part of the S. Mediterranean Squadron.
  • On July 1856, while on station, Constellation was dispatched to protect American lives and property at Malaga, Spain, during a revolution in that country.
  • That same year, while cruising in the Sea of Marmora, she rescued a barque in distress, receiving, from the court of the Austrian emperor, an official message in appreciation.
  • From 1859 to 1861, she was the flagship of the 8-ship Africa Squadron, taking part in African Slave Trade Patrol operations to disrupt the Atlantic slave trade. The ship interdicted three slave ships and released the imprisoned Africans.
  • On December 21, 1859, the Constellation captured the  Delicia, a brig fitted out as a slave ship (but with no slaves on board) which was without colors or papers to show her nationality.
  • On September 26, 1860, she captured the Cora, a “fast little bark” with 705 slaves who were set free in Monrovia, Liberia.
  • On May 21, 1861, in African coastal waters, the Constellation overpowered the Charleston-registered Triton, a slaver brig, one of the U.S. Navy’s first captures during the American Civil War.
  • During the Civil War, she spent much of the war in the Mediterranean Sea as a deterrent to Confederate cruisers and commerce raiders.
  • After the Civil War, Constellation spent a number of years as a receiving ship (floating naval barracks) in Norfolk, and later in Philadelphia, until 1869.
  • From March to July 1878, she carried exhibits to the 1878 Exposition Universelle in Paris
  • From March to June 1880, during the 1879 Irish famine, she carried 2,500 barrels of flour and potatoes for famine victims in Ireland.
  • In 1894, after being used as a practice ship for Naval Academy midshipmen, the Constellation became a training ship for Naval Training Center Newport.
  • During World War I, she helped train more than 60,000 recruits.
  • Decommissioned in 1933, the Constellation was recommissioned in 1940, by President Franklin Roosevelt, as a national symbol.
  • During World War II, she remained in Newport, spending much her time as relief (i.e. reserve) flagship for the U.S. Atlantic Fleet. From May 21, 1941, the Constellation was the relief flagship for Ernest J. King and, later, from January 19 to July 20, 1942 and from 1943 to 1944, for his replacement Vice Admiral Royal E. Ingersoll.
  • In October 1946, the Constellation was moved to Boston, where she was kept, together with the venerable USS Constitution, as a naval relic. She remained in commission until 1954.
  • Decommissioned, for the last time, on February 2, 1955, she was moved to Baltimore and taken to her permanent berth.
  • On May 23, 1963, the Constellation was designated as a National Historic Landmark.
  • On October 15, 1966, she was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • In 1994, the Constellation was condemned as an unsafe vessel. Her rigging was removed an she was closed to the public.
  • In 1996, she was towed to a drydock at Sparrows Point, near Fort McHenry, and a US$9 million rebuilding and restoration project was undertaken and completed on July 2, 1999. In an attempt to safeguard the wood planking, the hull from the waterline to the keel was covered in a fiberglass coating and painted an aqua-blue.
  • On October 26, 2004, Constellation made her first trip, since 1955, out of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Lasting six days, the trip to the S. Naval Academy in Annapolis  marked her first trip to Annapolis in 111 years.
  • In late 2012, it was determined the wood hull behind the fiberglass sheathing, installed during the 1996–98 rebuilding, contained significant rotting.
  • From 2014 to 2015, over a 6-month period, the ship was again put in dry dock and rebuilt with fresh (and chemically treated to resist rotting) wood planking.
  • In late March 2015, the rebuilt ship was returned to her Inner Harbor berth and her rigging was completed
  • By May 2015, she was again opened to the public.

Top or spar deck

20 pounder, pivot-mounted Parrott Rifle at the stern

To get aboard, we had to enter the two-storey Museum Gallery Building (where USS Constellation’s history is portrayed through artifacts and personal effects which belonged to the ship’s crew), climb the stairs to the second floor and cross a gangplank to the ship.

Kyle at the gun deck

Jandy beside a VIII-inch Dahlgren gun

Nearly all of the ship was accessible during our tour. We went down to all 4 wooden decks, each one different, and there were plenty of things to see on each.

Ship’s Stove

Galley Provisions

Compared to the USCGC Taney, the Constellation’s stairs leading to the lower decks , though still steep and narrow, were still much easier to go up and down.

Check out “USCGC Taney

Bilge and Fire Pump

Arms Chest

There are plenty of signs and visual aids to explain everything.The male guide, dressed in uniform of the period, was very knowledgeable on the ship’s history.

Captain’s Office


Captain’s Stateroom

The top or spar deck, the highest of the continuous decks running the full length (stem to the stern) of a ship, was where all sailing operations took place.  The ship’s wheel, binnaclefife rails, and so forth, are also mounted here. The ship’s sails here were large and quite impressive.

Dining Table

Officers Quarters

The next deck down is the gun deck where the ship’s main battery of VIII-inch Dahlgren guns, the Captain’s Cabin, the Officers Quarters and the Galley are located. The ship’s officers (Executive Officer; Master; Marine Lieutenant; Second, Third, Fourth & Fifth Lieutenants; Chaplain, Paymaster; Surgeon) each had individual living quarters with beds.

Executive Officer’s Quarters

Master’s Quarters

The captain, on the other hand, had a large spacious area to himself, complete with dining table, bath, study, and the only private, old-school toilet on deck (it had a window view).

Second Lieutenant-Navigator’s Quarters

Chaplain’s Quarters

We explored further, going down another flight of steps to reach the berth deck where the majority of the crew  lived and socialized and where their hammocks are slung.



Going down one more ladder brought us to the ship’s hold where food, water and gear for the crew  was stowed.  The top deck (spar deck) and gun deck are accessible via wheelchair lifts. The headroom on the two lower decks was low.

Stairs leading to Berth Deck

Berth Deck

A trip way back in maritime history, for tall ships it’s hard to beat the Constellation as we saw how the sailors slept (not very comfortable I should imagine as they slept on hammocks with no privacy) and ate on the ship, giving us a real feel at how hard it was to live on a ship back then.

Ship’s Hold

USS Constellation: Pier 1, Constellation Dock, 301 East Pratt St., Inner Harbor, BaltimoreMaryland 21202-3134, United States. Tel: 410-539-1797 (Main Office) and 410-396-3453 (Group Sales/ Education Office).  Fax: 410-539-6238. Open daily, 10 AM – 4:30 PM. E-mail: Website: Admission: US$18 (Fleet Pass – 4 ships entry), UUS$15 (Squadron Pass – 2 ships entry). Tickets may be purchased on-line or at ticket locations on Pier 1, Pier 3 or on board the USCGC Taney.

Tours are regularly available, self-guided or with the assistance of staff. Tour groups can participate in demonstrations such as “turning the yards” and operating the capstan on the main deck to raise/lower cargo. Daily, a cannon firing is also demonstrated. Star-Spangled Spectacular visitors, with limited mobility and one companion, may tour the USS Constellation free on September 11, 12, 14 and 15, during her regular scheduled operating hours.

The Historic Ships of Baltimore (Maryland, U.S.A.)

The Historic Ships of Baltimore

One of the highlights during our 2-night stay in Baltimore was our visit to The Historic Ships of Baltimore, a maritime museum located in the Inner Harbor of Baltimore, an opportunity too good to miss for a nautical buff. An affiliate of the Living Classrooms Foundation,  it represents one of the most impressive collections of military vessels in the world.  Exhibiting life at sea, from the mid-19th century to the mid-1980’s, it was created as a result of the merger of the USS Constellation Museum and the Baltimore Maritime Museum.

Jandy posing with the World War II submarine USS Torsk in the background

The museum’s collection, all located within easy walking distance of each other, features four historic and well-maintained museum ships from four different times in history.  The USS Constellation, a 1854 sloop-of-war in Pier 1, was the last all-sail warship built by the US Navy.

Check out “USS Constellation Museum

USCG Cutter Taney

The USCGC Taney (WHEC-37), a Coast Guard cutter in Pier 5, is the last surviving vessel to witness the December 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  The USS Torsk (SS-423), a World War II-era, Trench-class (one of 10) submarine in Pier 3 commissioned in 1940, torpedoed the Coast Defense Vessels #13 and #47 on August 14, 1945, the last two enemy combatants of World War II.  The Chesapeake, a lightship (which marked the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay) in Pier 3 built in 1930, was a navigational aid with beacons mounted on it.

Check out “USCGC Taney

The author posing with the lightship Chesapeake in the background

Also included in the collection is the 40 ft. high Seven Foot Knoll Light, a screw-pile lighthouse in Pier 5 built in 1856. One of the oldest Chesapeake Bay area lighthouses, it was erected at the mouth of the Patapso River, on a shallow shoal called the Seven Foot Knoll. For over 130 years, it marked the entrance to the Patapsco River and Baltimore Harbor. The three ships (USS Constellation, USCGC Taney and the USS Torsk) are National Historic Landmarks and all five are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Seven Foot Knoll Light

Jandy, Kyle and I availed of the Squadron Pass and visited the USCGC Taney and the USS Constellation (by far, our favorite). Our interesting and educational visit gave us a good overview of different parts of the nautical world and of Baltimore’s heritage as a major seaport.  Both ships were amazing to walk through as they had much of their original furnishings (like uniforms, desks, etc) for effect (where needed, accurate replicas where made).

Jandy with the American Civil War-era sloop-of-war USS Constellation in the background

Historic Ships in Baltimore: 301 East Pratt St., Baltimore, Maryland  21202-3134, United States. Tel: 410-539-1797 (Main Office) and 410-396-3453 (Group Sales/ Education Office).  Fax: 410-539-6238. Open daily, 10 AM – 4:30 PM. E-mail: Website: Admission: US$18 (Fleet Pass – 4 ships entry), UUS$15 (Squadron Pass – 2 ships entry). Tickets may be purchased on-line or at ticket locations on Pier 1, Pier 3 or on board the USCGC Taney. Admission is free at the Seven Foot Knoll Light.