Spending time in the Smithsonian Museums in Washington DC and New York

When you visit Washington DC you will most likely visit some of the big museums located there. Most of them are part of the Smithsonian Institution and located around the Mall, where you can find most of the important sights in Washington DC. During our trip to New York and Washington DC we visited some of them.

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Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

This museum is one of the few Smithsonian Institutions not located in Washington DC, but in New York along the Museum Mile. The building itself is a wonderful example of the classical mansions formerly located along Central Park. Here you can find a collection of wonderful furniture and house utility design pieces. They also hand out an interactive pencil which you can use to “save” your favourite museum pieces on a cloud, which is an interesting concept to make you interact more with the museum and its collection.

National Air and Space Museum

The first museum we visited in Washington DC was the National Air and Space Museum, one of the biggest and most popular museums. It houses a varied collection of civil aviation, military aviation and space exploration. You can learn about the history of flight as well as how all the systems work. While some of the displays are quite up to date, some others are clearly showing their age and in need of some updating. Even though the building is huge, it’s not big enough to house the entire collection so an annex of the museum is located closer to the Washington Dulles airport outside of the city centre, due to time constraints we where not able to visit this part of the museum. Keep in mind that the museum is quite popular with families and children so expect a bigger crowd and less tranquility during your visit.

National Museum of the American Indian

This museum is worth a visit just for the architecture of the building, a very imposing building in a modern style influenced by native American art. Inside you can find the history of the Native Americans, wich is something we as Europeans don’t really know a lot about. As this is a rather new museum (opened in 2004) the entire exposition is making use if the newest ways of displaying artifacts and interactive displays. We also enjoyed a lunch here where the menu is inspired by tastes and products of the native american tribes, very much worth a try.

National Museum of American History

This museum covers various aspects of American history using life-like displays of how streets and houses used to be. Of course there are also a number of more classical displays covering things like history and technology of all sorts. You will also find a few temporary exhibitions, like the one covering the dresses of the First Ladies. As this museum offer a lot of different items in one building, everyone will find something he likes to do and learn more about.

National Postal Museum

The National Postal Museum is located in the Main Hall and basement of the US Postal Services Headquarter building, right next to the Washington Union Station. Inside you get a whole explanation of the history of the US postal service from how post was handled in the colonial period up to the most modern techniques in use today. There is also a gallery dedicated to Postal Stamps in all colours and variations. This museum makes use of a lot of interactive displays and teaches you stuff in an easy to comprehend kind of way.

National Portrait Gallery & Smithsonian American Art Museum

Both museums are located in the Old Patent Office Building, each has it’s own wing in which their collections are housed. We only visited a part of the modern art collection, but there was much more to see. Inside the building there is a wonderful indoor plaza, ideally to relax or study.

National Gallery of Art

While in Washington DC we also visited the National Gallery of Art, and even though this big museum is located along the Mall it is not a part of the Smithsonian Institute. We walked along the sculptures in the Sculpture Garden, through the main building with it’s classical collection but where most struck by awe by the East Building and it’s modern collection. The East building itself is worth a visit, due to it’s maze-like design and light-flooded interior spaces.

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