Among the many national treasures to be found in Washington, DC, some of the most impressive collections can be found in the many museums in the district. From official presidential portraits to international language exhibits to celebrations of women in the arts, DC’s museum scene is teeming with educational and inspiring works that can appeal to a wide range of interests.
DC residents have been left without museums for far too long during the COVID pandemic, but now, as restrictions ease and life begins to return to its normal summer rhythm, some of our favorite museums are open again. . So we’ve rounded up some of our favorite permanent and temporary exhibits currently on display in DC’s many remarkable museums that are well worth a visit this summer.
The National Museum of Women in the Arts is always a great place to learn more about women artists and often under-represented female subjects, and this exhibition of the work of photographer Mary Ellen Mark brings the two together. The exhibition brings together around 30 images from the modern photographer’s 50-year career, all of which focus on girls and young women from around the world. Discover the exhibition before August 8, when the museum will temporarily close for renovation.
Appointment: Now until August 8
How to visit: Buy museum passes website
2021 marks the 100th anniversary of the Phillips Collection, and the museum, which was the first in the United States dedicated to modern art, is celebrating with a special exhibition: See differently. The exhibition features over 200 works by artists from the 19th century to the present day, including paintings, works on paper, prints, photographs, sculptures, quilts and videos. Unlike other special exhibits, this one is actually spread throughout the museum and specifically focuses on recent acquisitions to highlight the evolution of the museum.
Appointment: Now until September 12
How to visit: Book your tickets on time via website
The traveling exhibition, The bearded woman project, is made up of 38 black and white portraits by Kelsey Vance, featuring female paleontologists in the field, laboratories, offices and museums. All of these female scientists posed with fake beards and mustaches to challenge the general concept of what a scientist might look like.
Appointment: Now until September 26
How to visit: The museum is open from Wednesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5.30 p.m.
This pop-up exhibit highlights a fascinating collection of artifacts used for code creation, decoding, and secure communications, all sourced from the NSA National Cryptology Museum, which is temporarily closed. You might not be an expert cryptographer, but you can certainly appreciate the exhibits on display while learning how converted communications have shaped all of our lives.
Appointment: Now until September 30
How to visit: Book your tickets via website
The Renwick Gallery is certainly not the largest of the Smithsonians, but its more intimate size often makes the exhibits more compelling. The main one of them is Welcome Home: A Portrait of East Baltimore, 1975-1980, which documents the history and diversity of East Baltimore residents and businesses in the 1970s. The photographs were taken to celebrate America’s Bicentennial.
Appointment: Until January 17, 2022
How to visit: The museum is open Wednesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5.30 p.m.
It’s hard to choose just one fantastic exhibit in this relatively new museum dedicated to the language, but one of the most interesting and interactive is The spoken word. You will be able to meet speakers and signers from all over the world, ask them to introduce you to their language and even try new words for yourself.
Appointment: Permanent exhibition
How to visit: Book a museum pass website
Born in 1941, American artist Lynda Benglis has made a name for herself with her innovative uses and blends of techniques, materials and mediums. The National Gallery is currently exhibiting 33 of Bengli’s sculptures, paintings, drawings, prints and videos to highlight the unique work of this major artist who has influenced generations that have followed her.
Appointment: Until January 2, 2022
How to visit: No hourly pass is required for daily entry from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
This fascinating exhibit pays homage to the great experience of American democracy and takes viewers through the history of citizen participation, debate and compromise. Objects ranging from Thomas Jefferson’s portable desk to Abraham Lincoln’s inkwell to Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s table are on display as part of the exhibit.
Appointment: Permanent exhibition
How to visit: The museum is open Friday through Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and does not require a timed pass.
The Portrait Gallery continues to celebrate the centenary of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, which granted women the right to vote, with this exhibition. Her story celebrates some of America’s most diverse and influential female authors, including Margaret Wise Brown, Willa Cather, Sandra Cisneros, and Alice Walker.
Appointment: Until January 23, 2022
How to visit: The museum is open Wednesday to Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
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Elsie Yang is a contributor to Thrillist. Follow her on Instagram.