Most museums in Washington DC are part of the Smithsonian, which means the entry is free! As a result it was easy to visit museums I wasn't sure I'd enjoy and when I only had an hour or so left, that was great.
As an aside, when I found out that "the Smithsonian" is actually multiple museums I got confused by how, from what I remember, the Captain America exhibition in CA:WS is "in the Smithsonian." Which one? But then G. and her husband S., who I was staying with (G. is L's daughter), talked about some paintings they'd last seen "at the Smithsonian", so apparently it really is used this way. National Air and Space Museum
: Rockets! The best part of this museum are the many exhibits. Lunar landers, parts of the Hubble space telescope, space suits… Very cool. I also liked all the information about the ISS a lot. In some of the smaller rooms some information was outdated ("in 2014 NASA will…" um)
Sadly I only had time to explore the "space" parts of this museum.National Museum of the American Indian:
In contrast to the museum in NYC, which focused mostly on art, this one focused on culture and especially modern culture. I liked what they had, but it felt like their "modern" stopped with 50/60-year-old people trying to revive their culture and I wanted to know more about 20/30-year-olds and how they combine modern and older traditions. (I left out one floor with an art installation, maybe that had some of that.) The row of flags of the different Native American nations in one hallway was pretty cool.
They had an exhibition about treaties between Native American nations and the US government, with various treaties in more detail, including what happened next. After that I decided that was enough about genocide for one vacation and not to visit the Holocaust museum. American Art Museum
and Portrait Gallery
: These two are in the same building. They're also open longer than all other Smithsonian museums, which was convenient. I liked the American Art museum, and even though I didn't expect it I enjoyed the Portrait Gallery a lot too. Many pictures of fascinating people, and the exhibitions of more modern portraits was also cool.Renwick Gallery:
I went there on a recommendation of a friend of L. 's, that was lucky. The first time I wanted to go on Sunday, but changed my mind when I saw the queue stretching over the whole sidewalk. I went again on Monday, this time with DD, and fortunately there were fewer people.
The exhibition Wonder
was, well, wonderful. Amazing room installations. I loved the paper spires, the thread rainbows, the flowing branch rooms, the wave net in the shifting light… Fantastic, truly impressive.National Museum of American History:
Another very big museum, so we only had time for selected exhibitions. The two rooms about money weren't that good, but to be fair it's not easy to make a good exhibition about money. The exhibition about food was interesting, though we just browsed most of it. My favorite was the (big!) exhibition about seafaring, ships, maritime trade etc. Then we walked through the locomotives&cars exhibition which had some cool exhibits, and the one about wars.National Museum of Natural History:
I know the Natural History museum in Vienna, I saw the one in NYC, so I almost skipped this one. I'm so glad we didn't! It's probably my favorite of the three (I really need to go see the one in Vienna again.) Their exhibitions were very well curated, for example the one about minerals. The exhibition with all kinds of different animal skeletons was absolutely fascinating: I'd never seen so many skeletons like this before, in contrast and together, and I wish we'd have had a guided tour. Animal skeletons are so weird! And very cool.
They also had an exhibition with great nature photographs, very pretty. And they have a lab! Unfortunately we didn't have enough time for that :(
They have a few rooms about indigenous human cultures, that felt weird and didn't seem to fit, we left those out. Newseum:
The only museum in DC we paid for, definitely worth it. The ticket is good for two days, and that's a good thing because it would be almost too much for one day, and not only because of the museum's size. We saw the exhibition on media & the Vietnam war on the first day and the one about media & the civil rights movement on the second, both on the same day would have been very intense. Good exhibitions! It's crazy to think about how few decades ago that was.
They also had the current day's headlines (unfortunately without translations), and a gallery with headlines to important events from all around the world since the founding of the first newspapers. They had smaller exhibitions/films about several different topics, like journalism ethics (wish that one had been larger) and diversity in journalism and new media etc. The introduction film in the basement was advertised as "4D", I had no idea what that meant but it turned out to be very cool: in addition to very good 3D images the seats moved and there was actual wind and stuff.
I didn't have time for the FBI exhibition, but we very much enjoyed the exhibition with the Pulitzer-price-winning photographs from the last decades. Very good photographs with very compelling stories.Library of Congress:
Probably not technically a museum, but I include it here anyway. We were very lucky to have a truly excellent guide. He was enthusiastic and made the whole tour very interesting, the hour felt more like 20 minutes and then afterwards he was very helpful with all the extra questions we wouldn't have come up with if not for the great tour.
That makes 9 museums in less than a week, not bad. If I'd had a few more days I'd probably have seen a few more, but this was fine. In addition to the museums (and, as already mentioned in another post, watching hockey) we also walked around the memorials: Lincoln, Washington, the war memorials, I also briefly saw the Pentagon memorial while waiting for my bus; and of course the government buildings, White House and Capitol (unfortunately currently with scaffolding) etc. Doing most of it together with DD made it even better. I also met up with ambyr
, which was great. All in all I had a wonderful time in DC, and I'm looking forward to visiting again one day.