Our deepest thanks to Angela Napili, the author of this guest post. Angela is a Senior Research Librarian at the Congressional Research Service in the Library of Congress, and she is also an award-winning amateur photographer. Thanks for sharing your tips, Angela!
With its monumental architecture, historic landmarks, and diverse communities, Washington DC is a photographer’s paradise. Here are three photo tips.
Tip 1: If you want to avoid the crowds and harsh midday sun, then early mornings and early evenings are lovely times to photograph DC’s memorials.
A nice feature of the American Capital is that you can discover amazing art while touring through beautiful historic buildings… all for free!
Thanks to the Smithsonian, “the world’s largest museum, education, and research complex”, visitors have multiple options to choose from. Most of the Smithsonian’s museums are located on the National Mall, which is near the Library of Congress and is the place in DC with the highest density of museums. The Smithsonian museums are open to the public every day except December 25. Their hours are generally from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm.
Open the map (provided also at the Smithsonian’s website) for a view of the museums on the Mall.
Below is a quick overview to get you started.
A visit to the National Museum of American History is a great way to experience American life, history, and culture. We learned from their website that the museum has a rich collection of “more than 3 million artifacts”, documents, photographs, and more.
My own favorite exhibits are the Star-Spangled Banner, Jefferson’s lap desk, and Dorothy’s ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz.
Metro exit: 14th St. and Constitution Ave., NW Smithsonian (Mall exit) or Federal Triangle
Metro exit: 10th Street & Constitution Ave., N.W. SMITHSONIAN (MALL EXIT) OR FEDERAL TRIANGLE
Walk around the National Museum of the American Indian building to experience the “spirit of Native America”. As they explain in their introduction, this community-inspired, award-winning building, with its “distinctive curvilinear architecture” is home to a large collection of Native art “from The Arctic Circle to Tierra del Fuego”.
Let’s eat!or Mitsitam! This museum’s cafeteria, the Mitsam, is known for featuring the indigenous cuisines of the Americas.
Metro exit: Fourth Street & Independence Ave., S.W. L’Enfant Plaza (Smithsonian Museums exit)
Who is not curious about our universe? Find out more about Earth and other planets than the National Air and Space Museum. With 8 million visitors per year, this is “the most visited museum in the U.S”.
If you have time for an adventure, visit the museum center in Chantilly, Virginia. According to their website, The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy center‘s massive structure provides an open space to display large air and spacecraft.
Also on their website we learned that Summer 2016 brings a fully renovated Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall to the museum on the Mall. This is the main hall that you can see as you enter the museum. Renovation plans include adding the Apollo Lunar Module and Star Trek starship Enterprise studio model, all in an inviting new space. Learn more!
metro exit: Independence Ave. at 6th St., SW L’enfant plaza (Maryland ave. exit)
The Freer Sackler Galleries, one next to the other and connected by a corridor, are the two Smithsonian museums dedicated to Asian art. While the Freer museum is closed through 2017 due to renovation, the Sackler gallery is open and has a lot to offer.
Crazy about Chinese ceramics? According to their website, the craze for Chinese blue-and-white ceramics started in London during the nineteenth century and it is still alive in the West. Learn more about this phenomenon by visiting the Chinamania exhibition, starting July 9, 2016 and lasting through June 2017.
If you have time, check out their Hong Kong Film Festival,one of the most popular gallery events and which will be ongoing through August.
Metro exit: 1050 Independence Ave SW Smithsonian
Metro exit: 950 Independence Ave., SW Smithsonian (Mall or Independence Ave. exit)
Conveniently located in Downtown DC, the National Portrait Gallery tells the story of America “through the lenses of real individual lives”. The mission to “tell the American story through the individuals who have shaped it” is at the center of the Gallery’s America’s Presidents exhibition.
Metro exit: 7th Street and Independence Ave, SW L’Enfant Plaza (Smithsonian Museums exit)
Steps from Lafayette Square and the White House, the Renwick Gallery, part of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, houses an “extensive collection of contemporary craft and decorative art”. The newly renovated gallery brings wonderful exhibitions and interactive activities that will spark your curiosity and enhance your art experience. Take a tour, participate in theirhandi-hour, or share your favorite things from this museum to be featured on their webpage. (Note: This museum is not on the National Mall.)
Metro exit: Pennsylvania Ave and 17th Street, NW Farragut North
A must see for philatelists and admirers of beautiful stamps, the Postal Museum is only a few steps from Union Station. See the museum highlights. (Note: This museum is not on the National Mall.)
Metro exit: 2 Massachusetts Ave., N.E. Union Station
Not part of the Smithsonian but another free museum on the Mall is the National Gallery of Art. In his welcome message, NGA’s Director Earl A. Powell III says that “there is no substitute for experiencing great masterpieces in person”.
If you have time, you can visit the three spaces that make up this museum: The original neoclassical West building, where you can see these famous fine art paintings, the East building of modern and contemporary art, and the Sculpture Garden, a true “oasis in the city”, with its contemporary sculptures and its Friday night Jazz in the Garden concert series. Another highlight: Check out their Film program for classics that you can see for free on Saturdays and Sundays afternoon.
Admission is free.
METRO EXIT: 6th Street and Constitution Avenue NW Smithsonian (Mall Exit)
Please don’t leave without telling us about your visit! Leave comments here to tell us about what you plan on seeing and what you’ve already seen (or, if you’re a local, what your favorites are). Or, you can tweet us using the hashtag #IFLAPREatLOC.