From Museums

Visiting Local Libraries

“Philadelphia bookseller George J.C. Grasberger, full-length portrait, facing right, pushing a wheelbarrow piled high with books,” Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Collection, at

When I travel, I love to stop in and visit local libraries. Not only do they showcase important national treasures, but they host events and reflect the activities of residents. Beyond the Library of Congress (see our blog post “Setting up Tours Around Capitol Hill” to learn more about Library of Congress tours), DC is home to a number of beautiful and influential libraries!

Public Libraries
“Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, 901 G St., NW, Washington, D.C,” Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Collection, at

The DC Public Library has 26 branches around the city , with Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library as the central location. Visitors need a library card to check out books or use the public computers, but even visitors can come in, browse the library, and participate in events such as childrens’ story time. Public Libraries in adjacent Maryland and Virginia also offer wonderful community spaces if you are staying outside DC.

Academic Libraries
“23. November 1969 RIGGS LIBRARY STACKS, THIRD FLOOR, SOUTH WING – Georgetown University, Healy Building, Thirty-seventh & O Streets, Northwest, Washington, District of Columbia, DC,” Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Collection, at

Universities abound in DC, with specialized collection locations focusing on various topics. A few interesting examples include: George Washington University’s Textile Library , Georgetown University’s Bioethics Research Library , and the African Heritage Collection in Howard University’s School of Divinity Library . Most of these university libraries have different visitor policies and hours, so please research or contact them before you visit. Also keep in mind that different individual libraries within the same university system have specific visitor policies and hours. Many require government ID and a sign-in procedure during visitor hours. Many also provide visitor access to wifi! Below, we list the major academic library groups in the vicinity:

Government Libraries & Other Special Libraries
“View of the north tower porte cochere and flag tower, looking southwest (duplicate of HABS No. DC-141-19) – Smithsonian Institution Building, 1000 Jefferson Drive, between Ninth & Twelfth Streets, Southwest, Washington, District of Columbia, DC,” Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Collection, at

Other special libraries in the DC area can be worth a visit if they correspond with your personal (or professional) interests. As a medical librarian, stopping by the National Library of Medicine seems perfect for me, but you may be interested in any of the special collections listed below or searching for others!

Are there other DC libraries you’ve visited or want to see?

If so, please let us know in the comments below, or tweet us at #IFLAPREatLOC.

Setting up Tours Around Capitol Hill

While visiting us in DC, you or anyone traveling with you will probably want to explore some of our notable landmarks. Some, like the monuments and can be memorable even without a guide. However, other sites either require setting up a tour or may be even more enjoyable with someone to provide background information and point out sites or stories you might not notice on your own.

U.S. Capitol
“View of the Capitol’s East Front Plaza,” U.S. Capitol Visitor’s Center Photograph Downloads, at

If you want to tour the historical indoor areas of the Capitol beyond the Capitol Visitor Center , you’re required to reserve a guided tour . Since these tours can be in high demand, it’s a good idea to book in advance!

If you’re a U.S. Citizen, you can request a tour through the offices of your Representative or Senators . Offices sometimes offer staff-led tours, and work directly with local constituents to provide a tailored experience.

Anyone, including non-citizens, can reserve a tour through this online system , and if you’d like to reserve space for a group larger than 15, please use the group reservation system .

Even if you don’t pre-book, same-day tours are sometimes available, so stop by the Information Desk at the Visitor Center.

Be sure to check out the Capitol Visitor Center’s Plan a Visit site, which offers all the basic information – from visitor hours (Monday – Saturday 8:30am-4:30pm) to frequently asked questions (Tours are only offered in English, but visitors can request listening devices for some foreign-language versions . There are also brochures in a number of languages ).

Library of Congress
Picture taken by Anna Groves.

You’ll be spending a lot of time in the Library buildings throughout the pre-conference, but we hope you’ll also experience some of our history and collections through our tours!

For those who want to investigate on their own, we have brochures for self-guided visits in a number of languages . You also may enjoy our online tours before you arrive – then you’ll feel at home when you get here!

The Library offers daily tours without reservations at set times, so if you have a packed schedule feel free to drop in for a one hour tour. Other guided tours require reservations and are available as group tours by request. Be sure to check out the guidelines & tips before you tour the library.

Picture taken by Anna Groves.

We also have a number of reading rooms and exhibits you may want to visit. From the African & Middle Eastern Reading Room to the American Folklife Center , there are amazingly diverse collections to explore. Prior to visiting these specialized areas, please obtain a Library of Congress Registration Card . (You will need a government ID — either a driver’s license or a passport — to obtain the Registration Card.) It makes a fun souvenir! Family activities are also available, and you can check out our public events listing to learn about lectures, exhibits, concerts, and more!

Other D.C. Tours and Landmarks

When you have free time from our packed conferences, or while your accompanying person explores the city, we hope you will be able to experience some of the wonderful things our city has to offer! Below, we talk about a few sites that may be on your mind.

“Inside the White House,” the White House, at

Setting up a tour of the White House requires advance notice (no less than 21 days), so it may not be an option on this trip. U.S. citizens request White House tours through their individual Members of Congress, while citizens of foreign countries work with their embassies to submit a tour request. However, it can still be enjoyable to take a virtual tour or just walk by the exterior of the White House .

The Library’s next door neighbor is the Supreme Court , and you can stop by for a or also participate in docent-led “Courtroom Lectures,” 30 minute programs available Monday-Friday every half hour from 9:30am-3:30am. Before your trip, check out their helpful information on planning your visit . Translations of the visitor’s guides are available online .

Many museums and landmarks across the city offer free tours led by helpful docents, so check out the visitor’s information before you go. Also, many visitor and travel sites offer advice on free and paid tour options across the city.

Are there other DC spots you’re thinking of touring? Would you like to share advice with other attendees?

If so, please let us know in the comments below, or tweet us at #IFLAPREatLOC.

Hello, IFLA Pre-Conference Attendees!

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.

Photo Smithsonian

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

Learn about the “earliest human origins” at the National Museum of Natural History . Discover the natural world in the heart of DC.

Here is a list of Museum must sees”

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”.

Here is a current exhibit at the museum:

The Great Inka Road: Engineering an Empire June 26, 2015–June 1, 2018

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.

Apollo 11: Buzz Aldrin on the Moon. Photo Smithsonian

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.

The Freer Sackler Galleries building – Photo Smithsonian

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

The National Museum of African Art offers traditional and contemporary art “from the entire continent of Africa”.

Visit this link to see their current exhibitions

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 .

One featured exhibit is: Hollywood and Time

View of “Hollywood and Time: Celebrity Covers.” Photo by Matailong Du. – Photo Smithsonian

This summer they invite us to “make eye contact with the men and women who shaped the entertainment industry”. As a cinephile myself, I won’t be missing this one!

This exhibit is ongoing through September.

Metro exit: 8th and F Streets NW Gallery Place, Chinatown

Experience contemporary art and culture at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden .

Click here to see their current exhibitions

Photo courtesy Hirshhorn Museum
Metro exit: 7th Street and Independence Ave, SW L’Enfant Plaza (Smithsonian Museums exit)

Renwick Gallery Building — Photo Smithsonian

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 their handi-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 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.