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Best Free Museums in Washington DC

, 18 Options Found

The National Gallery houses an extensive collection of European and American art in two spectacular buildings. In the grand, neoclassical West Building, Rembrandt, Rubens and Gainsborough are well-represented. The permanent collection includes works from the 13th to 20th Centuries, including a section devoted to Impressionism. An underground concourse with a cafeteria, an excellent gift shop and a walled-in waterfall takes you to the East Building. Designed by I.M. Pei, this triangular building is a key city landmark and home to famous pieces of art and other temporary exhibitions.

Visit the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center to take a look at Blackbird, the fastest jet-plane in the world; or the famous space vehicle Discovery that has completed 39 space missions to date. The center is an extension of the National Air And Space Museum and displays aeronautical equipment and aircrafts to the public. There are two hangars and an Observation Tower that provides a panoramic view of the adjacent Washington Dulles International Airport. Also, it is here that the Airbus IMAX Theater is located. The center also lets visitors take a look at various restoration projects. A visit to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center is informative and insightful for children and adults alike.

Designed by architect James Renwick, who also designed the Smithsonian Castle, this gallery was the home of the Corcoran Art Collection until it outgrew the building. Currently, the Renwick is among the foremost craft museums in the country. It includes a full array of the art form, from handwoven rugs to Shaker furniture. The museum shop is a treasure trove of art and books honoring fine craftsmanship. The place reopened in 2015 after undergoing 2 years of renovations.

One of two Smithsonian museums that feature Asian art, the Freer Gallery houses more than 26000 works from all points of the Asian continent, including China, Japan, Korea and India. These works include Asian porcelains, Japanese screens and Islamic art. The works of American artists influenced by Asia are also featured. The most spectacular of these is James McNeill Whistler's Peacock Room, designed for a British shipping magnate and moved to the United States from London in 1904. The Sackler Gallery is interconnected with this gallery via underground exhibition space and houses an impressive collection of Chinese paintings, ceramics and jades.

Dating back to 1946, the National Air and Space Museum is home to quite a few aircraft that narrate fascinating stories. Everything from the iconic Wright Brothers' Flyer and Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis to World War II planes and Apollo 11 is displayed here, attracting history aficionados, science buffs and aviation fans alike. you also have the option of using the audio-visual aid to understand the technical aspects. Also found here is the Lockheed Martin IMAX Theater where you can marvel at aircraft and space films on the five-story screen. Apart from that, the National Air and Space Museum also has the original Star Trek model of the USS Enterprise on display, which is a special attraction.

Take a trip back in time and explore the much celebrated American history at the National Museum of American History. Rich in displays that depict the American journey through the ages; it resides inside a gallery that portrays the emergence of the American national anthem along with other innovative and cherished artifacts. Housed within this multi-floor building are exhibition halls and rooms that illustrate significant events pertaining to the past of America.

Established in 1910, the National Museum of Natural History aims to inform people about the natural history of earth through its exhibits. Nestled somewhere within this museum is the famous Hope Diamond, which has gained notoriety for supposedly carrying a curse. Apart from that, some of the museum's popular galleries include The Discovery Room, Hall of Geology, Gems, and Minerals, Dinosaurs/Hall of Paleobiology, Insect Zoo, Teleology: Hall of Bones, Ocean Hall, Hall of Human Origins and many more.

The National Archives is a bombproof, fireproof facility that protects the nation's most treasured documents. The methods used for storing the documents safely are nearly as interesting as the documents themselves. Sealed glass vaults are raised into the exhibition areas for viewing each day but sink back into safety each night. Here, you will find the most significant of our national documents--the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence. Among the other documents and artifacts housed here are copies of the Magna Carta and the Emancipation Proclamation.

Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monument formerly known as Sewall House till 1929, Alva Belmont House till 1972 and Sewall-Belmont House and Museum till 2016. Built in 1800, it is one of the oldest houses in Capitol Hill. It is dedicated to National Woman's Party leaders Alva Belmont and Alice Paul. Since 1929, it was the headquarters of the Party whose sole focus was engaging in the fight for women's suffrage. It has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places and designated as a National Historic Landmark, and later designated as a National Monument by President Barack Obama in 2016.

Rare books, paintings and other memorabilia, such as musical instruments, costumes and films, make this library and popular research center a treasure trove of valuables worth perusing. Home to a Conservation Lab, Elizabethan-style theater, and the Grand Hall, several special events take place here, including concerts, plays, literary readings and more. The library also boasts the largest collection of Shakespeare materials.

The American University Museum, which is located in American University's Katzen Arts Center, selects the art that is displayed based on the values of the university. International and political art makes up much of the museum's collection because the university is committed to political engagement and social justice. There is also a good deal of local art on display thanks to the university's involvement in the shaping of the regional contemporary art scene. The museum has several permanent collections, including an extensive sculpture garden, as well as rotating art exhibits that display regional, national, and international contemporary art.

At this lesser-known Smithsonian museum, the spotlight is on African-American culture, community and issues. There is no permanent collection, but the museum provides innovative, special exhibits. They tend to be current and interactive, with many suited to children. Admission is free.

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