The National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C.

The National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., is a museum dedicated to the preservation and display of American portraiture from the colonial era to the present day. It was established in 1962 and is part of the Smithsonian Institution. The museum houses a vast collection of portraits, including paintings, drawings, photographs, sculptures, and prints, depicting individuals who have made significant contributions to American history and culture. Among the notable figures represented in the collection are presidents, artists, scientists, activists, and entertainers.

The museum's building, a historic Greek Revival structure, was originally built in the 19th century as the Patent Office Building and has been restored to its original grandeur. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1965.

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Why should you go?

  1. The collection. The National Portrait Gallery's collection is one of the most comprehensive in the world, with over 23,000 works of art. You can explore portraits of American icons like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King Jr., as well as lesser-known figures who have made significant contributions to American society.
  2. The exhibitions. The museum features a range of rotating exhibitions that showcase different themes, styles, media, and periods in American portraiture, such as portraits of remarkable black women or daguerreotype portraits of families.
  3. The architecture. The National Portrait Gallery's building is a masterpiece of Greek Revival architecture, with grand columns and a soaring central atrium. You can marvel at the intricate details of the building, including the curving double staircase.
  4. The events. The museum hosts a range of events throughout the year, including lectures, performances, and workshops. You can learn about different aspects of American history and culture, engage with artists and scholars, and participate in hands-on activities.
  5. The location. The National Portrait Gallery is situated in the heart of Washington, D.C., sharing its building with the Smithsonian American Art Museum. It is just steps away from other Smithsonian museums, the National Mall, and the U.S. Capitol. You can easily spend a whole day exploring the area and experiencing the rich history and culture of the nation's capital.

Best places to visit near the National Portrait Gallery

  • Smithsonian American Art Museum. Housed in the same building, this museum is home to an extensive collection of American art, covering all regions and art movements.

  • National Mall. This large landscaped park in the heart of Washington, D.C., extends between the United States Capitol grounds to the east and the Washington Monument to the west and is home to various memorials, sculptures, and statues.

  • Ford's Theatre. This historic theater is where President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865. Today, it is a working theater and a museum dedicated to Lincoln's life and legacy.

  • National Archives. This building is home to some of the United States' most important historical documents, including the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. You can view these documents in the museum's Rotunda.

  • Smithsonian Castle. The Smithsonian Castle is a beautiful building that serves as the headquarters of the Smithsonian Institution. You can take a guided tour of the facility and learn about the history of the Smithsonian.

  • National Gallery of Art. This museum is home to a great collection of American and European art, including works by Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt, and Monet. It also features a beautiful sculpture garden.

  • United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. This museum is dedicated to educating people about the Holocaust and the lessons to be learned from it. It features exhibits, artifacts, and personal stories of Holocaust survivors.

  • National Museum of American History. This museum is home to a vast collection of artifacts related to American history, including the Star-Spangled Banner, the First Ladies' Inaugural Gowns, and the original Kermit the Frog puppet.

  • National Museum of African American History and Culture. This museum explores the history and culture of African Americans in the United States. It features exhibits, artifacts, and personal stories related to slavery, the Civil Rights Movement, and contemporary African American life.
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    What's the best way to see the National Portrait Gallery?

    The National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., is a wonderful place to visit and there are several ways to make the most of your time there. Here are some tips:

    • Plan ahead. Check the museum's website for information about special exhibitions and any events or programs that may be happening during your visit. Consider purchasing tickets in advance to avoid long lines.

    • Take a guided tour. The museum offers free guided tours that provide an overview of the collection and highlight key works of art. These tours are a great way to learn more about the museum's history and exhibits.

    • Focus on specific exhibits. If you have a particular interest in a certain theme, medium, or time period, you can plan your visit around specific exhibits that showcase those interests. The museum has a number of rotating exhibits that change throughout the year.

    • Take your time. The National Portrait Gallery is a large museum with many halls and works of art to explore. Plan to spend at least a few hours there so that you can fully appreciate everything the museum has to offer.

    • Use a map or audio guide. It will help you navigate the museum and learn more about the works of art.
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     What are the most interesting and unique facts about the National Portrait Gallery?
    • The National Portrait Gallery is the only museum in the United States that is dedicated solely to the exhibition and study of American portraits.

    • One of the most iconic works of art in the museum is the "cracked plate" photograph of Abraham Lincoln, which was taken by Mathew Brady in 1865, just two months before Lincoln's assassination.