The Best Museums & Art Galleries in Washington, D.C. – Mus3ums

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Washington, D.C. / United States

Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and also known as D.C. or Washington, is the capital city of the United States of America. Founded after the American Revolution as the seat of government of the newly independent country, Washington was named after George Washington, the first president of the United States and a Founding Father. As the seat of the United States federal government and several international organizations, Washington is an important world political capital. Located on the Potomac River bordering Maryland and Virginia, the city is one of the most visited cities in the United States, with more than 20 million visitors annually.The signing of the Residence Act on July 16, 1790, approved the creation of a capital district located along the Potomac River near the country's East Coast. The U.S. Constitution provided for a federal district under the exclusive jurisdiction of the U.S. Congress, and the district is therefore not a part of any U.S. state. The states of Maryland and Virginia each donated land to form the federal district, which included the pre-existing settlements of Georgetown and Alexandria. The City of Washington was founded in 1791 to serve as the new national capital. In 1846, Congress returned the land originally ceded by Virginia, including the city of Alexandria; in 1871, it created a single municipal government for the remaining portion of the district. Washington had an estimated population of 705,749 as of July 2019, making it the 20th most populous city in the United States. Commuters from the surrounding Maryland and Virginia suburbs raise the city's daytime population to more than one million during the workweek. Washington's metropolitan area, the country's sixth largest , had a 2017 estimated population of 6.2 million residents.The three branches of the U.S. federal government are centered in the district: Congress , the president , and the Supreme Court . Washington is home to many national monuments and museums, primarily situated on or around the National Mall. The city hosts 177 foreign embassies as well as the headquarters of many international organizations, trade unions, non-profits, lobbying groups, and professional associations, including the World Bank Group, the International Monetary Fund , the Organization of American States, AARP, the National Geographic Society, the Human Rights Campaign, the International Finance Corporation, and the American Red Cross. A locally elected mayor and a 13‑member council have governed the district since 1973. However, Congress maintains supreme authority over the city and may overturn local laws. D.C. residents elect a non-voting, at-large congressional delegate to the House of Representatives, but the district has no representation in the Senate. District voters choose three presidential electors in accordance with the Twenty-third Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratified in 1961. For statistical purposes, the District of Columbia is treated as a state-equivalent by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Washington, D.C. / United States

The Smithsonian American Art Museum is a museum in Washington, D.C., part of the Smithsonian Institution. Together with its branch museum, the Renwick Gallery, SAAM holds one of the world's largest and most inclusive collections of art, from the colonial period to the present, made in the United States. The museum has more than 7,000 artists represented in the collection. Most exhibitions take place in the museum's main building, the old Patent Office Building , while craft-focused exhibitions are shown in the Renwick Gallery. The museum provides electronic resources to schools and the public through its national education program. It maintains seven online research databases with more than 500,000 records, including the Inventories of American Painting and Sculpture that document more than 400,000 artworks in public and private collections worldwide. Since 1951, the museum has maintained a traveling exhibition program; as of 2013, more than 2.5 million visitors have seen the exhibitions.

National Portrait Gallery (United States)

Washington, D.C. / United States

The National Portrait Gallery is a historic art museum between 7th, 9th, F, and G Streets NW in Washington, D.C., in the United States. Founded in 1962 and opened to the public in 1968, it is part of the Smithsonian Institution. Its collections focus on images of famous Americans. The museum is housed in the historic Old Patent Office Building, as is the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

Washington, D.C. / United States

The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden is an art museum beside the National Mall, in Washington, D.C., the United States. The museum was initially endowed during the 1960s with the permanent art collection of Joseph H. Hirshhorn. It was designed by architect Gordon Bunshaft and is part of the Smithsonian Institution. It was conceived as the United States' museum of contemporary and modern art and currently focuses its collection-building and exhibition-planning mainly on the post–World War II period, with particular emphasis on art made during the last 50 years.The Hirshhorn is sited halfway between the Washington Monument and the US Capitol, anchoring the southernmost end of the so-called L'Enfant axis . The National Archives/National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden across the Mall, and the National Portrait Gallery/Smithsonian American Art building several blocks to the north, also mark this pivotal axis, a key element of both the 1791 city plan by Pierre L'Enfant and the 1901 MacMillan Plan.The building itself is an attraction, an open cylinder elevated on four massive "legs," with a large fountain occupying the central courtyard. Before architect Gordon Bunshaft designed the building, the Smithsonian staff reportedly told him that, if it did not provide a striking contrast to everything else in the city, then it would be unfit for housing a modern art collection.

National Gallery of Art

Washington, D.C. / United States

The National Gallery of Art, and its attached Sculpture Garden, is a national art museum in Washington, D.C., located on the National Mall, between 3rd and 9th Streets, at Constitution Avenue NW. Open to the public and free of charge, the museum was privately established in 1937 for the American people by a joint resolution of the United States Congress. Andrew W. Mellon donated a substantial art collection and funds for construction. The core collection includes major works of art donated by Paul Mellon, Ailsa Mellon Bruce, Lessing J. Rosenwald, Samuel Henry Kress, Rush Harrison Kress, Peter Arrell Browne Widener, Joseph E. Widener, and Chester Dale. The Gallery's collection of paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, sculpture, medals, and decorative arts traces the development of Western Art from the Middle Ages to the present, including the only painting by Leonardo da Vinci in the Americas and the largest mobile created by Alexander Calder. The Gallery's campus includes the original neoclassical West Building designed by John Russell Pope, which is linked underground to the modern East Building, designed by I. M. Pei, and the 6.1-acre Sculpture Garden. The Gallery often presents temporary special exhibitions spanning the world and the history of art. It is one of the largest museums in North America. For the breadth, scope, and magnitude of its collections, the National Gallery is widely considered to be one of the greatest museums in the United States of America, often ranking alongside the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the Art Institute of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in Boston, Massachusetts. Of the top three art museums in the United States by annual visitors, it is the only one that has no admission fee. It ranks 2nd in American museums behind the Met for number of annual visitors and 10th in the world.

The Phillips Collection

Washington, D.C. / United States

The Phillips Collection is an art museum founded by Duncan Phillips and Marjorie Acker Phillips in 1921 as the Phillips Memorial Gallery located in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Phillips was the grandson of James H. Laughlin, a banker and co-founder of the Jones and Laughlin Steel Company. Among the artists represented in the collection are Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Gustave Courbet, El Greco, Vincent van Gogh, Henri Matisse, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Pierre Bonnard, Paul Klee, Arthur Dove, Winslow Homer, James McNeill Whistler, Jacob Lawrence, Augustus Vincent Tack, Georgia O'Keeffe, Karel Appel, Joan Miro, Mark Rothko and Berenice Abbott.

Corcoran Gallery of Art

Washington, D.C. / United States

The Corcoran Gallery of Art was an art museum in Washington, D.C., United States, that is now the location of the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design, a part of the George Washington University.

Freer Gallery of Art

Washington, D.C. / United States

The Freer Gallery of Art is an art museum of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. focusing on Asian art. The Freer and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery together form the Smithsonian's national museums of Asian art in the United States. The Freer and Sackler galleries house the largest Asian art research library in the country and contain art from East Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Islamic world, the ancient Near East, and ancient Egypt, as well as a significant collection of American art. The gallery is located on the south side of the National Mall in Washington, D.C., contiguous with the Sackler Gallery. The museum is open 364 days a year , and is administered by a single staff with the Sackler Gallery. The galleries are among the most visited art museums in the world. The Freer houses over 26,000 objects spanning 6,000 years of history from the Neolithic to modern eras. The collections include ancient Egyptian stone sculpture and wooden objects, ancient Near Eastern ceramics and metalware, Chinese paintings and ceramics, Korean pottery and porcelain, Japanese folding screens, Persian manuscripts, and Buddhist sculpture. In addition to Asian art, the Freer also contains the famous Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room by American artist James McNeill Whistler which serves as the centerpiece to the Freer's American art collection. The museum offers free tours to the public and presents a full schedule events for the public including films, lectures, symposia, concerts, performances, and discussions. Over 11,000 objects from the Freer|Sackler collections are fully searchable and available online. The Freer was also featured in the Google Art Project, which offers online viewers close-up views of selected items from the Freer.

Library of Congress

Washington, D.C. / United States

The Library of Congress is the research library that officially serves the United States Congress and is the de facto national library of the United States. It is the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States. The library is housed in three buildings on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.; it also maintains the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center in Culpeper, Virginia. The library's functions are overseen by the librarian of Congress, and its buildings are maintained by the architect of the Capitol. The Library of Congress is one of the largest libraries in the world. Its "collections are universal, not limited by subject, format, or national boundary, and include research materials from all parts of the world and in more than 450 languages."Congress moved to Washington, D.C., in 1800 after sitting for 11 years in the temporary national capitals in New York City and Philadelphia. The small Congressional Library was housed in the United States Capitol for most of the 19th century until the early 1890s. Most of the original collection had been destroyed by the British in 1814 during the War of 1812, and the library sought to restore its collection in 1815. They bought Thomas Jefferson's entire personal collection of 6,487 books. After a period of slow growth, another fire struck the library in its Capitol chambers in 1851, again destroying a large amount of the collection, including many of Jefferson's books. After the American Civil War, the Library of Congress grew rapidly in both size and importance, which sparked a campaign to purchase replacement copies for volumes that had been burned. The library received the right of transference of all copyrighted works to deposit two copies of books, maps, illustrations, and diagrams printed in the United States. It also began to build its collections, and its development culminated between 1888 and 1894 with the construction of a separate, extensive library building across the street from the Capitol. The library's primary mission is to research inquiries made by members of Congress, carried out through the Congressional Research Service. The library is open to the public, although only high-ranking government officials and library employees may check out books and materials.

National Museum of American History

Washington, D.C. / United States

The National Museum of American History: Kenneth E. Behring Center collects, preserves, and displays the heritage of the United States in the areas of social, political, cultural, scientific, and military history. Among the items on display is the original Star-Spangled Banner. The museum is part of the Smithsonian Institution and located on the National Mall at 14th Street and Constitution Avenue NW in Washington, D.C.