Welcome to Washington's Monuments, Memorials, Museums, and Many Other Attractions
the Local Arrangements Committee, November 2003
From the 2004 Annual Meeting column of the October 2003 Perspectives
The AHA's Local Arrangements Committee welcomes AHA members to Washington, D.C., site of the 118th annual meeting. As always, there is a lot to do in the nation's capital. In this article, we will focus on the usual suspects-the major monuments, memorials, museums, and galleries for which the city is justly famous. In the December issue of Perspectives, we will provide information on special tours and events for AHA members, a guide to restaurants in the neighborhoods surrounding the meeting hotels, an introduction to some of the District's less well-traveled sites, and much, much more.
On the National Mall
The National Park Service preserves and interprets more than a dozen monuments and memorials on or near the National Mall, including the Lincoln, Jefferson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt memorials; the Vietnam and Korean War Veterans memorials; as well as Ford's Theatre National Historic Site and the House Where Lincoln Died (Petersen House), Pennsylvania Avenue National Historical Park, and the Old Post Office Tower. The Washington Monument remains open, though the grounds around it are closed and must be entered from 15th Street. White House tour requests must be submitted through one's Member of Congress and will be accepted up to six months in advance. These self-guided group tours will be scheduled approximately one month before the requested date, from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
The National Archives and Records Administration is the repository for the permanently valuable records of the federal government as well as presidential papers and historical materials. The downtown National Archives building is located at 700 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. between Seventh and Ninth Streets, N.W. The research entrance is on Pennsylvania Avenue and the entrance to the Rotunda and Exhibit Hall (now open following two years of renovation, where visitors can again view the nation's founding documents) is on Constitution Avenue. Visitors should exit at Metrorail's Archives/Navy Memorial Station on the Yellow or Green Line. The Rotunda and Exhibit Hall is open daily from 10:00 am to 7:00 p.m. If members want to research while in Washington, hours are Monday–Wednesday 8:45 a.m.–5:00 p.m.; Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday 8:45 a.m.–9:00 p.m.; and Saturday 8:45 a.m.4:45 p.m.
The United States Capitol is comprised of the Capitol, the House and Senate Office Buildings, the Library of Congress buildings, the Supreme Court Building, and the U.S. Botanic Garden. Work has begun on a new Capitol Visitor Center, an underground facility to be located beneath the Capitol's east front plaza, so visitors will encounter construction around the Capitol Building. The Capitol is located on Capitol Hill at the east end of the Mall. It is open for guided tours only. Tours are conducted 9:00 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Visitors must obtain free tickets for tours on a first-come, first-served basis at the Capitol Guide Service kiosk located along the curving sidewalk southwest of the Capitol (near the intersection of First Street, S.W., and Independence Avenue). Ticket distribution begins at 9:00 a.m. daily. Ticketholders will be directed to the South Visitor Receiving Facility, which is located south of the Capitol; from there they will proceed to the Capitol to begin their tour. Maximum tour size is 40 people. The Congressional Special Services Office provides information about tours for the disabled by telephone at 202-224-4048 (voice) or 202-224-4049 (TDD). Both the House and Senate Galleries are open for observation when Congress is in session. Contact your local member of Congress for a pass. For more information call 202-225-6827.
The Library of Congress has a Visitors' Center inside the west front entrance on the ground level of the Thomas Jefferson Building. Docent-led scheduled public tours are offered Mondays through Saturdays in the Great Hall of the Thomas Jefferson Building. Tours are free and reservations are not required. For more information on guided tours, ask at either of the information desks in the Visitors' Center of the Jefferson Building. Visitors should use the Capitol South Metro Station, served by the Orange and Blue lines, which is near the corner of 1st and C Streets, S.E. Some of the most historic items from the library's vast collection are on display on a rotating basis in a new "Treasures Gallery" located in the Southwest Gallery and Pavilion on the second floor of the Great Hall of the Jefferson Building. Individual items change from time to time for preservation reasons. The Gutenberg Bible and the Giant Bible of Mainz are on permanent display on the first floor of the Great Hall. Other changing exhibits are mounted in public areas and reading rooms in the three buildings. The Thomas Jefferson Building, located on 1st Street S.E. between Independence Avenue and East Capitol Streets, is open 8:30 a.m.–9:30 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, and Thursdays and from 8:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. The John Adams Building, at 2nd Street, S.E. between Independence Avenue and East Capitol Streets, is open 10:00 a.m.–5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
The Supreme Court (One 1st Street, N.W.) is open for tours. Exhibits and a theater, where a film on the Supreme Court is shown, are located on the ground floor. Lectures in the courtroom are typically given every hour on the half-hour, on days that the Court is not sitting, beginning at 9:30 a.m. and concluding at 3:30 p.m. The building is open 9:00 a.m.–4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. It is closed Saturdays and Sundays. Take Metro's Orange or Blue Lines to Capitol South or the Red Line to Union Station.
Established by Congress in 1820, the United States Botanic Garden is one of the oldest botanic gardens in North America. It is open daily 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. Admission is free. The conservatory's main entrance is located at 100 Maryland Avenue, S.W. Visitors are welcome in Bartholdi Park from dawn until dusk and can access it from any of the three bordering streets-Independence Avenue, Washington Avenue, or First Street. The use of public transportation is encouraged. Take Metrorail's Blue or Orange line to Federal Center SW or Capital South Stations.
At the Smithsonian
The Smithsonian Institution is the world's largest museum and research complex. Composed of 14 museums and the National Zoo (located only a few blocks from the convention hotels), the Smithsonian's exhibitions offer a glimpse into a collection of more than 142 million objects.
The Smithsonian's information center, "the Castle," open daily 9:00 a.m.–5:30 p.m., is centrally located on the National Mall, and may be entered from either Jefferson Drive on the north or through the Enid A. Haupt Garden on the south (Metro: Smithsonian, take the Mall exit). The museums and galleries that make up the Smithsonian Institution are open daily 10:00 a.m.–5:30 p.m., excepting only December 25. General admission is free. (The American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery are closed for renovation.)
In addition to its permanent exhibitions, IMAX theatre, and Planetarium, the National Air and Space Museum will celebrate the anniversary of the Wright Brothers' historic first flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, with a featured new exhibit: The Wright Brothers and the Invention of the Aerial Age. The museum is located on the National Mall at 7th and Independence Ave., S.W., just west of the Capitol Building (Metro: L'Enfant Plaza or Smithsonian). (The National Air and Space Museum's new Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center will open in December 2003. The center is located just south of the main terminal at Dulles Airport near the intersection of Routes 28 and 50. Among the several hundred spaceships and airplanes on display are the Space Shuttle Enterprise and the Boeing B-29 Superfortress, Enola Gay.)
The Renwick Gallery, featuring American crafts from the 19th to 21st centuries, is located on Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street, N.W., steps away from the White House in the heart of historic federal Washington (Metro: Red Line at Farragut North and the Blue and Orange Lines at Farragut West). In January, the gallery will have on display both its permanent collection and a special exhibition of American studio jewelry.
In addition to exhibitions from its permanent collection, the National Museum of African Art will be featuring a special exhibit, Images from Central Africa, 1885–1960, which examines how images by Euro-American photographers shaped views about the peoples of central Africa. The museum is located on the Mall at 950 Independence Avenue, S.W., and is entered through a small kiosk located behind the Smithsonian Castle (Metro: Smithsonian).
The National Museum of American History is located on the Mall at 14th Street and Constitution Avenue, N.W. In addition to its many permanent exhibitions, special exhibits include "Collecting September 11," "American on the Move," and "Bon Appétit! Julia Child's Kitchen."
At the Anacostia Museum and Center for African American History and Culture visitors may explore "New Visions: Emerging Trends in African American Art," which showcases the works of eight contemporary African American artists. Located at 1901 Fort Place, S.E., the Anacostia Museum may be reached by car or by Metro and bus. Take the Red Line (get a transfer before boarding) from the meeting hotels to Gallery Place/Chinatown, transferring to the Green Line to Anacostia. Exit the Anacostia Metro Station via the Local exit and take the W2 or W3 bus to the museum.
At the Arts and Industries Building, located on the Mall at 900 Jefferson Drive, S.W. (Smithsonian Metro), visitors may explore the works of the troubled Mississippi artist and writer Walter Inglis Anderson. Musical interpretations of two of Anderson's children's stories, "Robinson the Cat" and "The Little Room," will be held in the building's Discovery Theater on January 9 at 10:00 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., and on January 10 at noon.
The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, located on the National Mall at 1050 Independence Avenue, S.W., and at Jefferson Drive at 12th Street, S.W., respectively, are connected by an underground exhibition space. Both are close to the Smithsonian Metro station. Featured exhibitions at the Sackler include "Love and Yearning: Mystical and Moral Themes in Persian Poetry and Painting" and a collection of the work of contemporary Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. The Freer Gallery, whose permanent collection includes a large collection of works by James McNeill Whistler, is also displaying a special collection of the artist's etchings.
At the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, located at the corner of 7th Street, S.W. and Independence Avenue (Metro: L'Enfant Plaza or Smithsonian), you may explore the museum's permanent collection of modern art, including, in the Sculpture Garden, Roy Lichtenstein's large, posthumous Brushstroke.
At the National Museum of American Natural History (10th Street and Constitution Ave., N.W.), see the permanent exhibits, IMAX theater, and the newly renovated Rotunda and Mammal Hall.
The National Postal Museum, another Smithsonian Institution museum, is located in the Old Post Office building next to Union Station (Metro: Union Station). Philatelically minded historians will be specially interested in this relatively new (1993) museum's permanent exhibitions, as well as a temporary exhibition on the "Art of the Stamp."
Other Art Galleries
The National Gallery of Art, closely associated with but administratively separate from the Smithsonian museums that surround it, is one of the world's preeminent art galleries. This year the gallery is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its I. M. Pei-designed East Wing. Other special exhibits include cubist portraits by Picasso, French genre painting, and the printmaking revolution in 18th-century France. The gallery, located on the Mall between 3rd and 9th Streets at Constitution Avenue, N.W., is open Monday through Saturday 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. and Sunday 11:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m. (Metro: Archives, Smithsonian, Judiciary Square).
Since the National Portrait Gallery and the American Art Museum are currently closed during the renovation of the historic Patent Office Building, this is a good time to visit some of the city's other institutions, such as the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Phillips Collection, and the National Museum of Women in the Arts. (These museums charge an admission fee.) The Corcoran Gallery of Art (open 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily except Tuesdays), is located at the intersection of 17th Street and New York Avenue, N.W., one block south and west of the White House. Its featured exhibit, The Impressionist Tradition in America, will be open until April 2004. On Sundays from 10:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., the Corcoran hosts a Gospel Brunch in its first floor café. The Phillips Collection is currently undergoing expansion and many of its major works are on tour. However, the gallery is hosting a traveling exhibit on surrealism and modernism from the collection of the Wadsworth Athenaeum Museum of Art. The Phillips Collection is located in the Dupont Circle area, one-half block off Massachusetts Avenue on 21st Street, between Q and R Streets. The Phillips is open 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Tuesday–Saturday, until 8:30 p.m. on Thursdays, and noon through 7:00 p.m. on Sundays. (Metro: Dupont Circle). The National Museum of Women in the Arts is located at 1250 New York Avenue, N.W. (Metro: Metro Center). The museum is open Monday-Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5:00 p.m.). The museum's special exhibit, Enterprising Women, explores how "work and family, gender and professional identify, femininity and women's 'proper place' have been woven into the fabric of American business history."
In addition to its permanent exhibits, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (100 Raoul Wallenberg Place, S.W., Metro: Smithsonian, L'Enfant Plaza) is hosting a special exhibition, "Life in Shadows: Hidden Children and the Holocaust." The Holocaust Museum is open 10:00 a.m.–5:30 p.m. every day including weekends. The U.S. Holocaust Museum has extended a special invitation to AHA members, who may visit its permanent exhibition, The Holocaust, by showing their meeting badges. Timed passes, advance reservations, or tickets will not be required, as is normally the case.
Washington's newest museum is the City Museum, dedicated to preserving and helping residents tell the story of the more than 100 local neighborhoods and communities that make up the Washington metropolitan region. The museum is located at 801 K Street, N.W. between 7th and 9th Streets, N.W. and is two blocks south of the Mt. Vernon Sq/7th St Convention Center Metro Station (Yellow and Green Lines) and two blocks north of the Gallery Place-Chinatown Metro station (Red, Yellow, and Green Lines). The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The new International Spy Museum is located on 800 F Street, NW, at the corner of 8th and F Streets, NW (Metro: Gallery Place/Chinatown Station.), and is open from 10 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily. Museum exhibits trace the history of spying from its inception, with special attention to World War II and the Cold War.
Among the city's many other museums and galleries are the National Children's Museum, located at 800 3rd Street, N.E. (Metro: Union Station) and open Tuesdays–Sundays 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.; the National Building Museum, located at 401 F St., N.W. (Metro: Judiciary Square) and open Monday–Saturday, 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m., and Sunday, 11:00 am–5:00 p.m.; the National Geographic Society's Explorer's Hall at 1145 17th Street, NW (Metro: Farragut North and Farragut West), which is open Monday through Saturday and holidays 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; the Textile Museum, located at 2320 S Street, N.W. in Washington's historic Kalorama neighborhood (Metro: Dupont Circle), is open Monday–Saturday 10:00 am–5:00 p.m., and Sundays 1:00–5:00 p.m.; and the American Red Cross Museum is located at 1730 E Street, N.W. (Metro: Farragut West) and is open Monday–Friday, 9:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.
A Few of the Rest
Located a few short blocks north of the meeting hotels at 3001 Connecticut Ave., the National Zoological Garden is an all-time favorite with visitors, even during the cold months of winter. Special attractions include the giant pandas; Kandula, the Zoo's young Asian elephant; and the Bald Eagle Refuge. From October 26 to April 3, the grounds are open 6:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m.; the buildings are open 10:00 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is located on the banks of the Potomac River at the intersection of New Hampshire Avenue, N.W., and the Rock Creek Parkway and is accessible by Metrorail and Metrobus. The Foggy Bottom/George Washington University Station (23rd and I) is the closest stop. It is a seven-minute walk from the station via New Hampshire Avenue, or individuals can use the free Kennedy Center Show Shuttle (signs are towards the left after exiting the escalator). It departs every 15 minutes from 9:45 a.m. to midnight Monday through Friday, from 10:00 a.m. to midnight Saturdays, and noon to midnight Sundays and holidays. Free tours are offered 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday and 10:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, departing from the parking plaza on Level A.
The National Aquarium is located at 14th Street and Constitution Avenue, N.W., in the U.S. Department of Commerce Building. Open daily 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. Admission $3.50 adults and $1 children 2–10. Take Metrorail's Orange or Blue Lines to Federal Triangle.
Arlington National Cemetery is open daily 8:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. Paid parking is available, accessible from Memorial Drive (cost is $1.25 per hour for the first three hours and $2 per hour thereafter). The Arlington National Cemetery Metro Station is regularly served during all hours the cemetery is open. A first visit to the cemetery should include the Visitors Center, located by the cemetery entrance, where maps, guidebooks, exhibits, information services, and restrooms can be found.