Home to more than 200 museums and the Smithsonian Institution, the District is a paradise for culture and art adventurers.
Spending the school year in D.C. gives you plenty of free time, so you can skip the slate of Smithsonian museums and visit other free exhibits off the beaten path. Now that you’re a local, here are some less conventional exhibitions to check out:
Daughters of the American Revolution Museum
For a look at patriotism and pre-industrial politics, visit the Daughters of the American Revolution Museum. Appropriately located at 1776 D St. NW, the DAR Museum was founded in 1820 by descendants of Revolution veterans to preserve their ancestors’ history and assist today’s veterans.
The Main Gallery includes artifacts like antique harps, and the Study Gallery features more than 600 objects from the American Revolution that visitors can see up close and personal, unlike at other museums. For art lovers, the DAR Museum is also home to the Yochim Gallery – a decorative arts display with quilts and paintings – and 31 period-specific rooms with authentic interiors to admire.
National Postal Museum
The Smithsonian Institution opened the doors of the National Postal Museum in 1993, but the museum’s newer status does not diminish the richness of its archives. While it does not get as much attention as other Smithsonian tourist spots, the museum at 2 Massachusetts Ave. NE houses hidden gems that cater to more than just passionate philatelists.
The first floor features the William H. Gross Stamp Gallery, the largest stamp exhibit in the world. Visitors pull sliding frames out of the wall to view stamps, envelopes and historical artifacts from various points in U.S. history. The Mail Marks History exhibit features mail markings from important time periods like a letter mailed aboard the Titanic, a letter from the Silk Road and a mailbox from the World Trade Center that survived the 9/11 attacks with all its contents intact.
The National Postal Museum also focuses on other aspects of the United States Postal Service, like its initiative for eco-friendly mail trucks and scandals that have surrounded the U.S. Postal Inspection Service like mail theft and money laundering.
The George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum
If you want an educational outing but don’t want to walk far, stay on campus and check out The Textile Museum, located next to University Yard.
GW and the Textile Museum combined their collections in 2011 and created a large gallery of rugs and textiles in the new museum space on campus.
The museum houses more than 20,000 textiles – including rare maps, bejeweled robes and ornate rugs – that date back to 3,000 BCE from the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and North and South America. Although The Textile Museum displays thousands of antiques, it also features interactive exhibits where you can touch and play with different fabrics from around the world. Best of all, the museum is free to all students with a GWID.