Interactive exhibits in museums around D.C. are the ideal change of pace from the traditional museum displays you’re used to seeing.
Ranging from holographic art to a 3D talking tree and even some intricate string work, our rundown of interactive exhibits covers some of the most exciting artwork currently available in the District.
Life of a Neuron, ARTECHOUSE
ARTECHOUSE, recognized for its colorful holographics, started out as the first gallery in the United States that combined programming with fine art, creating a medium never seen before.
Every few months, ARTECHOUSE presents a new exhibit dedicated to a particular theme, event or social issue. The gallery’s current exhibition, named “Life of a Neuron,” will be on display until Nov. 28. This exhibition focuses on the wonders of the human brain, enabling visitors to reimagine the human experience through another lens.
This new exhibit allows visitors to immerse themselves in the human body and experience life from the perspective of a microscopic but complex neuron. The visuals of this exhibit will allow you to “experience a neuron – from pre-birth to death,” recreating the cycle of life much like a moving film, according to the exhibit website.
ARTECHOUSE, 1238 Maryland Ave. SW. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tickets are $20 for students and $24 for general admission. Find more information here.
Planet Word Museum
Step into the Planet Word Museum and prepare yourself to experience more than 99 percent of our planet’s languages through incredible visuals and interactive elements.
A giant 3D globe on the top floor surrounded by small screens displays videos of people speaking, and signing, in various languages. Another exhibit, called “the library,” is situated on the middle floor and displays books with colorful lights and audio elements to make them “come to life before your eyes,” according to the website.
The museum’s highlighted exhibit is its “Speaking Willow Tree,” a mixed media sculpture created by Rafael Lozano-Hammer. The sculpture will murmur to you in multiple languages as you walk under its little lamps. It’s worth mentioning that Lozano incorporated the elements of light and voice into his sculpture to symbolize wisdom and celebrate human diversity.
The Planet Word Museum offers 12 other main exhibits that are divided between the upper, middle and lower floor. Be sure to check out the “Word Worlds” installation, a magical canvas that lets you paint all around you with words, and “The Spoken World,” an interactive piece that allows you to meet speakers from all around the world.
Planet Word Museum, 925 13th St. NW. Open Thursday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets are free. Find more information here.
The Renwick Gallery
The Renwick Gallery is a must visit for anyone interested in contemporary American art. In this gallery, you will get to look at some art pieces that expand beyond a flat canvas and come to life through the use of a combination of textures and ideas.
While some of the Gallery’s most famous pieces are temporarily closed, an interactive exhibit which the museum invites guests to lay beneath titled “Janet Echelman’s 1.8 Renwick” opened in September 2020.
Echelman’s vibrant installment “examines the complex interconnections between human beings and our physical world” while also embodying the human concept of time according to the website. This huge knotted and bright piece, looms over the gallery like a frozen wave and invites visitors to lay on the carpet beneath it for a better look.
Its fabric was modeled after the powerful 2011 Tohoku tsunami in Japan, capturing the mighty strength of nature and putting human size into perspective.
This event “was so powerful it shifted the earth on its axis and shortened the day by 1.8 millionths of a second,” inspiring the artist to name it “1.8 Renwick” according to the website.
Renwick Gallery, 1661 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m to 5:30 p.m. Tickets are free. Find more information here.
International Spy Museum
Ignite your inner spy kid at the International Spy Museum, which features 17 digitally and physically interactive exhibits.
You’ll be able to work your way through an undercover mission after receiving your cover name and information. This info will be your fake occupation and details about “where in the world,” your spy mission will take place, according to the website.
This interactive element is an optional addition to your visit so you can participate in your undercover mission as you please. Throughout the museum, you’ll complete tasks like cracking codes, testing your cognitive biases in a digital game and even testing your physical endurance by seeing how long you can hang on a pull-up bar.
As you move through the museum, your scores and “intel” will be tracked and then analyzed in the debriefing center where your top two skills will be revealed.
As you complete your undercover spy mission, you’ll be moving through five different areas of the museum. For example, the “stealing secrets” exhibit showcases past and present spy gadgets, the “making sense of secrets,” exhibit is focused on code cracking and analytics and “covert action” covers how world leaders use spy tactics.
International Spy Museum, 700 L’Enfant Plaza, SW. Open Tuesday through Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Monday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tickets with a student ID are $22.95 per person and $24.95 for general admission. Find more information here.