What to see at the world’s largest museum complex this year

Founded in 1846 and made up of nearly a dozen museums and galleries on the National Mall alone, the Smithsonian Institution is the world’s largest museum, education, and research complex and one of DC’s marvels. These world-renowned museums are filled with history, science, art, and culture and serve to preserve and celebrate the country’s past. The best part is that they are all free. From the National Portrait Gallery to the Air and Space Museum, here is a guide to the top exhibits to add to your list of must-sees.

Neil Armstrong's Apollo 11 Spacesuit

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, the spaceflight that landed humans on the moon for the first time. A number of parties and institutions—from NASA to CNN to outdoor fairs—have taken the opportunity to celebrate this milestone, including the Smithsonian, which is displaying Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit from the historic moon landing for the first time in 13 years at the Air and Space Museum. 

In Memoriam: Toni Morrison

When influential author Toni Morrison passed away earlier this month, fans and readers from all over the country came together to celebrate her life and contributions to the literary world. Now through January 2020, visitors to the National Portrait Gallery can celebrate Morrison’s life and her writing about the experiences of African Americans in her memorial exhibit, featuring a large-scale oil painting of her by Robert McCurdy.

Manifesto: Art x Agency

A group exhibition that examines the historical influence of various artist manifestos, Manifesto: Art x Agency is comprised of over 100 powerful works from the past decade. Now until January 5th, attendees will experience three distinct but thematically linked sections at the Hirschorn Museum and Sculpture Garden: pieces from the museum’s permanent modern collection (by artists like Salvador Dalí, Jackson Pollock, and Joan Mitchell), selections from its permanent contemporary collection (by creators like the Guerrilla Girls, Adrian Piper, Hurvin Anderson), and a multichannel film installation by German artist Julian Rosefeldt starring actress Cate Blanchett. Presented for the first time ever in Washington, D.C., the 13 chapters of Rosefeldt’s work will play simultaneously on different video projections, allowing visitors an immersive experience.

Michael Sherrill Retrospective

One of the Smithsonian’s most visually appealing museums, the Renwick Gallery first opened in 1859 as the ‘American Louvre’ and was recently renovated and reopened in 2015. Focusing on American craft and decorative arts, the Renwick Gallery’s latest exhibit showcases sculptor Michael Sherrill’s delicately rendered sculptures in clay, glass, and metal. Through January 2020, visitors can experience creations from Sherrill’s 40-year career, including everything from teapots and clay vessels to mixed media sculptures inspired by nature. 


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