National Portrait Gallery

Location: Washington D.C.

Webpage: Smithsonian Museum

General Description: The National Portrait Gallery is a treat for the eyes with many permanent exhibits, as well as, special exhibits.  The permanent exhibits include American Origins (1600-1900), The Struggle for Justice, Jo Davidson: Biographer in Bronze”, Twentieth Century Americans, Bravo!, Champions, America’s Presidents, and Contemporary Americans.  In addition to the permanent exhibits there are temporary exhibits that change throughout the year.



1) The National Portrait Gallery is housed in the Old Patent Office Building, which was built beginning in 1836 taking 36 years to complete in 1865.  It was built in the Greek revival style instead of other government buildings at the time.  As this was the US Patent Offices until 1932 and the Civil Service Commission until the 1950s the interior and exterior are a surprise.  It certainly does not look like any other government office building I have been to!  The marble floors, porticos, and stairways are ornate and even the doorways into the office cubicles are eye catching.  In fact, it was chosen as the venue for President Lincoln’s second inaugural ball in 1865.


2) We only had a couple of hours in the gallery, so we saw only a little over half of it.  However, many of the exhibits were memorable.  For me, the best part of the gallery was the portraits of all the American Presidents, especially the earlier Presidents.


3) The exhibit of Contemporary Americans was also interesting including many portraits of actors, singers, and sports personalities.  For instance, there is a very nice portrait of LL Cool J where I found out that his name stands for “Ladies Like Cool James”.

4) The inner courtyard is a popular place for lunch with many bringing their own food.  It is an interesting space with a ceiling that looks fake and creates some neat light patterns.


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