The National Portrait Gallery – Smithsonian Institution

ghr74sz4qs3dmsbbWashington, D.C. is home to most of the collections in the Smithsonian Institution’s constellation of amazing museums. Today’s “Museum of the Day”, The National Portrait Gallery, is a great collection that has been “joined at the hip” to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American Art with a recent addition between the buildings, making “it” one outstanding museum building with two different collections.

The National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum—two museums that tell America’s stories through art, history and biography—share a newly renovated National Historic Landmark building in downtown Washington D.C. The Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture, named in honor of a generous gift from the a Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, includes the two museums and their special-purpose facilities: the Lunder Conservation Center, the Luce Foundation Center for American Art, the Nan Tucker McEvoy Auditorium and the Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard.

The National Portrait Gallery helps to tell the history of America through people who have shaped its culture. Through the visual arts, performing arts and new media, the Portrait Gallery portrays poets and presidents, visionaries and villains, actors and activists whose lives tell the American story.

The National Portrait Gallery shares with the Smithsonian American Art Museum one of Washington’s oldest public buildings, a National Historic Landmark that was begun in 1836 to house the U.S. Patent Office. One of the nation’s finest examples of Greek Revival architecture, the building has undergone an extensive renovation that showcases its most dramatic architectural features, including skylights, a curving double staircase, porticos, and vaulted galleries illuminated by natural light. The Lunder Conservation Center, the only fine–art facility of its kind, is an innovative new space that allows visitors to look through floor–to–ceiling windows as conservators care for the national treasures entrusted to both museums.

The museums are collectively known as the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture, in honor of the museums’ largest donor, the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation.

In honor of my recent move to our nation’s capital, I thought today’s museum should come from what many consider the most amazing city for museum lovers. Remember, all the Smithsonian’s 20 different museums (2 museums in New York City) – all of them are free to the public. This is a gift to our nation that should never go unappreciated!

Now that I live here again,I look forward to more visits to all the wonderful museums in Washington, D.C.

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Museum of Indian Arts & Culture

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Santa Fe, New Mexico is home to the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, today’s “Museum of the Day”.

I have not been to Santa Fe yet and have an urge to make it top of the list for 2014. It’s been beckoning me with the diversity of cultures there, and it’s reputation for a vibrant arts community alive with some of the best artists from all kinds of traditions.

The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, one of four museums in the Museum of New Mexico system, is a premier repository of Native art and material culture and tells the stories of the people of the Southwest from pre-history through contemporary art. The museum serves a diverse, multicultural audience through changing exhibitions, public lectures, field trips, artist residencies, and other educational programs.

More than 65,000 visitors come to the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture each year, of which 30% hail from New Mexico, 50% from other states, and 20% from foreign countries. It is MIAC’s mission to provide cross-cultural education to the many visitors to Santa Fe who take part in our programs and to New Mexican residents throughout the state. It is especially important that MIAC serve the Indian communities in our state and throughout the Southwest whose contemporary and ancestral cultures are represented in the museum’s collections.

I look forward to visiting this museum soon!

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Airborne & Special Operations Museum

Museum of the Day

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Fayetteville, North Caroline is home to the Airborne & Special Operations Museum which is today’s “Museum of the Day”.

For more than eighty years Fort Bragg, Fayetteville, Cumberland County and North Carolina have lived and worked in cooperation with one another. The Airborne & Special Operations Museum now stands as a symbol for many years of teamwork, sacrifice, and victory.

The Airborne & Special Operations Museum Foundation provides marketing and advertising efforts to the non-military community in support of the ongoing mission of the United States Army’s Airborne & Special Operations Museum (ASOM). The ASOM serves as an adjunct to the local academic and cultural community and provides military history of the airborne and special operations soldiers, from 1940 to the present, to active duty soldiers, veterans, their families and the public at large. The Foundation conducts private and public fundraising efforts in support of this mission, ongoing ASOM programs…

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Airborne & Special Operations Museum

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Fayetteville, North Caroline is home to the Airborne & Special Operations Museum which is today’s “Museum of the Day”.

For more than eighty years Fort Bragg, Fayetteville, Cumberland County and North Carolina have lived and worked in cooperation with one another. The Airborne & Special Operations Museum now stands as a symbol for many years of teamwork, sacrifice, and victory.

The Airborne & Special Operations Museum Foundation provides marketing and advertising efforts to the non-military community in support of the ongoing mission of the United States Army’s Airborne & Special Operations Museum (ASOM). The ASOM serves as an adjunct to the local academic and cultural community and provides military history of the airborne and special operations soldiers, from 1940 to the present, to active duty soldiers, veterans, their families and the public at large. The Foundation conducts private and public fundraising efforts in support of this mission, ongoing ASOM programs, and future exhibit support.

The Airborne & Special Operations Museum is part of the U.S. Army Museum System and functions in partnership with a non-profit foundation. The Foundation Board of Directors is composed of retired military, veteran military and civilian members from both the public and private sectors.

Both public and private funding has been vital to the opening of the $22.5 million museum. Fundraising by the Foundation began in 1992 with a generous grant awarded from Congress. In addition to the federal grant, the State of North Carolina, Cumberland County, and the City of Fayetteville have provided grants to the museum.

I hope to visit the museum on my travels around the country. It looks like a great experience!

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Liberty Science Center

Museum of the Day

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Located in Jersey City, New Jersey, today’s “Museum of the Day” is one of my favorites! Liberty Science Center is a 300,000-square-foot learning center located in Liberty State Park on the Jersey City bank of the Hudson near the Statue of Liberty.

Dedicated to bringing the excitement of science to people of all ages, Liberty Science Center houses 12 museum exhibition halls, a live animal collection with 110 species, giant aquariums, a 3D theater, the nation’s largest IMAX Dome Theater, live simulcast surgeries, tornado and hurricane-force wind simulators, K-12 classrooms and labs, and teacher-development programs. More than half a million students, teachers, and parents visit the Science Center each year, and tens of thousands more participate in the Center’s offsite and online programs.

It may seem like I have a bias for art museums, but I also love a great science museum! This one is no exception to getting me excited…

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Liberty Science Center

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Located in Jersey City, New Jersey, today’s “Museum of the Day” is one of my favorites! Liberty Science Center is a 300,000-square-foot learning center located in Liberty State Park on the Jersey City bank of the Hudson near the Statue of Liberty.

Dedicated to bringing the excitement of science to people of all ages, Liberty Science Center houses 12 museum exhibition halls, a live animal collection with 110 species, giant aquariums, a 3D theater, the nation’s largest IMAX Dome Theater, live simulcast surgeries, tornado and hurricane-force wind simulators, K-12 classrooms and labs, and teacher-development programs. More than half a million students, teachers, and parents visit the Science Center each year, and tens of thousands more participate in the Center’s offsite and online programs.

It may seem like I have a bias for art museums, but I also love a great science museum! This one is no exception to getting me excited about science.

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Strawbery Banke Museum

Strawbery_Banke_copyPortsmouth, New Hampshire is home to today’s “Museum of the Day,” an amazing living history museum that features 10-acres of outdoor history.

Strawbery Banke Museum is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is dedicated to bringing 300* years of American history to life. Strawbery Banke is a place to learn about architecture, heritage plants and foodways, traditional crafts and the tools, clothing and collections people used for everyday life in the 1600s, 1700s, 1800s and up through 1954 when the site was saved from urban renewal.

The museum is a place for children, adults, multigenerational families and groups to gather to explore heritage gardens, historic buildings and crafts, preservation programs, hands-on activities, the stories told by costumed role-players, hands-on traditional crafts  and the changing exhibits that offer hours of fun and discovery. The museum’s restored buildings and open space invite visitors to immerse themselves in the past.

Strawbery Banke is a sustainable place that preserves and enlivens three centuries of war and peace in the same New England waterfront neighborhood. Each year the museum welcomes 75,000 visitors, members, schoolchildren and volunteers who love New Hampshire history for daily programs, exhibits and signature special events from May through December.

I look forward to a visit when I travel to New England this summer!

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Metropolitan Museum of Art

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New York, NY – Home of many great art collections, New York City is where you will find the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It is, in my humble opinion, one of the top 5 art museums in the world and is today’s “Museum of the Day”.

It’s a no-brainer when visiting NYC. The “Met” is a must see, always. Check the museum website for an ever-changing and incredible list of current exhibits; it’s one of the most well-rounded encyclopedic collections of art from all ages, and it is a mega-museum, so a visit always uncovers new treasures and learning experiences. The museum also boasts a robust digital presence, with a timeline of art history available from the website for educators. In short, the museum sets the standards very high for great art museums.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s earliest roots date back to 1866 in Paris, France, when a group of Americans agreed to create a “national institution and gallery of art” to bring art and art education to the American people.  On April 13, 1870, The Metropolitan Museum of Art was incorporated, opening to the public in the Dodworth Building at 681 Fifth Avenue.

On March 30, 1880, after a brief move to the Douglas Mansion at 128 West 14th Street, the Museum opened to the public at its current site on Fifth Avenue and 82nd Street. The architects Calvert Vaux and Jacob Wrey Mould designed the initial Ruskinian Gothic structure, the west facade of which is still visible in the Robert Lehman Wing. The building has since expanded greatly, and the various additions—built as early as 1888—now completely surround the original structure.

The Museum’s collections continued to grow throughout the rest of the nineteenth century. The Museum’s Beaux-Arts Fifth Avenue facade and Great Hall, designed by the architect and founding Museum Trustee Richard Morris Hunt, opened to the public in December 1902.

By the twentieth century, the Museum had become one of the world’s great art centers. The American Wing now houses the world’s most comprehensive collection of American paintings, sculpture, and decorative arts.

Other major collections belonging to the Museum include arms and armor, the arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas, ancient Near Eastern art, Asian art, costume,drawings and prints, European sculpture and decorative arts, Greek and Roman art, Islamic art, medieval art, modern and contemporary art, musical instruments,photographs, and the Robert Lehman Collection.

Today, the Museum’s two-million-square-foot building houses over two million objects, tens of thousands of which are on view at any given time.

A comprehensive architectural plan for the Museum by the architects Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates was approved in 1971 and completed in 1991. Among the additions to the Museum as part of the master plan are the Robert Lehman Wing (1975), which houses an extraordinary collection of Old Masters, as well as Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art; The Sackler Wing (1978), which houses the Temple of Dendur; The American Wing (1980), whose diverse collection includes twenty-five recently renovated period rooms; The Michael C. Rockefeller Wing (1982) displaying the arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas; the Lila Acheson Wallace Wing (1987) of modern and contemporary art; and the Henry R. Kravis Wing (1991) devoted to European sculpture and decorative arts from the Renaissance to the beginning of the twentieth century.

With the expansion of the building complete, the Metropolitan Museum has continued to refine and reorganize its collections. In 1998, the Arts of Korea gallery opened to the public, completing a major suite of galleries devoted to the arts of Asia. The Ancient Near Eastern Art galleries reopened to the public in 1999 following a renovation. In 2007, several major projects at the south end of the building were completed, most notably the fifteen-year renovation and reinstallation of the entire suite of Greek and Roman Art galleries. Galleries for Oceanic and Native North American Art also opened in 2007, as well as the new Galleries for Nineteenth- and Early Twentieth-Century Paintings and Sculpture and the Ruth and Harold D. Uris Center for Education.

On November 1, 2011, the Museum’s New Galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and Later South Asia opened to the public. On the north side of the Museum, the Met’s New American Wing Galleries for Paintings, Sculpture, and Decorative Arts reopened on January 16, 2012, signaling the completion of the third and final phase of The American Wing’s renovation.

Thomas P. Campbell became the ninth director of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in January 2009, following the thirty-one-year tenure of Philippe de Montebello. During the fiscal year that ended on June 30, 2012, the Metropolitan Museum welcomed 6.2 million visitors from around the world to the main building on Fifth Avenue and The Cloisters museum and gardens. Through fellowships and professional exchanges, ongoing excavation work, traveling exhibitions, and many other international initiatives, the Museum continues in the twenty-first century to fulfill its mission and serve the broadest possible audience.

Read the history of The Cloisters museum and gardens, the Museum’s branch in northern Manhattan dedicated to the art and architecture of medieval Europe.

Now that I am relocating back to the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States, I know I will be visiting NYC and of course, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, more often!

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Art Institute of Chicago

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Chicago, Illinois – Home to one of the best art collections in the world, the Art Institute of Chicago stands tall in the realm of important art museums of the 21st century. It was voted #1 Museum in United States in 2013 by the TripAdvisor.com users.

Close to my hometown of Peoria, I remember many visits to this venerable institution growing up. My most recent trip to Chicago did not allow for a visit inside, but the time I spent exploring Millennium Park allowed me some great views of the new wing.

The Art Institute of Chicago collects, preserves, and interprets works of art of the highest quality, representing the world’s diverse artistic traditions, for the inspiration and education of the public and in accordance with our profession’s highest ethical standards and practices.

The Art Institute of Chicago was founded as both a museum and school for the fine arts in 1879, a critical era in the history of Chicago as civic energies were devoted to rebuilding the metropolis that had been destroyed by the Great Fire of 1871. Its first collections consisting primarily of plaster casts, the Art Institute found its permanent home in 1893, when it moved into a building, constructed jointly with the city of Chicago for the World’s Columbian Exposition, at the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Adams Street. That building, its entry flanked by the two famous bronze lions, remains the “front door” of the museum even today. In keeping with the academic origins of the institution, a research library was constructed in 1901; eight major expansions for gallery and administrative space have followed, with the latest being the Modern Wing, which opened in 2009. The permanent collection has grown from plaster casts to nearly 300,000 works of art in fields ranging from Chinese bronzes to contemporary design and from textiles to installation art. Together, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the museum of the Art Institute of Chicago are now internationally recognized as two of the leading fine-arts institutions in the United States.

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American Visionary Art Museum

american_visionary_arts_museum-2Baltimore, Maryland’s American Visionary Art Museum is today’s “Museum of the Day”!

This is one of my all-time favorite museums. Having spent 10 years between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, MD, I am fortunate enough to have developed a friendship with the founding director, Rebecca Hoffberger.

Her leadership in creating some of the most outstanding visionary art, presenting them in creative and thoughtful ways, and addressing them with keen eye on thought-provoking social issues is, in a word, visionary.

There’s a joy and celebration of art and life that emanates from the museum, from the outside of the building to the visually overwhelming and sensually-stimulating museum store; even the restaurant and restrooms are engaging and fun. Nestled beneath Baltimore’s Federal Hill, the museum has “O SAY CAN YOU SEE” boldly displayed in neon lights on one of it’s three buildings facing the inner harbor.

“Visionary art” is defined by the museum as “art produced by self-taught individuals, usually without formal training, whose works arise from an innate personal vision that revels foremost in the creative act itself.”

Rather than give you more “basic” info about the museum, I urge you to visit their website and to follow them on them FACEBOOK. Do not miss this museum when in Baltimore. And by all means, make Baltimore a stop on your tour of important historical and creative cities in the United States. There’s so much to see and do in Baltimore, for sure!

shinyhappyIf my review seems shiny and happy, it’s because this museum is simply one of the best museum experiences in the world.

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Nota Bene: I will be relocating to Washington, D.C. in the coming days and have scheduled a regular “Museum of the Day” through next Sunday, February 23. The museums coming in the next week are simply some of my personal favorites.

Once I settle into my new home in DC, I will continue to research new and interesting museums with a focus on diversity of museum type and geographic location.