Best Permanent Exhibits In Washington DC

July 15, 2013 8:00 AM

Photo Credit: National Gallery Of Art Sculpture Garden

Washington DC is home to some of the best and most inspiring collections, ranging from beautifully crafted sculptures to expertly curated photograph exhibits. With so many exhibits happening simultaneously, it is often difficult to keep up with which collections are new and which ones are closing. Luckily, many of our Washington DC museums also have a variety of permanent installations that offer just as much surprise and intrigue as the temporary exhibits. To following represent some of the best permanent installations in Washington DC that will undoubtedly take care of a culture craving.

National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden
Constitution Ave. & 7th St. N.W.
Washington, DC 20565
(202) 737-4215

The National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden is an ideal place to stop between museums on the National Mall and is home to series of 17 larger-than-life, whimsical, colorful and, in some cases, bizarre pieces by some of the world’s best known sculptors. One of the larger and more prominent pieces is Claes Oldenburg’s giant Typewriter Eraser, depicted mid-fall, and a prime example of Oldenburg’s aesthetic for commemorating otherwise discredited or obsolete objects. If you need a break from the sculptures, you can also take a breather at the Sculpture Garden’s large reflecting pool or grab a quick bite at the Pavilion Café.

Related: Creative Artist Portrays U.S. Presidents in Scientific Fiction Settings

National Museum of Natural History
10th St. & Constitution Ave. N.W.
Washington, DC 20560
(202) 633-1000

The National Museum of Natural History garners high — and well-deserved — marks for its highlighted permanent exhibitions available throughout the year. One permanent fixture of the museum is the eight-ton African Bush Elephant in the rotunda which has become a longtime symbol of the museum, and the first of many spectacular specimens on display. One dazzling installation that has been drawing crowds for nearly four decades to the National Museum of Natural History is the Hope Diamond, which is currently on display in The Harry Winston Gallery.

National Building Museum
401 F St. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20001
(202) 272-2448

The National Building Museum has a series of permanent collections curated to illuminate the building process and changing architectural styles and construction techniques. Presently, the museum’s collection contains close to 75,000 photographic images, 68,000 architectural prints and drawings, 100 linear feet of documents and 4,500 objects, architectural fragments and building toys. One collection, the Wurts Brothers Photography Collection, features the photographs of the Wurts Brothers, who captured a variety of subjects, mostly on the East Coast for nearly a century.

Smithsonian National Museum of African Art
950 Independence Ave. S.W.
Washington, DC 20560
(202) 633-4600

Exhibitions at the museum focus on African art and culture, and the museum houses some of the world’s most impressive pieces of visual arts from the African Diaspora. Boasting a number of permanent exhibits, a few of special interest include the Walt-Disney Tishman collection and African Cosmos: Stellar Arts. The Walt-Disney Tishman collection consists of 525 rare and iconic works ranging from photographs, textiles, pottery, sculptures, jewelry and paintings, primarily from West and Central Africa that were instrumental in developing interest and understanding of African art in the United States. Also of interest is the stunning African Cosmos: Stellar Arts collection, where select pieces demonstrate how the sun, moon, stars and the phenomena of lightning and rainbows inspired African art for thousands of years.

Corcoran Gallery of Art
500 17th St. N.W.
Washington, DC 20006
(202) 639-1700

The largest privately supported cultural institution in Washington, DC, the Corcoran is one of the most well-respected museums of historic and contemporary American art and boasts a collection of American art to match. The collection features pieces by an impressive list of influential artists including Edgar Degas, Thomas Gainsborough, John Singer Sargent, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso and Edward Hopper.

Related: Best Bizarre Statues Or Public Art in DC

Matthew Scott is a freelance writer covering all things Washington DC. His work can be found on

Listen Live