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The Museums of Washington DC Are For the People

The capital of the United States, Washington, DC, is often thought of simply as the seat of the Federal Government and perhaps not enough as a place for museums. All three branches of the government are located in the city, as are foreign embassies, the headquarters of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, the Organization of American States and several others. The headquarters of many organizations and institutions that deal extensively with the federal government are also located in Washington, DC and so are many of the country's most famous museums and historic sites.

Smithsonian Tulips 2
Photo by Mr. T in DC licensed under cc by 2.0.

The Smithsonian Institution which maintains most of the nation's museums and galleries in the city is funded by the US government. This enables it to exhibit its collections to the public free of charge. It is the world's largest museum and research complex with 19 museums and galleries. Among these, the most popular is the National Air and Space Museum which has the world's largest collection of historic air and spacecraft. Other museums include the National Museum of Natural History with exhibits which cover a wide range of subjects from dinosaurs and butterflies to the development of human cultures; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden features sculptures from Rodin and Matisse to those of emerging artists.

There are also private museums in Washington, DC open to the public. Some of these are the International Spy Museum, Holocaust Memorial Museum and the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Landmarks and historic sites

Many of the museums and galleries are located around or near the National Mall, the site of presidential inaugurations, concerts, political protests and festivals. Nearby are the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Pier. Other historic sites in Washington, DC are the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial and the US Capitol. The National Archives preserves the Declaration of Independence, US Constitution, Bill of Rights and thousands of historical documents. The Library of Congress, the largest library complex in the world, has almost 150 million books and manuscripts.

Amid all its statues, monuments, buildings and historic sites, the museums in Washington, DC are, by themselves a monument to the nation and its people.





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