From panel discussions led by renowned artists to family-friendly celebrations, there’s a lot to see, do and learn at these Smithsonian museums in the District.
While Smithsonian museums are known for their exhibitions, featuring work of all kinds by internationally known artists and historical figures, they also tend to offer unique, entertaining events throughout the year for museum-goers who want to go even deeper. And the best part? They are free!
From cooking demonstrations at the National Museum of American History to a film festival celebrating language at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, it’s time to embrace the tourism of your hometown this February with these special events.
National Museum of African American History & Culture
Historically Speaking: Thurgood Marshall—A Conversation Between Spencer Crew and Juan Williams
Monday, Feb. 10, 7-9 p.m.
Acclaimed historian and interim director of NMAAHC Dr. Spencer R. Crew recently released a biography about America’s first supreme court justice, titled Thurgood Marshall: A Life in American History. At this evening event, local news anchor Juan Williams will interview Dr. Crew about his process of chronicling Marshall’s legacy. Plus, Dr. Crew will sell and sign copies of his biography following the lecture.
Wednesday, Feb. 12, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
In early February, preservation specialists of the museum will gather on the first floor to meet with families one-on-one and provide professional reviews of well-kept treasures and heirlooms. Items available for review include anything from photographs to textiles to larger objects too. Registration is required for this event, as space is limited.
Engineering STEM Day
Saturday, Feb. 22, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
In honor of National Engineering Week, the museum staff will gather together to highlight the lineage of African American engineers. Guests will discover how African Americans have been influencing the world of engineering for centuries through presentations by NASA engineer and educator Dr. Aprille Ericcson, a book corner and hands-on STEM activities hosted by local organizations. Registration is required for this event, as space is limited. // 1400 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC
Smithsonian National Museum of African Art
Wednesday of Feb. 5 & Feb. 19, 1:30-3:30 p.m.
The month of February’s two workshop Wednesdays consist of creativity and exploration. On Feb. 5, guests will use viewfinders in Looking for Contours as inspiration for a luminous painting. The second event, It’s Just Hair, will focus on challenging social norms of beauty and acceptance through a discussion on hair as an accessory, not a necessity. Plus, you’ll have the chance to create an accessory of your choice using the provided material. Both events are first come, first serve.
Film + Discussion: The Reunion of Flags
Saturday, Feb. 29, 6-9:30 p.m.
Come out to the museum to explore the connection between two countries, Eritrea and Ethiopia, in the acclaimed documentary The Reunion of Flags. The documentary explores the nations’ two-decades-long conflict and its resolution from the lens of a younger generation. Following the screening, there will be a panel discussion. // 950 Independence Ave. SW, Washington, DC
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Chinese New Year Celebration
Saturday, Feb. 1, 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m.
The Lunar New Year is here! Come celebrate the Year of the Rat with several performances and activities taking place in the courtyard of the American Art Museum. Children of all ages will have fun at this festive affair thanks to an interactive magic show, a traditional lion awakening ceremony and dance, calligraphy demonstrations and more.
Panel Discussion—A Closer Look at African American Artists in SAAM’s Collection
Saturday, Feb. 8, 6 p.m.
Dive deep into one of the largest collections of work made by African American artists in the world, found only at this museum, with a panel discussion. Throughout the night, artist Allan deSouza, art advised Schwanda Rountree and DC-based art collectors Mel and Juanita Hardy will lead a discussion surrounding some of the most important works in the collection.
Valentine’s Day Handi-hour Pop-up
Friday, Feb. 14, 5-7 p.m.
Get crafty this Valentine’s Day in the Kogod Courtyard. Adults and children of all ages are welcome to come together for an afternoon of card making, with supplies provided by the museum. Plus, drink specials and snacks will be available for purchase. Registration is recommended, as this event tends to fill up fast.
Mother Tongue Film Festival
Saturday, Feb. 22, 3 p.m.
This year, SAAM is hosting the annual Mother Tongue Film Festival, which celebrates linguistic and cultural diversity through film. In its fifth year, the festival will showcase films created by directors, producers and writers from across the globe. As screenings continue throughout the day-long event, filmmakers will be available for question and answer sessions. // F Street and Eighth Street NW, Washington, DC
The Renwick Gallery
Curator Gallery Talk: Hearts of our People
Friday, Feb. 21, noon
This February, curators of two esteemed art institutes in Minneapolis and Oklahoma will explore the gallery’s latest exhibition, Hearts of Our People: Native Women Artists. The artwork on display, which vary in design and theme, is created by several talented female artists from across the country. // 1661 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC
National Museum of American History
The Axelrod String Quartet 2019-2020 Saturday Concert Series
Feb. 1, 7:30 p.m.
Talented musicians Antonia Stradivari and Nicolo Amati will perform with the Smithsonian Chamber Music Society for two more nights this year. All are welcome to take in the sounds of string instruments in this popular concert series.
Innovative Lives: Adaptive Skateboarding, WCMX, and Inventing Your Own Path
Wednesday, Feb. 5, 6-8 p.m.
Join Smithsonian staff for the kickoff of its Innovative Lives series, which will dive deep into the lives of change-makers across the globe. This month’s event will feature adaptive skaters Oscar Loreto Jr. and Dan Mancina, as well as WMCX icon Aaron Fotheringham. The three men will share personal stories of how diversity, adaptability and inclusion are necessary in skate and wheelchair motocross culture.
Cooking Up History: Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking
Friday, Feb. 21, 1-2 p.m.
In 2020, the museum’s resident food historian Dr. Ashley Rose Young is hosting a series of cooking demonstrations that feature a celebrity chef. This February, culinary journalist and activist Toni Tipton-Martin will share recipes from her cookbook Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking, and also teach tips for trying them out on your own. // 1300 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC
Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
African American Pioneers in Aviation and Space
Saturday, Feb. 8, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Celebrate African American History month by learning about past pioneers in the fields of aviation and space. Throughout the day, guest speakers will share personal tales of triumph, museum staff will lead family-friendly activities and featured tours of the museum will take place. // Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy Center: 14390 Air and Space Museum Parkway, Chantilly
The Sun in a New Light
Tuesday, Feb. 11, 8 p.m.
The sun is one of the most fascinating objects in our solar system, and new discoveries surrounding the blazing hot star are constantly being made by experts. This February, physicist Mark Cheung will lead a lecture and discussion surrounding NASA’s most recent discoveries and what they mean for Earth’s future. // National Air and Space Museum: 655 Jefferson Drive, SW, Washington, DC
Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian
Guatemalan National Day of Marimba
Sunday, Feb. 23, 2-3 p.m.
This February, the Consulate of Guatemala is collaborating with the National Museum of the American Indian to celebrate the marimba—a percussion instrument utilized in the majority of music in Guatemala. The festivities will include several musical performances by marimba groups. // Fourth Street and Independence Ave. SW, Washington, DC
Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum
Saturday, Feb. 15, 2-4 p.m.
When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. fought for the rights of millions of Americans in our nation’s capital, he used the concept of the “beloved community.” This month, in honor of his memory, Derek Gray of the DC Public Library will give a presentation on Dr. King’s concept, as well as his activism, particularly surrounding his organizing efforts and speeches.
A Right to the City Author Talk Series: Stephen Danley
Saturday, Feb. 22, 2-4 p.m.
At this author talk lecture, you’ll have the chance to hear from esteemed writer and author Stephen Danley, as he discusses his book, A Neighborhood Politics of Last Resort: Post-Katrina New Orleans. The story follows activists of New Orleans and their efforts to rebuild local communities after a devastating flood took them by surprise. // 1901 Fort Place SE, Washington, DC
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
Saturday, Feb. 1 & Feb. 29, 10 a.m.
Once a month, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden invites kids of all ages to explore artwork on display in an interactive series. On Feb. 1, join Color of Love, a special Valentine’s Day celebration where children will write a love letter inspired by artist Marcel Duchamp’s soulful paintings. As 2020 is a leap year, the Hirshhorn is hosting Leap Year! Pop-Up!, to celebrate. Kids will explore unique art and games with a museum curator.
On the Origin of Images: Artist Talk with Clement Cogitore
Wednesday, Feb. 5, 6:30-7:30 p.m. & Saturday, Feb. 8, 2 p.m.
Internationally known French filmmaker Clement Cogitore is making his way to the Hirshhorn to discuss his complex work, combining cinema and contemporary art through feature-length films, videos, installations and photographs. Following the discussion, Cogitore will screen his celebrated short film Les Indes Galantes, which has since been translated to a live production. Later in the same week on Feb. 8, the museum will screen another one of Cogitore’s films, Braguino, which follows the tale of two feuding families living deep in Siberia’s boreal forest. Registration is strongly recommended for both events. // Independence Avenue and Seventh Avenue Street SW, Washington, DC
Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art: The Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Gallery Talk: My Iran: Six Women Photographers
Sunday, Feb. 9, noon
How have social and political changes in Iran altered the lives of artist? That question will be answered when several museum curators discuss the Sackler’s exhibit, My Iran, in detail. Plus, there will be a film screening later in the afternoon as part of the Iranian Film Festival.
Sacred Dedication: A Korean Buddhist Masterpiece
Saturday, Feb. 22, noon
Curator Keith Wilson will gather the community together for an exploration of a 13th-century Buddhist sculpture currently on view at the Sackler. Wilson will discuss what the design—displayed with texts and symbolic objects—symbolizes in the realm of worship. // 1050 Independence Ave. NW, Washington, DC
National Museum of Natural History
Disease Detectives in a Connected World
Tuesday, Feb. 4, 6:15-8:30 p.m.
At this special event, experts from the DMV area will come together to discuss how diseases can emerge in unexpected places. The three “disease detectives” will dive deep into how the movement of humans, animals and cargo transports pathogens to unique locations, putting populations at risk. // 10th Street and Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, DC
National Postal Museum
Valentine’s Day Workshop
Saturday, Feb. 8 & Sunday, Feb. 9, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Individuals of all ages are invited to the National Postal Museum for a special card-making event. Whether you choose to send a card to your crush or to a loved one, the choice is yours this Valentine’s Day. // Two Massachusetts Avenue NE, Washington, DC
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