The National Portrait Gallery is housed in the building currently called the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture. The Reynolds Foundation is one of the museum's largest financial supporters. The building is also inhabited by the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The building is a National Historic Landmark. Construction began in 1836. The museums have been here since 1968. Renovations have not harmed the Greek revival architecture which includes spacious rooms with natural light pouring in through skylights to illuminate exhibits.
The Portrait Gallery is the Smithsonian Museum aimed at relating the stories of people that have contributed to the evolution of U.S. society in its distinct aspects through portraiture.
The American Presidents Exhibit portrays each of the nation's elected Chief Executives from George Washington to the present day. In addition to paintings, photographs, sculptures and caricatures are also on display.
The "American Origins, 1600-1900" exhibit paints the path from the first landings by explorers and contact with natives through the through independence, expansion and the civil war. The end of slavery and the start of industrialization are illustrated through personalities immortalized in their portraits.
Entertainers and sports legends as well as social activists and artists are also on permanent display in several of the National Portrait Gallery's exhibits.
Photographs for non-commercial use are allowed in the case of permanent exhibits but are prohibited in the case of temporary exhibitions
The museum can be found at Eighth and F Streets, NW in downtown Washington, D.C. It is open from 11:30 AM-7:00 PM seven days a week and is only closed on December 25th. As part of the Smithsonian Institution admission is free of charge.
There are some paid parking lots nearby, however parking is always difficult in the downtown area of this busy city. The museum is ideally located for public transportation with the Gallery Place-Chinatown Metro station located just below the building. The Green Red and Yellow lines all make stops here.
The National Portrait Gallery has an Education Department that hosts museum tours as well as specific learning programs for children and youth that include storytelling, theatrical performances, concerts and the use of other media.
Several dining options exist on the premises of the museum including the Courtyard Cafy in the 28,000 foot enclosed garden courtyard in the middle of the building. Free internet access b y Wi-Fi is available in the courtyard space. Concerts and events are often held in this space as well.
The museum is wheelchair accessible from the G Street entrance. The museum also makes wheelchairs available to visitors upon request when availability allows.
The F Street lobby has a check your own coat checkroom. There are also lockers available for knapsacks or packages.