Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery

Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery

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.

Welcome to the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, the Smithsonian Institute first founded in 1962, first opened to the public in 1968. This historic art museum focuses on images of famous Americans, people of outstanding character and achievement, whether good or bad. This is the place to see artists, politicians, scientists, inventors, activists, performers, and many other 'visionaries and villains' particularly important to the American story.

The outside of the gallery displays grandiose Greek Revival Architecture by Norman Foster, the inside displays a 'multi-faceted and ever-changing story of America'. Explore our national identity with the various permanent and rotating exhibits either on your own or with a docent-led tour. You can take a basic public tour, a joint American Art Museum Tour, or a school or group tour. The group tours show highlights of the National Portrait Gallery including most of the permanent collection and the American President Collection. School visits are subject-focused, with specific tour/learning options for preschool, k-3,4-8,4-12, and 6-12.

During your exploration, you will see that there are more images than you probably imagined at first, with over 23,000 items in the collection total, from old school daguerrotypes to new school digital files. Here are the permanent exhibits you will see:

  • American Presidents
  • 20th Century America
  • American Origins
  • Bravo!
  • Champions
  • Explore!
  • The Four Justices

Before you go be sure to stop at the Museum Cafe or Shop for a pick me up or unique souvenir!