What’s New in Washington DC – American Indian and Hirshhorn Museums

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WhatsNewDC_HirshhornWelcome to a new series on the TouringPlans.com blog. As we are continuing our research for our upcoming coverage as well as the brand new Unofficial Guide to Washington, D.C., we will be posting about all the new exhibits and events in Washington.

For those reading this who are not familiar with Washington, there are dozens upon dozens of museums in addition to the well known monuments. Well, these museums don’t just stay still, they are constantly rotating exhibits in and out. Some are small, some are huge, but we visit them all.

Previously I’ve discussed the new exhibits at the Renwick Gallery, and Sackler Gallery and African Art Museum. Today, we’re going to look at the National Museum of the American Indian and the Hirshhorn Museum.


UG_CoverNational Museum of the American Indian

This overwhelmingly beautiful building houses art that I’ve always found underwhelming. There are treasures within it for sure, but I have never found myself drawn to the Native American art the same way I am to art from elsewhere. That said, I find myself in this building fairly often because a) it is gorgeous, and b) it has one of the best food courts anywhere near the Mall. On this day, I was there to see two exhibits:

Ua Mau Ke Ea: The Sovereign Hawaiian Nation (through January, 2017)

This was a real eye-opener for me. I do not generally consider myself a closed-off, ignorant American, deaf to the rest of the world, but I had no idea that there are large sections of Hawaii that want to become their own nation. This exhibit goes through the history of the annexation, the resistance to it, and the continued resistance by members of the Hawaiian community.



Kay WalkingStick: An American Artist (through Sept 18)

This was a well-displayed exhibit featuring the work of the Cherokee artist Kay WalkingStick. Much of the collection is diptychs, with one painting being a more literal representation while the other is supposed to invoke a feeling. It is definitely worth a walk through if you are already in the museum. Unfortunately, photos were not allowed in this exhibit, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

Hirshhorn Museum

The large, circular Hirshhorn Museum was busier on the day I visited than I had ever seen it and locals I spoke with echoed that sentiment. Our theory was that it was so cold outside (about 15 degrees Fahrenheit, -9 Celsius) that people were simply visiting anything indoors, regardless of what it was. Once inside out of the cold (with everyone else), I first came upon the not exactly new, but unmissable, Barbara Kruger: Belief + Doubt installation that lines the lowest level.

But enough of that, I was really only here to see one thing:

Suspended Animation (through March 12, 2017)

If you have been held in suspense over which exhibit was the strangest one I saw on my last visit, here we are. This is six rooms of full-room video installations that include giant lips saying simple words, a man displaying emotion, a CGI man with flowing hair, and a “President Obama” talking about corruption. I found it very entertaining, but not for the reasons the artists were likely going for. It may not be the most broad art I’ve ever seen, but it is absolutely worth the experience.


That’s all for now, coming next will be the Museums of American History and Natural History. There will also be plenty of info coming on visiting D.C., but if there’s anything specific you’d like to read about let me know in the comments.



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Brian McNichols

In addition to blogging, I also do some analyzin' here at Touring Plans. I am a travel nut, planning nut, Disney nut, wall nut. Husband of 1, father of 2. Hilariously funny in my own mind. Find me on Twitter @YesThatBrian if you like really dumb jokes.

9 thoughts on “What’s New in Washington DC – American Indian and Hirshhorn Museums

  • March 7, 2016 at 9:53 am

    Hi guys! Best place to visit DC for 4 nights for a family of 5.

    • March 7, 2016 at 9:54 am

      I meant to stay not visit.

    • March 7, 2016 at 10:04 am

      Hi Mike! Having 5 definitely makes it trickier, although there are many great hotels that can accommodate a 5th person on a daybed or rollaway.

      For extra space, the best choice (depending on budget, of course) might be one of the Residence Inns. The Marriott-owned chain of suites has locations all over the city including Capitol Hill, Foggy Bottom, and Arlington, all of which have easy access to the major sites.

      • March 8, 2016 at 5:18 pm

        The Residence Inn in Arlington is at a great location, right next to Metro, and they have 2BR suites. I’m a local now, but before I was this was my go-to place to stay.

  • March 7, 2016 at 12:44 pm

    Hi Mike!

    I lived in DC for three and a half years, so I am really glad this is coming up on the Touring Plans blog.

    Some quick ideas:
    1) Capitol tours: public vs. through a Congressional/Senate office
    2) The Smithsonian Folklife Festival
    3) Great free things to do in DC (besides the museums): The Kennedy Center hosts a great series of free performances almost every night with a great deal of variety.
    4) How to Use the Metro: Reloadable vs. Paper Cards, Walk Left Stand Right
    5) Where to Find Public Restrooms (seems like an odd topic, but if you’re a tourist doing all of the monuments, the Park Service doesn’t always make it intuitive)

    Love this series!

    • March 7, 2016 at 12:45 pm

      Whoops, meant “Hi, Brian!”

      Sometimes the reading comprehension is a little low. Sorry about that.

    • March 8, 2016 at 8:55 am

      Thanks for the ideas, I’ll definitely use…well, all of them 🙂

    • March 8, 2016 at 5:19 pm

      No more paper cards on Metro!

      • March 10, 2016 at 4:13 pm

        They finally got rid of them? Thank goodness! I just have a stack of the plastic reloadable ones I’ve used in all of my trips. I used to keep a whole stack just for guests. Those silly paper cards would always demagnetize when they were put in a wallet near the credit cards! Glad they finally did away with them.

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