Smithsonian American Art Museum

Smithsonian American Art Museum
Modern and Contemporary Art at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.jpg
Lincoln Gallery
Smithsonian American Art Museum is located in Central Washington, D.C.
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Location in Washington, D.C.
Location8th & F Streets NW, Washington, D.C.[2]
Coordinates38°53′52″N 77°01′24″W / 38°53′52″N 77°01′24″W / 38.89778; -77.02333
TypeArt museum, Design/Textile Museum, Heritage Museum[1]
Visitors1.2 million (2013)[4]
DirectorStephanie Stebich (as of April 2017)[5][6][7][8]

Virginia M. Mecklenburg[9]
Abraham Thomas
Nora Atkinson
Melissa Ho
Eleanor Jones Harvey
John P. Jacob
Karen Lemmey
Joanna Marsh
Sarah Newman
E. Carmen Ramos
William Truettner

Leslie Umberger
Public transit accessWMATA Metro Logo.svg                Gallery Place-Chinatown

The Smithsonian American Art Museum (commonly known as SAAM, and formerly the National Museum of American Art) is a museum in Washington, D.C., part of the Smithsonian Institution. Together with its branch museum, the Renwick Gallery, SAAM holds one of the world's largest and most inclusive collections of art, from the colonial period to the present, made in the United States. The museum has more than 7,000 artists represented in the collection. Most exhibitions take place in the museum's main building, the old Patent Office Building (shared with the National Portrait Gallery), while craft-focused exhibitions are shown in the Renwick Gallery.

The museum provides electronic resources to schools and the public through its national education program. It maintains seven online research databases with more than 500,000 records, including the Inventories of American Painting and Sculpture that document more than 400,000 artworks in public and private collections worldwide. Since 1951, the museum has maintained a traveling exhibition program; as of 2013, more than 2.5 million visitors have seen the exhibitions.


The Smithsonian American Art Museum has had many names over the years—Smithsonian Art Collection, National Gallery of Art (not to be confused with the current National Gallery of Art), National Collection of Fine Arts, and National Museum of American Art.[10] The museum adopted its current name in October 2000.[11]

The collection, which was begun in 1829, was first on display in the original Smithsonian Building, now nicknamed the "Castle". The collection grew as the Smithsonian buildings grew, and the collection was housed in one or more Smithsonian buildings on the National Mall.[4] By the 1920s, space had become critical: "Collections to the value of several millions of dollars are in storage or temporarily on exhibition and are crowding out important exhibits and producing a congested condition in the Natural History, Industrial Arts, and Smithsonian Buildings".[12] In 1924, architect Charles A. Platt – who designed the 1918 Freer Gallery for the Smithsonian – drew up preliminary plans for a National Gallery of Art to be built on the block next to the Natural History Museum.[12] However, this building was never constructed.[13]

The Smithsonian American Art Museum first opened to the public in its current location in 1968 when the Smithsonian renovated the Old Patent Office Building in order to display its collection of fine art. American Art's main building, the Old Patent Office Building, is a National Historic Landmark located in Washington, D.C.'s downtown cultural district. It is considered an example of Greek Revival architecture[14] in the United States.[15] It was designed by architects Robert Mills,[16] and Thomas U. Walter.

During the 1990s, the Smithsonian Institution worked on restoring the building.[17]

The Smithsonian completed another renovation of the building in July 1, 2006.[10] The 2000-2006 renovation restored many of the building’s exceptional architectural features: restoring the porticos modeled after the Parthenon in Athens, a curving double staircase, colonnades, vaulted galleries, large windows, and skylights as long as a city block.[10][17][8] During the renovation, the Lunder Conservation Center, the Luce Foundation Center for American Art, Nan Tucker McEvoy Auditorium, and the Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard were added to the building.[17]

In 2008, the American Alliance of Museums awarded reaccreditation to the Smithsonian American Art Museum.[18]

The Smithsonian American Art Museum's main building is shared with the National Portrait Gallery, as seen from G Street NW in 2011
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