Thursday, March 2, 2017

Visiting the DAR Museum in Washington DC

Throw out any preconceived notions you may have about the DAR and come here prepared to see some beautiful rooms, a fantastic genealogy library, and a lovely building. It is probably not at all what you would imagine a museum that belongs to such a staid group would be like. It is amazing and you will wish that you could join.

Upon arrival, walk around the lobby area. Security is very strict here; bags are looked at, and one has to go through metal detectors before getting a badge. You need a badge to tour the building. The member who greeted suggested passing the time until the next tour by visiting the library; there is a charge to use it.

On a docent tour, you will learn the history of the DAR, that they owe their existence to the fact women were denied membership in the Sons of the American Revolution. The DAR building covers a whole city block, C to D Street between 17th and 18th Streets. Edward Casey designed the building, and the portico has 13 columns that represent the original 13 colonies. It is not hard to identify your home state if it was one of the original colonies.

The library was formerly a theater, and you visit it by sitting in what would have been the box seats. You get a bird’s-eye view of all the bookcases. There are flags hanging all around the room, representing the states, and they are hung in the order that they entered the union. The ceiling is made of glass, and the windows open like skylights to let in ventilation.

More than 30 period rooms are maintained by the membership of their respective states. Each docent will show different rooms; they all have their favorites, but they will try to show you your home state if they have a room. We began with Massachusetts. It is a Sam Adams-period room with furniture from the 18th century. A tea box is said to have been one of those thrown into Boston Harbor. (The fact that it has no water damage may put a lie to that story.) 

Not all of the rooms are period rooms; some of them are collections. One room, Connecticut, is the board room. Other rooms are New Jersey, Texas, and New York. All of them are very different, and each one has its own unique flavor. A repeat visit is in order since there are so many lovely rooms and a single visit won't get you into all of them.

Special exhibits will also be offered. Be sure to check their website to see what will be on display when you plan to visit.

A very nice gift shop and a small museum behind it complete your visit. Allow at least an hour. 

If you happen to visit when the cherry blossoms are in bloom, here is a great article about getting the best photos of them.  

DAR Museum
1776 D St NW

Washington, DC 20006

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