Top Ten Museum Visits of 2011

Here, in semi-chronological order, are highlights from my favorite field trips of the past year.

  1. Lower East Side Tenement Museum – January and April, NYC.
    I momentarily geek out when the site’s census records include someone with a name very similar to my Russian Jewish immigrant ancestors.

    Tour descriptions at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum
  2. Colonial Williamsburg and the DeWitt Wallace Museum – March, Williamsburg, VA.
    My classmates and I are apprenticed to various trades. I try on stays and find they are excellent back support.

    Filing a pewter spoon that I poured myself. Woohoo molten metal. Photo by JRG.

    An S-hook, my first attempt at blacksmithing
  3. Senate Chambers and the White House – May, Washington D.C.
    Curators give us the inside scoop on the Senate “candy desk” and the daily wear-and-tear of White House furniture.

    The old Senate Chambers

    Sofa and inlaid end table in the White House Red Room
  4. Frederick, MD – June.
    Churches, gravestones, and a million things named for native son Francis Scott Key.

    Oh say, can you see, all the graves in this Victorian cemetery park? And my name in the shrubberies?

    One of my favorite Federal-era downtown doorways
  5. Claude Moore Colonial Farm – July, McClean, VA.
    My siblings and I admire tobacco plants, learn how stupid chickens actually are.

    Waiting to put the harvest in the barn.
  6. Arlington House– July, Arlington, VA.
    The furniture’s in storage, but the original architectural details are on full display.

    Arlington House facade with restored faux-marbling on the columns.

    Dining room mantelpiece.
  7. Gunston Hall– July, Mason Neck, VA and George Mason Memorial – November, Washington D.C.
    The one Founding Father who actually did retire to rural obscurity like he wanted is memorialized by some underappreciated gems.

    The Palladian Room at Gunston Hall, with amazing woodwork designed by William Buckland. Image courtesy of

    I relax near the Tidal Basin with "a sage, a bit gouty in the leg." (Bonus points if you get the movie quote.)
  8. Capitol Building – August, Washington D.C.
    I like statues of historic figures. This place did not disappoint. Also, it helps to have a relative with inside connections.

    My cousin acting as tour guide.
    Rotunda molding detail.

    Junipero Serra, Franciscan missionary in California. I love the church in his hand.
  9. St. Matthew’s Cathedral – November, Washington D.C.
    The site of President Kennedy’s funeral, the archbishop’s Masses, and dozens of Eakins-like early 20th century paintings.

    St. Matthew Cathedral

    Painting above the entrance in the back of the nave.
  10. Old Ursuline Convent – December, New Orleans.
    And the Virgin Mary said unto me, “Behold, here are some 18th century embroidered vestments, since I know thou likes researching them so much. Also a letter from Thomas Jefferson. And a lovely church dripping with decorative details. Happy New Year.”

    Exterior of the 1740s convent
    Chasuble with hand embroidery done in silk the sisters grew themselves.
    Convent chapel with a unique painted wood slat ceiling

    What museums should I visit in 2012?


3 thoughts on “Top Ten Museum Visits of 2011

    1. Thanks for the tip; the house looks fantastic! I haven’t been to Annapolis since I was a child, but more of William Buckland’s work would be worth the drive.

  1. Next time you are in NY you should come check out Historic Hudson Valley – Chris and I toured Sunnyside (Washington Irving’s home) a couple weeks ago and it was snazzy! There’s also Kykuit, the Rockefellar estate, and others…

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