More about Smithsonian American Art Museum

Sr. Contributor

America, meet your American Art museum.

The only thing that could make the SAAM more American is if it were run by eagles. Consider its history: The building originally housed the Patent Office. It's the third oldest public building in Washington (behind only the White House and the Capitol) and is one of the country's OG museums. The third floor displayed nothing less than the Declaration of Independence and George Washington's actual Revolutionary War camp tent. It was built on the direct order of President Andrew Jackson on a spot originally designated for either a nondenominational church or a pantheon to the nation's heroes.

Those aren't the only stops on this patriot train. During the Civil War, the Patent Office housed Union troops on their way to fight the rebels, in addition to acting as a hospital for wounded soldiers back from the front. Plus, none other than literary luminary Walt Whitman was working there at the time. His tenure would have ended with a five star Glassdoor review, given that he called the place "the noblest of public buildings." Topping it all off, President Lincoln's inaugural ball was held at the place. D.C.'s power brokers and elite partied at the Patent Office until the sun came up, because the place was just that happening.

One of President Jackson's original edicts for the place was that it be fireproof. Which makes sense, considering it was a glorified storage locker for the entire country. But, one of the architects played a little fast and loose with the fireproof idea. The building was about destroyed in the 1880s, and rebuilt by the following decade. By the 1950s, everyone wanted to pave the spot and put up a parking lot #truestory. But then WWII hero President Dwight Eisenhower saved the day by nixing that stupid idea. Congress handed the site over to the Smithsonian and we get to enjoy the noblest of public buildings to this day.

Sr. Editor

A melting pot of American Art in the heart of the nation’s capital.  Many perspectives are represented at this historical landmark, and if you have the patience you can really see the scope and diversity of art made in the good ol’ U.S. of A. 


Abe Lincoln had his inaugural ball here and Isaac Mizrahi designed the denim aprons worn by the conservators.  Why these tidbits are seen as equally important on Wikipedia, we’ll never know. 


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Here is what Wikipedia says about Smithsonian American Art Museum

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.

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