Smithsonian Celebrates the 2013 Presidential Inauguration with Exhibits and Programs

January 18, 2013
News Release
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In celebration of the 2013 Presidential Inauguration, the Smithsonian will feature exhibitions and public programs related to the presidency from Friday, Jan. 18, through Monday, Jan. 21.

The Smithsonian has participated in inaugurations since the 1800s—President Abraham Lincoln held his second inaugural ball in what is now the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery in March 1865, and President James Garfield’s ball was held in 1881 in the U.S. National Museum (now the Arts and Industries Building, which is closed for renovations). In recent times, the Smithsonian has produced cultural programs and concerts for the Carter, Reagan and Clinton inaugurals.

This year, the Presidential Inaugural Committee 2013 has contributed funds to support the Smithsonian’s free exhibitions, programs and additional security for the expected crowds.

Additional information can be found at The Smithsonian Tours mobile app for iPhone and Android will feature a special Inauguration edition free of charge.

Fast Facts

Museum Hours on Inauguration Day, Jan. 21

  • Standard museum hours: 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
  • Opening early: Smithsonian Castle at 7:30 a.m., Freer Gallery of Art, Sackler Gallery of Art, National Museum of African Art and the Hirshhorn Museum at 8 a.m.
  • The National Museum of the American Indian and the Renwick Gallery will be closed Jan. 21
  • The Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery will be open from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • The National Zoo’s buildings will be open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (grounds are open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.)
  • The Anacostia Community Museum will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Visiting the Museums

  • Admission to all Smithsonian museums is free.
  • The Jefferson Drive (Mall) entrances to the Freer Gallery of Art, the Castle and the National Air and Space Museum will be closed. Visitors must use the Independence Avenue doors to enter and exit.
  • There is no parking available at any Smithsonian museum.
  • All visitors’ services—including restaurants, shops and IMAX theaters—will be open.

Live Broadcasts of the Swearing-In Ceremony
Monday, Jan. 21, 11:30 a.m.

  • National Museum of American History, Flag Hall
  • National Museum of African Art, Pavilion and Lecture Hall

Featured Exhibitions

National Museum of American History

“The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden” explores the personal, public, ceremonial and executive actions of the presidents and their impact on history. The exhibition features more than 400 objects and a number of videos and interactive displays, including the portable desk on which Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence and the microphone Franklin Roosevelt used to deliver his “fireside chat” radio broadcasts.

“The First Ladies” explores the unofficial but important position of first lady and the ways that different women have shaped the role to make their own contributions to the presidential administrations and the nation. The exhibition features more than two dozen gowns from the Smithsonian’s 100-year-old First Ladies Collection, including those worn by Frances Cleveland, Lou Hoover, Jacqueline Kennedy, Laura Bush and Michelle Obama. A section titled “Changing Times, Changing First Ladies” highlights the roles played by Dolley Madison, Mary Lincoln, Edith Roosevelt and Lady Bird Johnson and their contributions to their husband’s administrations. “The First Ladies” encourages visitors to consider the changing role played by the first lady and American women over the past 200 years.

“Changing America: The Emancipation Proclamation, 1863 and The March on Washington, 1963” highlights two events that changed the course of the nation—the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation and the 1963 March on Washington. Standing as milestone moments in the grand sweep of American history, these achievements were the culmination of decades of struggles by individuals—both famous and unknown—who believed in the American promise that this nation was dedicated to the proposition that “all men are created equal.” This exhibit was organized by the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

National Portrait Gallery

“America’s Presidents” exhibits multiple images of 43 presidents, including Gilbert Stuart’s famous “Lansdowne” portrait of George Washington, a painting of Lincoln by Alexander Healy and likenesses of all modern Presidents.

“Portrait of President Barack Obama” features the original artwork for Obama’s “Hope” poster designed by Shepard Fairey on view Jan. 19-22. This portrait became famous during the President’s 2008 campaign.

“Diptych of President Barack Obama by Chuck Close” The renowned artist Chuck Close created two photographs of Barack Obama and transferred them onto two large-scale (93-by-75-inch) jacquard tapestries. In conjunction with the Inauguration, this diptych has been loaned to the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery by Ian and Annette Cumming.

National Museum of the American Indian

“A Century Ago… They Came as Sovereign Leaders” focuses on President Theodore Roosevelt’s 1905 inaugural parade and the six great chiefs who participated in the parade.

Smithsonian American Art Museum

“The Civil War and American Art” examines how America’s artists represented the impact of the Civil War and its aftermath. Winslow Homer, Eastman Johnson, Frederic Church and Sanford Gifford—four of America’s finest artists of the era—anchor the exhibition.

National Postal Museum

“Honoring Lincoln” displays 11 certified plate proofs for postage stamps that were issued from 1959 to 1994 to honor the 16th president Abraham Lincoln. Certified plate proofs are the last printed proof of the plate before the stamps are printed, and these plates include the approval signatures and date.

Highlighted Public Programs

National Museum of American History

Backstory with the American History Guys—Live Taping—Saturday, Jan. 19
American historians Ed Ayers, Peter Onuf and Brian Balogh are joined by curator Harry Rubenstein for a live taping of this radio show exploring the history of inaugurations.
Flag Hall; 11 a.m.

Behind the Dream: The Making of a Speech that Transformed a Nation—Saturday, Jan. 19
Washington Post staff writer and author Wil Haygood and Stanford University’s Martin Luther King Jr. Institute visiting professor Clarence B. Jones, speechwriter and counsel to Martin Luther King Jr., discuss Jones’ latest book, Behind the Dream. Book signing follows. This public program is organized by the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Tickets are free but required.
Warner Bros. Theater; 2 p.m.

Civil War Music with President Lincoln’s Own Band—Saturday, Jan. 19, and Sunday, Jan. 20
“President Lincoln’s Own Band,” which re–creates the sound and appearance of the U.S. Marine Band during the Civil War, and performed in Steven Spielberg’s film Lincoln, presents music from the 1860s.
Flag Hall; 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.

Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra Ensemble—Saturday, Jan. 19, and Sunday, Jan. 20
Performances and stories drawn from Duke Ellington’s 1969 White House All-Star Tribute.
Second floor, West Stage; 1:45 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.

Meet the Presidents—The Mount Rushmore Four—Saturday, Jan. 19, and Sunday, Jan. 20
Enjoy a “conversation” with Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt as interpretive actors portray each and discuss their experiences as second-term presidents.
Flag Hall; 12:30 p.m., 2:15 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.

National Museum of the American Indian

Out of Many: A Multicultural Festival of Music, Dance and Story—Friday, Jan. 18–Sunday, Jan. 20
A festival featuring music, dancing and storytelling from a variety of cultural traditions, including Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, Bolivian, Guatemalan Maya, Armenian, Peruvian and West African.
10:30 a.m.–5 p.m.

National Portrait Gallery

Meet the Presidents and First Ladies—Saturday, Jan. 19–Monday, Jan. 21
Enactors in the roles of George and Martha Washington and Abraham and Mary Lincoln will engage museum visitors in short conversations and vignettes.
First floor; 1–6 p.m.

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Presidential Scavenger Hunt—Jan. 19 and Jan. 21

Inaugural Theme Walk-In Tours—Monday, Jan. 21
12:30 p.m. and 2 p.m.

Self-Guided Audio Tour
An audio tour about the museum’s historic building and events that took place there during the Civil War, including President Abraham Lincoln’s 1865 inaugural ball, is available online at or by calling (202) 595-1852.

Anacostia Community Museum

Video Screening of The Obama Effect—Sunday, Jan. 20
Director and actor Charles Dutton will attend the screening of this 2013 feature film about a man whose life is changed by the first Obama presidential campaign (85 minutes).
5:30 p.m.–9 p.m.

National Museum of African Art

Leadership Arts of Africa Treasure Hunt—Friday, Jan. 18–Monday, Jan. 21
The museum will provide a two-sided color card to allow visitors to participate in a self-guided treasure hunt.

National Postal Museum

Collect the Presidents!—Saturday, Jan. 19, and Sunday, Jan. 20 Visitors can make and take their very own stamp collection featuring famous American presidents, as well as design their own presidential stamp.
Noon–3 p.m.

For further information about the 2013 Inauguration, go to the Presidential Inauguration Committee’s website at

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