The Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture (National Portrait Gallery)

The National Portrait Gallery (NPG) and the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) now share a historic building and a new collective name, the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture.

The former U.S. Patent Office, a Greek Revival building that was begun in 1836, is located on the outskirts of Washington’s Chinatown between 8th and 9th on F Street. This National Historic Landmark building underwent major renovations to create a museum space that greatly enhances a visitor’s experience.

The Reynolds Center’s Lunder Conservation Center (located on the third and fourth floor mezzanines) offers visitors the opportunity to view the conservation staff at work. Restoration experts work behind floor-to-ceiling glass walls to preserve the nation’s important paintings, photographs, prints, and folk art.

You will recognize many of the faces that stare out at you from the galleries of the NPG: George Washington (in the Lansdowne portrait by Gilbert Stuart), Pocahontas (portrayed wearing the dress of an English woman of the 1600s), and Rosa Parks are represented here.

So, too, are the Civil War soldiers captured in print by Mathew Brady’s camera lens and those of his assistants; these soldiers may be unnamed, but their photographs are part of America’s collective memory. Men and women who helped shape the many facets—cultural, political, athletic, scientific, and technological—of America’s history are also represented.

The SAAM’s collection contains objects from the Colonial period to today. Simple scenes and family portraits created by itinerant Colonial-period artists to the multi-layered modern paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe, Edward Hopper, and Willem de Kooning contribute to the story of the country’s artistic legacy.

An enclosed courtyard—the Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard—is one of the largest event spaces in Washington.

During museum hours visitors can relax, enter surrounding galleries from the courtyard or dine at the Courtyard Café. At other times the space is used to host concerts and public performances.

Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural ball was held in the Great Hall at the historic Old Patent Office Building.

Plan a visit, check a calendar of events at the National Portrait Gallery or the Smithsonian American Art Museum and see What’s on View at the Reynolds Center website.

by Katie Calvert