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8 D.C. Museums and Exhibits to Visit Over Inauguration Weekend

Celebrating inauguration weekend in our nation's capital? Don't miss these must-see exhibits.

U.S. News & World Report

8 D.C. Museums and Exhibits to Visit Over Inauguration Weekend

Entrance to the United State Archives building in Washington DC.Other images of the United States National Archives:

Check out free and affordable displays across the city to admire iconic memorabilia from past campaigns and soak in the excitement before and after the 2017 presidential inauguration.(Getty Images)

For the presidential inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017, our nation's capital will be filled with exhibitions showcasing intriguing, history-filled archives and artifacts of past inaugurations and presidential campaigns. Several timely exhibits demonstrate that contentious presidential campaigns are nothing new with titles at top-notch institutions across the city including "Your Next President...!" and "Louder Than Words: Rock, Power and Politics." So, if you're planning to experience the excitement and American traditions in Washington, D.C. for Inauguration weekend, consider this your definitive list of impressive and often overlooked museums.

The Newseum

The Newseum's all-day "2017 Presidential Inauguration Celebration Experience" package offers a view of the parade as it passes by the museum on Pennsylvania Avenue, along with discussions with political experts and curators and access to all Newseum exhibits. Top exhibits include "CNN Politics Campaign 2016: Like, Share, Elect," an interactive exploration of the campaign and its coverage on CNN and social media, through Jan. 22, and "Louder Than Words: Rock, Power and Politics," a Newseum-Rock and Roll Hall of Fame exhibit about the crucial role rock 'n' roll plays in politics and social movements, running from Jan. 13 through July 2017. At the rock-themed exhibit, you can check out items such as Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan's handwritten lyrics to "The Times They Are a-Changin'" and his 1960s Hohner Chrometta harmonica, Bruce Springsteen's outfit worn on his album cover "Born in the U.S.A." and the guitar John Lennon played at the May 1969 "bed-in," where he and Yoko Ono recorded "Give Peace a Chance."

The George Washington University Museum

Rare presidential inaugural and campaign flags and textiles form a fascinating patriotic exhibit – "Your Next President...!" – at the new George Washington University Museum that will be on display through April 10, 2017. "It's no mere child's play to inaugurate a president of the United States," says an official program of Theodore Roosevelt's 1905 inauguration. The exhibit's campaign items from the 19th century reveal "It [the campaign] was as frenzied and heated back then as it is today," co-curator Anne Dobberteen says. "Hot-button issues like immigration and the economy were pretty inflamed and impassioned back then. They don't go away," she adds. One wall is also emblazoned with a reproduced 1868 illustration of demonstrators proclaiming "Reduce Taxation before taxation reduces US."

The President Woodrow Wilson House

The President Woodrow Wilson House, the only D.C.-based home of a former president, is showcasing "Evolving Elections; Comparing the 1916 and 2016 Presidential Campaigns." Both of those heated races featured fractious primary battles, bitterly divided parties, outsiders seeking their party's presidential nominations and gruelingly long campaigns. World War One was raging and President Wilson's reelection campaign slogan was "He Kept Us Out of War." However, he asked Congress for a declaration of war against Germany less than one month after his inauguration. In the Republican race for the party's nomination, former President Theodore Roosevelt termed his rival, Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes, "a bearded iceberg." But after Hughes won the nomination, Roosevelt campaigned for him by making rancorous speeches against "every form of hyphenated Americanism" such as German-American and Irish-American. Wilson narrowly won reelection. The exhibit, on view through Feb. 26, 2017, features Wilson's "election" walking stick, campaign buttons, ads and sheet music, plus memorabilia from his 1917 inauguration. Visitors can also watch archival campaign films and hear campaign songs from 1916 and 2016.

The Library of Congress

"Presidential Elections Through the Years," at the Library of Congress through Jan. 26, looks at the evolution of popular campaigning from George Washington to Barack Obama. It reveals a long history of insults about opponents and appealing to Latinos and young voters. A 2008 flip-book combines comic book biographies of then Senators Barack Obama and John McCain. And the exhibit shows that to capitalize on the 1860 presidential race between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas, a tobacco company used the presidential candidate's nickname to market its "El Biejo Onesto Abe" (Honest Old Abe) cigarettes.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture

The Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture opened last September with its own "mini-­inauguration" led by President Obama. No free advance timed passes are available for the first few months of 2017, but a limited number of free same-day timed passes are available only at the museum on the day you plan to visit.

The National Museum of American History

The Smithsonian's National Museum of American History is a natural stop over Inauguration weekend. It features the First Ladies' Collection of inaugural ball gowns including Michelle Obama's white chiffon one-shouldered crystal-embellished gown worn to Barack Obama's first inauguration in 2009. This museum also displays "The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden," an exhibit containing approximately 900 artifacts including the carriage Ulysses S. Grant rode to his second inauguration in 1873, souvenirs and photos from many inaugurations, plus the Bill Clinton 1992 campaign button "It's the Economy, Stupid!"

The National Portrait Gallery

The Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery will install a portrait of the president-elect on its first floor just before Inauguration Day. And the museum will host lots of related programs throughout January, including "Pop Quiz: Presidents" on Jan. 12. What's more, at its permanent exhibit, "America's Presidents," you can explore the portraits and video excerpts of 11 speeches of past presidents, and the museum's senior historian David Ward will share fun facts and little-known tales about them on Jan. 19.

The National Archives

The National Archives' permanent Public Vaults exhibit showcases original documents signed by former Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. In the Public Vaults, you can also see presidential public addresses and private deliberations, as well as home movies of past presidents as children, like a young George W. Bush playing in the snow.

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Edited by Liz Weiss.

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