A Family Visit to the Smithsonian
Resources in this site
Subscribe to the quarterly Smithsonian Education newsletter
Before the Visit During the Visit After the Visit to the Smithsonian spacer
During the Visit to the Smithsonian
Gloria's Post CardsGloria's Postage Stamp

Animals were everywhere Gloria looked at the Smithsonian. At the Natural History Museum, animals are “real but not alive,” so she could often see them up close. The Hall of Mammals had animal footprints to walk in, a hoof to touch, and habitats to explore. When she saw the fossils in the dinosaur hall, Gloria wanted pictures of them. The postcard she bought would help her remember the many different kinds of dinosaurs in the museum.

The place Gloria found the most pictures of animals was the Postal Museum. She saw an exhibit about duck stamps that showed how they saved real ducks’ habitats. And she drew a design for her own postage stamp (including butterflies!) right there inside the building.

Planetarium TicketClyde in the National Air and Space Museum

Clyde spent a whole day at the Air and Space Museum. The word he used to describe the exhibits and historic objects was “amazing.” Clyde also really liked the special planetarium show, which was “a 20-minute tour of the universe.”  He kept the ticket as a souvenir. 

Clyde also took photos of his favorite things and collected the free events calendar, self-guides, and maps that were available at the information desk.  The information was good and the photos were great.  They might come in handy for his journal.

Hope DiamondAfrican Art Stamps

One of Sally’s favorite things at the Smithsonian is inside the Natural History Museum. It’s the Hope Diamond.  To sketch it, Sally spent time next to the actual diamond and looked VERY closely at its details. She was able to make this sketch (at left) in her journal right there in the museum, drawing from real life details.

The hands-on area in the African Art Museum offered an unusual activity.  There were rubber stamps that represented African symbols.  The symbols represented words or ideas such as “two good friends” and “peace.”  Sally stamped a postcard. She said “it was hard to get stamps that corresponded to make sentences. It was hard but very fun!”

Practical Ideas for Your Family

Choosing a focus for your visit or having a plan of what to see can make the visit more enjoyable for all family members. For advice, make your first stop the museum information desk.  Ask what is available for families such as:

  • Event calendars
  • Floor or gallery maps
  • Audio or handheld guides
  • Self-guide brochures or booklets
  • Guided tours or gallery talks
  • Hands-on rooms or carts
  • Children’s rooms or areas within exhibits
  • Story times, performances, or adult/child activities

Keep the printed materials as souvenirs or to reuse as journal illustrations.

If the museum you are visiting shows films or offers performances, plan to see them at the middle or end of your visit, when the family will enjoy a break from walking.

Some museums may not allow the use of pens in the exhibits, but pencils are usually O.K.  Check at the information desk. 

Conclude your visit with a stop at the museum store, which stocks materials for a range of ages and budgets.  Postcards are one of the most economical purchases, and they can be pasted into journals.

©2005 Smithsonian Institution
Smithsonian Education . Smithsonian Institution . Website A-Z . Shop
Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies