One building, two museums open tomorrow


Tomorrow is a big day for the Smithsonian as one building and two museums open. After six years of renovation (it seemed a lot longer), the former Old Patent Office Building, home to the National Portrait Gallery and The American Art Museum, opens its doors again. The old-and-improved building is now known as Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture. The NPG Web site had this to say about changes:

In 2000, a six-year renovation of the building began, restoring the Greek Revival building (located between Seventh and Ninth Streets and between F and G Streets) to its original glory and making it a centerpiece of the revitalized downtown district. The completed structure will take full advantage of the building’s many exceptional architectural features, including its porticoes, colonnades, vaulted galleries, and curving double staircase. Upon the building’s reopening in July 2006, visitors will notice some new features as well, including a 346-seat underground auditorium; a conservation lab and art-storage area, both visible to the public; a cafĂ©; a shared museum store; and a shared main entrance for both museums on F Street.

Today’s Post has more on the reopening as well.

This intermingling of spaces, with the division of real estate based on what looks best where, and not an arbitrary slice down the middle of the cake, is part of a newfound spirit of cooperation between the two museums, whose relationship has not always been harmonious. Shared spaces include the 346-seat Nan Tucker McEvoy Auditorium and the Lunder Conservation Center, a new, one-of-a-kind facility that will allow the public to watch conservators do their jobs preserving art behind the windows of state-of-the-art, glassed-in workshops. (Like the Isaac Mizrahi-designed aprons? They’re available in the first-floor gift shop, another shared space.) Eventually, the museums will also have joint use of the enclosed Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard, a year-round gathering spot scheduled to open in late 2007, once the undulating canopy by architect Norman Foster is finished being installed.

The museums will be open from 11:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., giving Verizon Center patrons a chance to peak inside before 7:05 games and concerts.

The American Art Museum also has a blog, Eye Level up and running.

Special feature from The Post: Renyolds Center

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