‘Explore! with the Portrait Gallery’ is a dual language, family-friendly exhibition that explores portraiture by asking visitors to look at themselves and others through a variety of multi-sensory elements. Since its opening in January of 2017, the gallery has welcomed nearly 6,000 visitors!
In the exhibit, families interact with exhibition elements like Strike a Pose, an interactive video installation where visitors can create their own five-second movie. Families also discuss elements that make up a portrait and study the paintings in the space for comparison.
At the Silhouette light boxes, a girl studied the portrait of Judge Jane Bolin from across the room. Copying the judges posture and position, she crossed her hands neatly on her lap, and turned her head asking her grandfather to trace the silhouette. Afterwards, they headed over to the painting and compare the works of art. Other visitors have traced the stomach of an expecting mother or have held up their favorite doll to be outlined.
Through these experiences, visitors to the exhibit are encouraged to think about how they see themselves and how they see others.
Inspired by her experience in the exhibit, when asked to describe one thing about herself that no one would know from just her appearance, a girl wrote that she was a good dancer. Others have written that they have a large family or that they like to wake up early.
Through on-going evaluation efforts, visitors are encouraged to give feedback about the exhibition. When asked to describe their experience in the space with one word, families have written ‘cool’, ‘fun’, and ‘awesome’. Some have taken the opportunity to imagine how they would pose for their own portrait—with mismatched clothes, wearing a baseball cap or just ‘being themselves’. Reflections shared about experiences in the space prompt visitors to learn something new about themselves, and gain insight into someone else’s point of view.
‘Explore! with the Portrait Gallery’ is a collaboration between Explore! Children’s Museum of Washington DC and the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery that invites families to learn about portraiture.
‘Explore! with the Portrait Gallery’ is open Tuesday- Sunday from 11:30am- 6:00pm at The National Portrait Gallery.