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Five Fabulous & Free Museums

by DJ Wilson –

Covered swimming pools, colorful leaves and blooming mums are outward images of autumn in full swing.  As temperatures begin to drop and summer warmth subsides, it’s tempting for those who love summertime to hide inside during colder seasons.  This is especially true of folks living up north, often faced with sudden weather changes.  While hibernation comes naturally for some of God’s creatures, the state of physical and mental dormancy is not characteristic of humans.  It’s important for people to find ways to remain active and social during chilling times of year.  One great way to avoid a case of the blahs is to visit a museum.  Don’t have much money?  No worries! Here are five favorite museums offering free admissions.

Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. – Located in the nation’s capital, the Smithsonian features an amazing variety of 19 museums and galleries.  Check out an interesting favorite, the National Air and Space Museum, featuring exhibitions such as Fifty Years of Human Space Flight and Fly Marines! Centennial of Marine Corps Aviation: 1912-2012.  Those interested in early flight history will love the presentation of The Wright Brothers & The Invention of the Aerial Age.  Enjoy free exhibits like WWII Aviation and Rockets & Missiles.  The museum also features a state of the art planetarium and IMAX theatre, which offers shows for a fee.  Tickets to those events may be purchased in advance.  While in D.C., don’t forget to explore the most visited free museum in the world, the National Museum of Natural History.  Explore the amazing halls of this popular and beloved attraction, with over 126 million specimens of plants, animals, fossils, minerals, rocks, meteorites and cultural artifacts related to mankind.  The Dinosaur exhibit is bound to leave a great impression.  The Butterfly Pavilion provides an enjoyable experience strolling among live butterflies and exotic plants.   While most exhibits are free, the Butterfly Pavilion requires a fee.   The Smithsonian Museums, built with the intent to increase and diffuse knowledge, offer guided tours and special programs.  While some of them are located in other parts of the city, most are within walking distance to one another on the National Mall.  You’ll likely want to plan multiple visits to these historical or architectural landmark museums.  There is no shortage of free things to do and see.

The Getty Center, Los Angeles, California – Part of the J. Paul Getty Museum, The Getty Center is a branch of the museum which presents the Getty’s collection of European and American art from the Middle ages to present, and 19th and 20th Century American and European photographs.  The galleries are housed in the Museum’s five exhibition pavilions, plus the Getty Research Institute Exhibition Gallery.  The extensive collection features famous works of art on display, such as Vincent van Gogh’s painting entitled Irises.  Enjoy interesting exhibits such as The Art of Devotion of the Middle Ages and Farewell to Surrealism: The Dyn Circle in Mexico, focusing on the artists who collaborate on the 1940’s journal.  Contemporary and modern sculpture are also displayed.  Attracting over 1.3 million visitors annually, the Museum features dramatic architecture and tranquil gardens, with stunning views of L.A.  Visitors arrive at a three-car, cable pulled tram station in the arrival plaza, situated between the administrative building and the museum entrance.  A large set of steps leads to the main doors of the rotunda station, which is home to theatres, information desks and museum shops.  A separate building holds a cafeteria and restaurant.  While admission to the Center is free, visitors should expect to pay for parking.

Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, Indiana – The IMA is proud to offer visitors a chance to experience art through an immense and growing collection of African, American, Asian, European and contemporary art.  With a collection of over 54,000 works of art, this free museum embraces a variety of cultures and periods in art history as expressed through paintings, sculptures, photographs, prints, drawings and decorative and industrial art.  The collection also contains textiles and fashion arts.  The museum boasts the most comprehensive group of Neoimpressionist paintings in the United States, showcasing the work of Georges Seurat and his followers.  It also boasts the best collection in North America of Pont-Aven Paintings by Paul Gauguin and his followers, plus the finest worldwide collection of Pont-Aven School prints.   Additionally, one can admire works by J.M.W. Turner and enjoy collections of Japanese Edo-period paintings and Chinese ceramics.  This “encyclopedic” museum cleverly embraces a majority of subjects through art, including contemporary art and design. Visitors are offered access to the Lilly House, an early 20th century American country estate, included with free admission.  The Museum hosts a wide variety of national and international traveling exhibitions throughout the year.  Enjoy the adjacent 100 acres of land, one of the largest museum art parks in the country.

Sheldon Museum of Art, Lincoln, Nebraska – Located at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, this museum is home to one of the most important collections of American art in the United States.  Permanent to its collection of over 12,000 objects, includes great works by artist such as Mary Cassatt, Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keefe, Jackson Pollock and Andy Warhol.  The museum houses two collections; The Sheldon Art Association collection founded in 1888, and the University of Nebraska collection, from 1929.  Together, they create a comprehensive assortment of art, including 19th century landscape and still life, American Impressionism, early Modernism, geometric abstraction, abstract expressionism, pop, minimalism and contemporary art.  There’s a Sculpture Garden with more than 30 monumental sculptures exhibited year round and an important research library with material documenting the history of American art.  The museum is proud to host approximately 20 exhibitions per year and offers educational programs through lectures, workshops and symposia.

We are fortunate to live in a country which values historical, scientific, artistic and cultural contributions, shared through our museums.  Don’t be resigned to being cooped-up at home during the colder weather.  Beat the winter blahs by exploring free museums near you.

Read more articles by D.J. Wilson

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When I was young, I got the greatest thrill going to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago during summer vacations. They have the only German submarine in the Western Hemisphere and you can ride into a working coal mine to see the latest technology. An abundance of fascinating hands on exhibits always made it a special place to go with my Dad. See it at http://www.msichicago.org.

The National Firearms Museum http://www.nramuseum.org/ in Fairfax VA.

don garlits museum of drag racing in florida is neat!

I recommend the Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH and the Naval Aviation Museum at NAS Pensacola, FL. Both museums are free.

Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, Ark. Is very impressive. A great collection of American Art.

If given the opportunity go the interesting museum at Clairmore Oklahoma. The firearms collection is unbeliveable.

You forgot the Cleveland Museum of Art where general admission is free by charter. It’s a fabulous museum.

I think this article is wonderful…… we need more like this….. Pat

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