Hidden Gem of the Smithsonian - Freer and Seckler Galleries

published on Associated Content.com on November 20th, 2005.

By Nithin Coca

As Washington museums go, the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur Seckler Gallery don't rank high on many "to see" lists. Its not an insult to either gallery, but rather a testament to the great variety and diversity of Washington's other great museums, such as the National History Museum, the American History Museum, and the famous National Gallery of Art. It's tough to compete against the Hope Diamond, Lincoln's Top Hat, or the original Kermit the frog.

But if you're looking to see something different, or if you're just looking to avoid the crowds, the Freer and Seckler Galleries, both of which focus on Asian art and antiquities and are connected via an underground exhibit entitled “The Silk Road”, are fantastic options for a more relaxing museum experience. With excellent collections and an array of diverse entertainment options these galleries are excellent introductions to the Smithsonian's many treasures.

Conveniently located just steps from the Smithsonian Metro stop(Orange and Blue line), which exits right into the National Mall, the two galleries are directly adjacent to the Smithsonian visitor'scenter. Yo ucan enter from either the north or south side of the larger SecklerGallery, or from the south side of the smaller Freergallery, and all entrances are equal, because, unlike many museums, in which you must follow a single, stationary path, here, each individual room is self sufficient, focusing on a single country andera or art.
The range of artifacts in the museums is astounding. One room will showcase Japanese Screens, while the gallery next door is adorned with ancient Chinese ceramics. In each individual gallery (there are over 25) you can find a handy brochure that puts what youare seeing into a historical context. Some of the larger galleries,such as the one on middle aged Islamic metal works, include a smallreading room with both children's and adults books on the galleries subject, with a quiet sitting area for your pleasure. It's all up to you; you could conceivably spend an hour in each room because of the available information, or take a glance and leave after a few minutes.

The museums also host many traveling exhibitions. Recent exhibitions include “Gold of Asia”, an exhibit showcasing the finest in Asian gold work, from the height of Chinese, Islamic, and Indian dynasties. Other temporary exhibitions include ancient Chinese instruments, Islamic bookleafs, and “Games of Japan”. The ever changing exhibits at the Freer and Seckler Galleries allow each visit to be unique and informative. Be sure to check the website for more information.

But it isn't just all artifacts and paintings. The 300 seat MeyerAuditorium in the Freer Gallery hosts a diverse range of events, from lectures to film festivals, almost all of which are free and open to the public. In the fall of 2005, their was a Korean Film Festival, and an exhibition screening of the 10 Greatest films in Turkish history, along with other events. To get your free tickets, all you have to do is show up one hour before the scheduled event. Again, check the website or newsletter for details.

So, if you're looking to avoid the crowds at other Washington museums but still have a great museum experience, then check out the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Seckler Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC. You may not get to see Lincoln's top hat, but you will probably be amazed by equally historic artifacts, and, who knows, you may even learn something new!

copyright 2005, Nithin Coca


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