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Media Advisory: Press preview for the reopening of “America’s Presidents” Presidents”

September 11, 2017

WHAT:          Press preview for the reopening of “America’s Presidents”

WHEN:          Wednesday, Sept. 20 / 10–11:30 a.m.

WHERE:  Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. Eighth and G streets N.W.

WHO: Kim Sajet, director, National Portrait Gallery

Brandon Fortune, chief curator, National Portrait Gallery

Kate C. Lemay, historian, National Portrait Gallery

After 18 months of planning and extensive renovations, “America’s Presidents”—the National Portrait Gallery’s “must see” exhibition—reopens to the public Sept. 22. A highlight of the Portrait Gallery since the museum’s public opening in 1968, this historic display on the museum’s second floor is the only place outside the White House where visitors can view a complete collection of presidential portraits. The new, entirely bilingual (English and Spanish) and accessible presentation includes extraordinary works of art, notably Gilbert Stuart’s “Lansdowne” portrait of President George Washington, which will be back on view after 18 months of careful conservation and analysis. 

The Portrait Gallery has grouped the portraits into six historical chapters. Each of the first five sections is organized around a historical era and leads off with a presidential figure: Washington, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, while a sixth section examines the more recent history of the presidency. Updated content provides visitors with improved ways to understand historical events—both national and international—that coincided with the respective President’s time in office.

“America’s Presidents” includes new interpretive exhibition graphics and didactic materials, a fresh color palette, period-style architectural window treatments and the installation of custom carpets throughout the galleries. The transformation also incorporates new technology, such as a wireless-enabled LED lighting system that adjusts to ambient light. This improvement not only makes it possible for the museum to be more energy-efficient but also enhances its protection of the artworks.

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