A Day in the Life of Visitor Services

Visitors photographing Obama portrait in the gallery
Paul Morigi / 2018

Between the unveiling of President and Mrs. Obama’s portraits in February and the Washington Capitals, our neighbors, winning the Stanley Cup Final in June, it has been a busy couple of months at the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture.  Our attendance has almost tripled, and our dedicated and knowledgeable Information Desk Volunteers have spent a large portion of their time behind the information desks directing people to the new Obama portraits. Meanwhile, they have also tried to make sure people know that two museums, the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, share this building. One of the important jobs of the Desk Volunteer is to encourage visitors to enjoy the other wonderful exhibitions that we have on hand. 

The increase in attendance means that we’ve had numerous first-time visitors as well as people who haven’t visited in years.  It has been exciting to introduce (or reintroduce) people to the Portrait Gallery collections.  In fact, we received a visitor comment recently that sums it up perfectly: “I haven’t been here in years but it is AMAZING.  So well done—come for the Obamas, stay for the rest!  Everything was really done well. Thank you #SupportTheArts”.

We really do hope that visitors, who come to look for the Obama portraits, will enjoy the other exhibitions and works they pass on their way to find the portraits of President Obama on the 2nd floor and Michelle Obama on the 3rd floor.  (And yes, you read that correctly. Their portraits aren’t together: his is in with all the other Presidents in the America’s Presidents exhibition and her likeness is in 20th Century Americans.) 

There is much to see at the Portrait Gallery and, if you need help finding something, our friendly Information Desk Volunteers will be happy to help you find it. 

—Elisabeth Kilday, Visitor Services Manager