Past Exhibitions

Choosing to Participate: Facing History and Ourselves

February 17, 2011 - June 17, 2011  
Created by Facing History and Ourselves, a global education nonprofit organization, Choosing to Participate is civic initiative and traveling exhibition that encourages young people and adults to think deeply about the importance of participating in a democratic society. Choosing to Participate opens at the Historical Society on February 17 and will be on view through June 17, 2011.

This powerful exhibition examines the impact and history of racism and injustice, and looks at the courageous choices people made to build strong and inclusive communities.  Through the exploration of four stories from contemporary American history, visitors consider the following questions: What does it mean to be a citizen of a democracy? What can we learn from each other's stories? What is our responsibility to society?

From a late night subway ride in New York City in the 1950s to desegregation in Little Rock, Arkansas, a Montana community speaking out against hate, and the challenges faced by a young Cambodian refugee as he struggled to build a new life in New Hampshire, these stories challenge us to consider our responsibilities as citizens and encourages dialogue, respect, and participation in our communities.

Washington, DC is the second stop on a five city national tour. Host cities include Cleveland, Washington DC, Memphis, New York, and Chicago. The previous seven city tour reached hundreds of thousands of students, educators, and community members.

Guided tours are directed toward middle and high school students. For more information or to schedule a tour go to or contact Lindsay Bowles at 202.383.1899.

Han-Mee Artists: Celebration of D.C.'s Cherry Blossom Trees

March 19, 2011 - June 11, 2011

The exhibition is a partnership with the Han-Mee Artists Association of Greater Washington. D.C.

The blooming of the cherry trees around the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. has come to symbolize the natural beauty of our nation's capital city. The famous trees, a gift from Japan in 1912, signal Washington’s rite of spring with an explosion of life and color that surrounds the Tidal Basin in a sea of pale pink and white blossoms. Thousands of city residents and visitors from across the nation and around the world come here to witness the spectacle, hoping that the trees will be at the peak of bloom for the Cherry Blossom Festival. These magnificent cherry trees and their history in Washington, D.C. is the theme of this art exhibition. 


September 10, 2010 - December 5, 2010

The Washington Sculptors Group (WSG) presents Porous Borders, an exhibition of sculpture on the theme of interconnection despite borders and boundaries. The exhibition was juried by Jayme McLellan, director and founder of Civilian Art Projects, a gallery based in Washington, D.C. representing and supporting emerging artists. In addition to running Civilian, she curates and organizes international exhibitions and teaches at the Corcoran College of Art & Design. In 2002, she co-founded the D.C. based visual arts organization Transformer and, prior to this, served as the Director of Development for the District of Columbia Arts Center (DCAC).

Artists selected to participate in the exhibition include: Julia Bloom, Jessica Braiterman, Anthony Comes, Frederic Crist, Brent Crothers, Joel D'Orazio, Pattie Firestone, Helen Glazer, Nestor Guzman, Artemis Herber, Dalya Luttwak, Emily Piccirillo, Guy Rando, Phillip Scarpone, Marilee Schumann, Mike Shaffer, Carmela Solell-Knepler, Diane Szczepaniak, Patricia Tinajero, and James Wallace.
The Washington Sculptors Group is a volunteer, non-profit organization dedicated to promoting an awareness and understanding of sculpture in addi-tion to fostering the exchange of ideas among sculptors, collectors, and the general public.  The WSG sponsors frequent events, including artists' panels, presentations, workshops, public programs, and co-sponsors a variety of exhibi-tions in museums and alternative spaces in the Washington DC area and beyond.  Organized in 1983, the work of the WSG is carried out by its Board of Directors, along with its nearly 400 members.


July 19, 2010 - December 11, 2010

Wendy Plotkin-Mates, a mixed media artist, from New York, Plotkin-Mates has made Washington, DC her home, where she creates canvases that capture the sensations of color, texture and shape that reflect her perception of the world.
She looks at the canvas the way she looks at life… as a multi-layered and complex journey where anything is possible.  Her approach to canvas and paper reflects her love of color, texture, and shape. As an abstractionist, she uses strong hues such as blue, green, yellow, and red in her work to parallel the improvisation of a rainbow in nature.
 Ms. Plotkin-Mates was exhibited her work in several galleries in Washington DC including the Parish Gallery, Anne C. Fisher Gallery, Touchstone Gallery, Watergate Gallery, Asnan Gallery and many other galleries and institutions in Washington DC an around the country.


October 7, 2010 - December 3, 2010

Official Website

Many histories have been written about medical care during the American Civil War, but the participation and contributions of African Americans as nurses, surgeons and hospital workers has often been overlooked.  Binding Wounds, Pushing Boundaries: African Americans in Civil War Medicine explores the service of African American men and women who served as surgeons and nurses and how their work as medical providers challenged the prescribed notions of race and gender pushing the boundaries of the role of African Americans in the U.S.
Through historical images and never-before-seen Civil War era documents this six-banner exhibition explores the life and experiences of surgeons Alexander T. Augusta and Anderson R. Abbott, and nurses Susie King Taylor, Ann Stokes, and Charlotte Forten as they provided medical care to soldiers and civilians while participating in the fight for freedom.

This exhibition was developed and produced by the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health with research assistance from the Historical Society of Washington, D.C.


September 14, 2010 - December 5, 2010
Latino Art Beat, a Chicago-based national not-for-profit arts organization, awards college scholarships to high school students through its art competitions. Latino Art Beat’s motto is "Celebramos la Juventud, el arte y la Cultura hispana" (We Celebrate Youth, Art and Hispanic Heritage & Culture). All winning artwork is displayed at various gallery shows around the country during the winning year profiling the young aspiring artist’s talents. Select winning artwork is also featured in national print media.


July 18, 2010 - October 17, 2010
An exhibition about architect Adolf Cluss, education, and the Historic Franklin School. The exhibition was organized by the Coalition for Franklin School.and  explains the role the Franklin School at 13th and K Streets NW played in the educational revolution of the post-Civil War period in the nation’s capital. The Franklin School, the Charles Sumner School, and other schools designed by Adolf Cluss transformed the city’s public educational system and put the District of Columbia on the international map as a home to model public schools for the nation. 


March, 2010 - August 28, 2010
A traveling exhibition curated by the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington and presented in partnership with the Historical Society of Washington, D.C.

In 1795, shortly after the site of the nation’s capital was selected, the first Jewish resident, Isaac Polock arrived in the new federal district of Washington. Over the next two centuries, he was followed by tens of thousands of Jews, all of whom have become a part of the history that this exhibition chronicles. Their lives and deeds tell a unique story of both a hometown and a capital city.


June 4, 2010 - August 28, 2010

DC Public School and DC Public Charter School student artwork will be on display at a citywide art exhibition featuring 42 works of art.  The work includes prints, drawings, mixed media, paintings, photographs, sculpture, and ceramics.  The student work ranging in grades Pre-K through grade 12.

A panel of jurors will select 10 works to be added the Commission's Art Bank
Collection, a collection of over 2000 works placed in public corridors of
District Government agencies. This collection supports the local artist community while preserving the city's rich art legacy for future generations.


April, 2010 - August 28, 2010
The story of Metro reveals much about the neighborhoods of Washington, D.C. and how they relate to each other.  The exhibit uses the story of this mass transit system  as a ‘vehicle’ to talk about the changing character of neighborhoods from Georgetown to U Street.  It explores how local businesses and residents have been affected by Metro’s construction or by the lack of Metro, and shows how the creation of this transit system has both reflected and changed the nature of Washington D.C. 

Daniel Freeman: The Man behind the Camera

October 26, 2009 to January 18, 2010

 Daniel Freeman dominated the photography business in Washington during the first half of the twentieth century along with Addison Scurlock, his friend and stiffest competitor. The competition between Freeman and Scurlock in some ways mirrored the competing philosophies of racial uplift held by Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois.

The Man behind the Camera highlights the work and life of Daniel Freeman beginning with his arrival in Washington DC in 1881 at the age of thirteen. The exhibit explores how Freeman developed as a photographer and at the same time offers a rare glimpse into African American life during the first half of the twentieth century. Opening with his pastel drawings of prominent African American families in Anacostia and LeDroit Park, his portraits also include more famous local residents such as Frederick Douglass. Freeman’s work was sometimes rivaled and overshadowed by his friend Addison Scurlock; however, it is Freeman’s life and work as a photographer that chronicles the struggle and accomplishments of the local African American community only thirty years after emancipation.

Portraying Lincoln: "A Man of Many Faces"

February 7, 2009 to November 8, 2009

In celebration of the bicentennial observance of Abraham Lincoln's birth, Michael Fowler, guest curator, partnered with fellow Lincoln scholars and conducted a national search for original artwork honoring the life and legacy of Abraham Lincoln.  The exhibition features widely diverse depictions of Lincoln as the "Great Emancipator" and as a "Man of Sorrows" including contemporary artistic expressions that reflect popular culture and the absurd.



The Historical Society of Washington, D.C. • 801 K Street, NW at Mount Vernon Square • Washington, DC 20001 • 202-249-3955 •