Museum Minute Vol. 5 – Federal Government Museums


Museum Minute is written by Elle O’Flaherty. Elle lives in Mt. Pleasant and previously wrote about Alternative Museum Activities.

This is going to be a bit of an odd museum recommendation, it’s only a recommendation if you’re in the neighborhood and have ten minutes to kill. With that disclaimer in place I feel comfortable letting you in on the semi-secret that many federal agencies have mini museums that are cool in a very low expectations kind of way. Regrettably, the Forestry Service museum – which is awesome and has an animatronic Smokey Bear – is closed for renovations. However, the picture above is from just across the street at the Department of Agriculture (1400 Jefferson Drive, SW on the Mall) where they hand out free tomato seed packets, which makes a quick drop-in worthwhile. There’s also a neat model of the future China pavilion in the National Arboretum if you’re interested in their development plans.


Further down Independence Avenue just past 12th Street you’ll find the Department of Energy’s mini museum (1000 Independence Ave., SW). This one is clearly nicer and has some pretty neat explanations of the development of the atomic bomb. There’s also a full-size wind turbine and some interesting information on advancements in clean energy. All the federal building museums that I am aware of are accessible to the public during normal business hours. I’d love to hear about any others that are worth checking out.

3 Comment

  • clevelanddave

    The DEA Museum and Visitors Center is well worth going to, particularly if you are with kids. They have recently done a renovation and added more interactive and dynamic displays. They also have installed a new gift shop and there is a lot of neat “DEA” apparel and other items that make good souvenirs of a Washington visit.

    The DEA Museum is located near the Pentagon City Metro and across the street from the Pentagon City Mall, so there is shopping and places to eat nearby (and it is also easier to park than most places on the National Mall). Best of all, it is free, and if you give yourself 45 minutes you can do the whole tour.

    See for more information, location and hours.

  • Why on earth is the DEA museum good for kids? I’d much rather educate mine about agriculture and energy.

  • In middle school, we took a trip to the FBI headquarters. At the time they took you into their armory which contained one of every single type of firearm known to have been made. they showed us a gun hidden inside a cane. That field trip still stands out in my memory. Oh and I’m not some kind of gun nut.

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