Millions of people visit museums around the world every year. Whether on school trips or family days out, museums are educational, often inspiring, and always a great day out for people young and old.
In the words of Thomas P. Campbell, “Museums are like the quiet car of the world. It’s a place you can come to escape, where there’s authenticity, there’s uniqueness, there’s calm, there’s physicality.” We’re taking a closer look at the ten most-visited museums in America as a tribute to the importance of learning from the past so we can better our future.
California Science Center
Located in the City of Angels, this museum sees 2,106,000 visitors a year. Their mission is to “aspire to stimulate curiosity and inspire science learning in everyone by creating fun, memorable experiences.” Admission is free of charge and visitors can explore permanent and temporary exhibits looking at Earth’s different ecosystems, as well some amazing air and space exhibits.
The California Science Center also features a seven-story-tall, 90-foot wide IMAX cinema experience where visitors can watch specially made movies. There is also a movie about Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman astronaut to go to space. She was in the first servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope.
Houston Museum of Natural Science
The Houston Museum of Natural Science includes the world-renowned George Observatory which is home to one of the largest and most powerful telescopes in America. Receiving an average of 2,295,000 visitors per year, The Houston Museum of Natural Science is also jam-packed with other natural science exhibits.
The Hamman Hall of Texas Coastal Ecology is a must-see exhibit when visiting The Houston Museum of Natural Science. It features a solid educational center teaching visitors about the local habitat and environment. There’s also a bunch of authentic dinosaur fossils, minerals, and gemstones, as well as a menagerie of taxidermy.
National Museum of African American History and Culture
Situated in Washington D.C., an average 2,400,000 visitors attend this museum annually. Being one of the newest museums within the Smithsonian Institution, the National Museum of African American History and Culture only opened its doors to the public in September 2016. Even so, it’s already one of the top ten most visited museums in America today.
The museum highlights the numerous contributions African-Americans have made to the U.S. over the centuries. It also educated visitors through inspiring stories about the value of resilience in the face of adversity. It also takes a closer look at the spirituality of African American history and culture. With an impressive 37,000 artifacts, documents, photographs and media, one can learn all they need to know about the experience of minorities in America.
The Museum of Modern Art
This museum, located in New York City, is also known as MoMA for obvious reasons. This museum enjoys around 2,750,000 visitors per year – most of whom have an interest in modern art, naturally. But MoMA claims to “celebrate diversity and to stir social discourse, provoking thoughtful and meaningful conversations,” according to their website.
The museum prides itself on curating and displaying world-renowned exhibitions and events. It tries to find collections that are reactionary to the modern age but also ones that spark trends. But there is more than just paintings here, as the museum offers staged performances and films for visitors with specially purchased tickets.
National Museum of American History
The National Museum of American History, located in Washington, D.C., sees around 3,800,000 visitors per year through its doors. The museum claims to capture the complex nuances of America’s history and culture with more than 1.8 million objects on display for all to see.
One of the main features in this museum is the numerous Revolutionary War artifacts that can be found there. But there’s also the real props used in The Wizard of Oz movie, as well as a special exhibit dedicated to how Julia Child transformed American cuisine. For those wanting to learn more about American history, life and culture, this is one not to miss.
American Museum of Natural History
The American Museum of Natural History welcomes a staggering 5,000,000 visitors each year to its New York City location. Even if you haven’t yet visited this museum yourself, you have probably seen it countless times on TV. It was even used in the filming of Night at the Museum starring Ben Stiller and Robin Williams.
Having been founded and built back in 1896, the American Museum of Natural History boasts amazing architecture representative of the Gilded Age. Many visitors take less notice of the array of artifacts on display and simply lose themselves in the amazing structure of the internal building. With an amazing 45 halls of objects, it’s a little bit like taking a walk through a massive interactive encyclopedia.
National Gallery of Art
The National Gallery of Art was the brainchild and creation of Andrew W. Mellon, in conjunction with the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration. Constructed in 1936 by this wealthy financier and art collector, he donated his whole art collection to the museum after it was built right on the National Mall near to Capitol Hill.
One of the highlights of this museum is the Italian Renaissance galleries decorated with Italian travertine wainscot and plaster walls. While the original collection donated by Mellon contained 126 paintings and 26 sculptures, the museum has expanded greatly over the years to include thousands of paintings and art from around the world.
National Museum of Natural History
With an estimated 6,000,000 visitors per year, this huge structure located in Washington, D.C., is also part of the Smithsonian Institution’s umbrella. The museum is impressive for many reasons, not least because it boasts 1.5 million square feet of exhibitions which are supposed to educate and inspire visitors.
The museum is recognizable from a distance due to the green dome that sits atop the roof. If that isn’t impressive enough, visitors can enjoy an array of 126 million natural science specimens and cultural artifacts. They include 30 million insects, 7 million fish in liquid-filled jars, 2 million cultural artifacts and thousands of fossils.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City is considered to be the second-most visited museum in America today, drawing up to 7,000,000 visitors a year. It came about back in 1866 when Americans saw how art was brought to Parisians in France. They decided that the American people also deserved a “national institution and gallery of art.” That is when “The Met” was born.
By 1966, The Met had expanded to three locations: The Met Fifth Ave, The Met Breuer, and The Met Cloisters. Between them, there are 5,000 years of art from around the globe including collection like the Washington Crossing Delaware by Emanuel Leutze, Vincent van Gogh’s Self-Portrait with a Straw Hat and Claude Monet’s Bridge over a Pond of Water Lilies.
National Air and Space Museum
This huge museum is located in Washington, D.C. and sees around 7,000,000 visitors through its doors each year. The stunning collection of aviation and space artifacts is enough to impress anyone no matter how old they are. Also a part of the Smithsonian Institution, the National Air and Space Museum is the largest of its kind in America today.
The main exhibit of interest at this museum opened back in 1976. It follows the history of American space exploration in exquisite detail for all visitors to enjoy. Visitors can also view the space shuttle Discovery, as well as numerous other large aircraft and spacecraft used in space exploration over the past 50 years.