The National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., is something of an exhibit in itself.

What is now the museum was built between 1882 and 1887. The structure had a three-fold purpose. It served as the headquarters of the United States Pension Bureau. It provided a suitably grand space for Washington’s social and political functions. And it commemorated the service of those who fought on the side of the Union during the Civil War.

“The National Building Museum strives to work with groups to craft their visit and then provide information and communication that will foster a smooth process from start to finish,” said Kristen Sheldon, volunteer and intern manager. “Groups will benefit from tours led by volunteer docents with extensive knowledge and personal experience that gives each tour a unique voice.”

A variety of tour options are available to help best meet the needs and interests of specific groups. The main tour offering is an overview of the history and architecture of the museum’s historic building. Additionally, the museum offers tours of some of its exhibitions. Many groups will come for a tour and then spend time exploring the exhibitions and gift shop.

Museum shop, National Building Museum, Washington, D.C. Credit: Kevin Allen Photography
Museum shop, National Building Museum, Washington, D.C.
Credit: Kevin Allen Photography

“Upon walking into the museum, visitors are literally awestruck by the magnificent, soaring great hall with its 75-foot-tall Corinthian columns and babbling fountain,” Sheldon said. “Our historic building is rich in architectural detail and interesting features such as: the original passive ventilation system and the “time capsules” hidden in some of the hollow second-floor columns. Of course, you can’t beat the view from the fourth floor, only available on one of our tours.”

Sheldon said the museum does its best to be flexible and accommodating with groups. The museum is able to best do that with ample lead time and good information. When in doubt, operators are encouraged to call the museum.

On March 9, the museum opened “HOOPS.” This new exhibition of photographer Bill Bamberger’s work documents private and community basketball courts. Hauntingly devoid of people, Bamberger’s photographs are nonetheless neighborhood and community portraits, reflecting basketball’s importance and appeal. “HOOPS” is on view through Jan. 6, 2020.

For more information on the National Building Museum call 202-272-2448 or visit