February 2017

1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28


Browse Full Calendar

Published: January 5, 2017
Visit the Press Room for media contacts

National Building Museum celebrates unique history as Inaugural Ball venue

Special Tours Highlight Presidential Past; Inaugural Ball Artifact Exhibition on View

—The National Building Museum marks its historic role as a venue for official Inaugural Balls with special building tours, inauguration-related artifacts on view, and an immersive virtual reality photo experience highlighting the building’s Great Hall and its role in presidential celebrations.

Built as the Pension Building between 1882 and 1887, one of the original purposes of the National Building Museum’s historic home was to serve as a grand event space for Washington, D.C. In that era, the capital city was so lacking in venues appropriate for inaugural balls that Grover Cleveland’s 1885 inaugural event was held inside the Great Hall before the roof was completed. Since that first ball, twelve presidents have been feted in the Great Hall. The Museum is celebrating this rich history with a variety of educational opportunities available during the inaugural season.

Docent-led Inaugural Ball Tours provide an in-depth look at what past inaugural balls have been like, including photos of their decorations and examples of past dinner menus. Tours are free, drop-in programs at 12:30 pm on Tuesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday through February 14, 2017, except on days closed for 2017 Inaugural events.

Groups of ten or more, call 202.272.2448 or visit www.nbm.org for a custom tour reservation.

The National Building Museum partnered with Hoachlander Davis Photography to create an immersive virtual reality experience highlighting the Museum’s inaugural history. It can be viewed on a desktop computer, smartphone, or even through Google Cardboard as a virtual reality experience. Simply follow this link and click on the blue dots to learn more: go.nbm.org/Inaugural. If viewing on a smartphone or on a Google Cardboard, move the phone around to explore the enormous space, and hold the pointer on the blue dots to expand images and text.

Now through President’s Day, visitors can view objects and documents related to the Museum’s Inaugural Balls in a special exhibition located outside of the recent acquisitions gallery, Cool & Collected. On view is a ticket for Teddy Roosevelt’s ball in 1901; a candle holder from Barack Obama’s 2009 ball; an invitation to Richard Nixon’s 1969 event; stereographs from William McKinley’s 1887 ball; a TV tray that served as a souvenir for guests at George H. Bush’s 1989 celebration; among other ephemera. Photos, dinner menus, and decorations lists round out the display. Every president who hosted a ball at the Museum is represented.

Images related to the inaugural history are located here. Required image caption and crediting information is provided in filenames. 

Please contact Emma Filar, efilar@nbm.org, 202.272.2448, ext. 3458 for more information.

In January 2017, the Museum may be utilized for inauguration-related events. All details of these events are coordinated by the Presidential Inaugural Committee. Questions about the events should be directed to the Presidential Inaugural Committee. Any related Museum closures will be posted on the Museum’s website at www.nbm.org.

The National Building Museum is America’s leading cultural institution dedicated to advancing the quality of the built environment by educating people about its impact on their lives. Through its exhibitions, educational programs, online content, and publications, the Museum has become a vital forum for the exchange of ideas and information about the world we build for ourselves. Public inquiries: 202.272.2448 or visit www.nbm.org. Connect with us on Twitter: @BuildingMuseum and Facebook.

Get National Building Museum news.