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Investigating Where We Live


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Created by the National Building Museum in 1996, Investigating Where We Live brings together middle school and high school students from across the D.C. metropolitan area. The program provides them with a forum where they can express their views of Washington, D.C. Participants learn to use photography, creative writing, and exhibition design as a means of understanding D.C. and describing how the city’s buildings, neighborhoods, and culture change over time. As the culmination of the program, participants plan, design, and install a museum exhibition that features their insights and work.

Investigating Where We Live meets for 15 sessions over five weeks in the summer from 9 am to 2:30 pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. Up to 35 participants are selected each summer. The exhibition planned and produced by the students is on display for up to eleven months. The 2015 exhibition, Investigating Where We Live: New Monuments Revealed, explores the District through the lens of its monuments, memorials, and commemorative spaces. It will be on display until June 6, 2016. 

Program Goals

In Investigating Where We Live, participants will: 

  • Develop photography, writing, and design skills
  • Define neighborhoods and examine what influences their appearances
  • Learn neighborhood histories
  • Collaborate with peers and staff as part of a team
  • Create a museum exhibition

In addition to developing these skills, Investigating Where We Live students enjoy a number of other benefits. In return for their commitment to the program, participants:  

  • Receive a digital camera
  • Install a one-of-a-kind exhibition that over 25,000 people will visit
  • Develop relationships with professional photographers, designers, museum staff, and fellow participants
  • Keep photographs for use in future projects, portfolios, or high school and college applications
  • Fulfill up to 70 hours of community service requirements for school
  • Receive a Family Membership to the National Building Museum

How can I get involved? 

The application for the 2016 session will be available in March.

Please contact if you have questions, or visit your National Building Museum website account to sign up for our mailing list to receive updates. 


IWWL participants explore DC through the lens of a camera.
Photo by Museum staff

The Museum seeks professionals and college or graduate students in the fields of photography, design, architecture, urban planning, creative writing, and education to share their expertise with our participants. Volunteers may receive college credits or professional development points for their time. Click here to learn more about volunteering at the Museum. Volunteers for teen programs must be 18 years of age or older.


Students or recent graduates who are interested in a greater commitment to Investigating Where We Live are invited to apply for an intern position in the outreach department. Interns act as volunteer instructors and assist with the administration of the program. Click here to learn more about internships at the Museum.                                


Investigating Where We Live is generously supported by the William Randolph Hearst Foundation; The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation; The Tower Companies; Hattie M. Strong Foundation; Clark Charitable Foundation; DAVIS Construction; Zeldin Family Foundation; Beech Street Foundation; and an anonymous donor. Geppetto Catering, Inc. is the official meal provider of Teen Programs at the National Building Museum.