Animals, Collected

On view through August 28, 2023

Lions and tigers and … griffins? Oh, my! The National Building Museum is home to 320,000 objects related to the built environment. Many of these artifacts in the permanent collection have never been displayed. Animals, Collected is a chance to explore some of the Museum’s most unusual treasures  through the lens of the animal kingdom.

The exhibition showcases a selection of architectural objects depicting animals, both real and mythological, as decorative elements. As ornament on municipal buildings and monuments, churches and warehouses, animals have appeared on structures and statues across time, geography, and function.

Imagined as a cabinet of curiosities, Animals, Collected presents two- and three-dimensional materials that encourage closer inspection of the buildings we see every day. Why are animals meaningful to the structure, its location, or the people who use it? Organized by animal habitat, surprising object groupings zoom in on different phases of, and approaches to, the process of design and construction.

Animals, Collected features a range of the Museum’s collections, including:

20th Century Souvenir Buildings
The Washington National Cathedral
Raymond Kaskey Studio
S.H. Kress & Company
Northwestern Terracotta Company
Ernest L. Brothers Interior Design
Robert C. Lautman Photography
Decorative Plaster Molds
American Brick Collection
Paper Models
Wurts Brothers Photography

Sketches of the Washington National Cathedral by Heinz Warneke, sculptures from local artist Raymond Kaskey, architectural drawings from Chicago’s Northwestern Terracotta Company, and decorative plaster molds are just a few of the types of objects and collections on display. There are plenty of lions and eagles, but keep your eyes peeled and spy penguins, monkeys, dragons, and sphinxes as well!

Join us for a playful exhibition that reveals the breadth of the Museum’s collection and highlights aspects of the design process in unexpected ways.

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