Past Exhibitions

A look back at a sampling of previous Interior Museum exhibitions…

The Interior Museum at 80 | October 12, 2018 – October 11, 2019

A dozen objects handpicked for display from the museum's inaugural exhibits in 1938 helped mark the Interior Museum's 80th anniversary in 2018.  (Size: case display)

Awash in Color | June 12, 2017 – January 29, 2018

This temporary display showcased nine of the more than 50 hand-tinted photographs in the museum's collection. Visitors learned about the process of hand-tinting and how it was employed within the Department of the Interior to promote travel on public lands. content. (Size: 62 square feet)

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Naturally Connected: Charley Harper and the Department of the Interior | February 13 – May 8, 2017


American artist Charley Harper (1922–2007) distilled his observations of nature into bold, highly stylized designs that have remained timeless in their appeal. Naturally Connected reflected on Harper's artistic legacy and its connections to many facets of the Interior's mission, the symbiotic work of Interior’s bureaus, and inter-connectivity within the natural world. The exhibition featured 43 Harper serigraphs from the Interior Museum’s collection, plus 26 loaned materials from the Charley Harper Art Studio, including Harper’s personal drafting tools and two rare color studies for the National Park poster series. (Size: 700 square feet)

DOI Pop! On Air, On Screen & In Print | June 29, 2015 – January 13, 2017

Comic-book stylized graphic with bright colors and the words "DOI Pop!"

The exhibition ​explored the intersection of the Department of the Interior with popular culture, highlighting classic examples from the early 1900s to the present from across its bureaus. Visitors saw how the Department’s people and places have influenced American identity and figured into television shows, feature films, and bestselling publications. From silent films and animated cartoons to blockbuster hits and novels, visitors discovered just how often America’s public lands, wildlife refuges and national parks—and even the headquarters building—have been cast in memorable supporting roles. With historical artifacts and iconic imagery, the exhibition also illustrated how the Department itself has enlisted icons of pop culture for help in publicizing its missions. (Size: 700 square feet)

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SEE AMERICA | July 28 – October 18, 2014


Presented with the Creative Action Network and the National Parks Conservation Association, this temporary show included 50 posters by 46 different artists depicting natural, cultural, and historical sites across the United States. The posters were part of a growing online collection of more than 600 images submitted to the Creative Action Network by more than 185 artists worldwide. Inspired by artwork created for the United States Travel Bureau by New Deal-era artists in the late 1930s, the contemporary “See America” series reimagines the theme for a 21st-century audience. The set encouraged tourism and invited viewers to appreciate and reconnect with America’s treasures. (Size: 1,800 square feet)

POSTERity: WPA's Art Legacy & America's Public Lands | April 8, 2014 – May 29, 2015

View of the "POSTERity" exhibition

This visually stunning retrospective exhibition united for the first time six rare national park posters produced by WPA artists for the National Park Service in the late 1930s plus a full complement of contemporary editions in the style and silk screen tradition of the originals. Featured were nearly 50 iconic prints associated with 36 national parks, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the Interior Museum. Contemporary editions were done by Brian Maebius and Doug Leen. (Size: 700 square feet)

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Ansel Adams: The Mural Project, 1941–1942 | June 20 – November 30, 2009

This exhibition was comprised of eight images reproduced from photographs taken by Ansel Adams (1902–1984). In 1941, the Department of the Interior had commissioned Adams to photograph national parks, Indian reservations, Bureau of Reclamation dams, and other lands and projects in the West, with the intent that the images would be installed as photomurals in the Interior's newly completed headquarters building. By June 1942, however, departmental resources were redirected due to World War II, and the photomurals were never realized. A sampling of correspondence and other images complemented this exhibition.

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Parks in Focus  |  April 20– October 2009

This art exhibition commemorated National Park Week and was composed of 23 photographs taken by Parks in Focus program participants visiting Arizona, Maine, Michigan, New Jersey, Wyoming, and California in 2007 and 2008. The Parks in Focus program—administered by the Morris K. Udall Foundation since 1992—connects middle-school children to nature through week-long trips to state and national parks. Learning the fundamentals of photography, ecology, and conservation adds to students’ continuing engagement with nature. The Foundation provides cameras and teaches that nature is accessible, fun, and educational.

Endangered Species: Flora & Fauna in Peril  |  November 1, 2008 – May 2009 

This exhibition, featuring work by 40 international artists, was the result of a juried art competition organized by the Wildling Art Museum (Los Olivos, CA) and toured by David J. Wagner, Ph. D. The exhibition featured fifty works of art depicting flora and fauna listed as threatened or endangered in North America by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. More than 47 were represented, including the California condor, northern spotted owl, grizzly bear, black-footed ferret, Oahu tree snail, Sonora tiger salamander, Mesa Verde cactus, and Texas wild-rice. Artists included Anne Peyton, Diane Versteeg, Lotus McElfish, Terry Woodall, Mathew Tekulsky, and Arillyn Moran-Lawrence.

World Heritage Sites in the United States: A Thirtieth Anniversary Celebration | September 11, 2008 – February 6, 2009

The United States was not only the first signatory to the World Heritage Convention, it was also among the handful of nations that put forth sites for inscription as World Heritage Sites in 1978. The Interior Museum, the National Park Service, and the National Geographic Society teamed up to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the inscription of Yellowstone and Mesa Verde National Parks on the World Heritage List by exhibiting photographs by world-renowned photographers of all the World Heritage Sites within the boundaries of the United States.

American Place: The Historic American Buildings Survey at 75 Years | July 18 – November 19, 2008

The Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), a division of the National Park Service, began in 1933 as a Works Progress Administration effort to put unemployed architects to work surveying, drawing, and photographing America's architectural heritage. The National Historic Landmark Act passed in 1966, and that effort has continued to document our national structures and to ensure that conceptually they will exist for generations to come. This exhibition contained more than 65 drawings and photographs of historic American buildings.

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  • View or download a free copy of American Place: The Historic American Buildings Survey at Seventy-Five Years from the HABS website. (22.3 MB PDF)
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial: America Responds | November 9, 2007 – May 31, 2008

The Interior Museum commemorated the 25th anniversary of the dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial with this exhibition done in collaboration with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund and the National Park Service. It featured photographs, drawings and models illustrating the creation of the memorial, as well as personal objects left at the Wall by the general public.  

Coral Reefs: Imperiled Habitats of the Sea | January 18 – August 8, 2008

To coincide with 2008 being the International Year of the Reef, the museum exhibited photographs of coral reefs in U.S. waters and coral samples from the museum’s collection dating from the 1940s and 1950s. The Department of the Interior and the Department of Commerce co-chair the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force that was established by Presidential Executive Order 13089 “to preserve and protect the biodiversity, health, heritage, and social and economic value of U.S. coral reef ecosystems and the marine environment” in the waters of the United States and internationally.

Missouri River EXPOSED | October 2007– January 2008

With a background in wildlife biology and environmental studies, photographer and scholar Joe Riis collaborated with many local and state agencies as well as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, and the National Park Service to produce this photography exhibit focusing on current ecological river issues as well as the endangered pallid sturgeon, the endangered least tern, and the threatened piping plover. More than 200 years after the Lewis and Clark journey made the United States a bicoastal nation, Riis traveled from the headwaters of the Missouri River in Montana by kayak, car, and plane to the confluence with the Mississippi River in St. Louis to showcase the beauty of the Missouri River and to inform people on the current state of the longest river in the U.S. The exhibition consisted of 12 framed prints and 5 framed text panels.

Witness to History: The March on Washington | July– October 2007

On a hot and muggy August 28 in 1963, hundreds of thousands of American people marched around the National Mall to protest for civil rights, desegregation, and federal programs to end poverty. This was the March on Washington which concluded that afternoon with the "I Have a Dream" speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. David M. Granahan, a U.S. Department of Agriculture employee, took the day off to document the march, capturing the activities in watercolor and ink sketches. The Interior Museum was the first to exhibit Granahan’s complete set of 10 original watercolors. Juan William, author of My Soul Look Back in Wonder: Voices of the Civil Rights Experience,  spoke on July 21, 2007 in the Department of Interior's Yates Auditorium in conjunction with the exhibition.

Conservation in Action: The Legacy of Rachel Carson | April 2007– October 2009

Coinciding with the centennial birthday of Rachel Carson, this exhibition highlighted her history and legacy. Carson’s work as an educator, scientist, and writer revolutionized America’s interest in environmental issues. She worked for the U.S. Department of the Interior from 1936 to 1952 during which time she created some of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s first public information brochures in a series, "Conservation in Action." Perhaps best known for her seminal work Silent Spring (1962), which documented the pesticide DDT’s menace to the environment and its destructive effects birds of prey, Carson also had a passion for connecting children with nature. Loaned objects came from John Juriga.

Reinventing Tradition: American Indian Design in Contemporary Clothing | April 20– August 31, 2007

Examples of traditional clothing and adornment, primarily from the 1900s, were exhibited alongside the works of contemporary Native designers who create clothing ranging from ready-to-wear to haute couture. The exhibition included contemporary outfits on loan, rarely-seen pieces from the permanent collections of the Interior Museum, and photographs of contemporary and traditional clothing. Loaned pieces came from the Sioux Indian Museum, the Southern Plains Indian Museum, Pilar Agoyo, Tish Agoyo, Wendell Sakiestewa, Virginia Yazzi Ballenger, and Betty David.

Portrait of a Divided Maritime Family: Reinforcing Siberian Yupik Connections with Art | March 16– May 21, 2007

L. Saunders McNeill of the Alaska State Council on the Arts, in collaboration with the National Park Service, began a project in 1998 using art and photography to strengthen ties between internationally dispersed Siberian Yupik family members living on the islands of the Bering Sea. McNeill worked with hundreds of community members to document and photograph a people separated by harsh seas, international boundaries, and loss of a common spoken language. McNeill’s journal entries paired with dozens of portraits formed this traveling exhibition.

America's Beautiful National Parks | November 9, 2005– February 10, 2006

Curated by Amy Lamb, this temporary exhibition was a collection of contemporary and historical large-scale photographs celebrating the diverse flora of U.S. national parks. The exhibition originally debuted at the Philadelphia Flower Show and included the work of photographers David Muench, Marc Muench, Pat O’Hara, Galen Rowell and Laurence Parent, paired with historical images by Timothy O’Sullivan, Ansel Adams, Henry Peabody, and George Grant. 

50 Years of Reclamation Archaeology | June 10, 2004– December 31, 2009

This exhibition featured stories of past cultures told by artifacts uncovered at five Western dam sites. The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation archaeologists and their partners found the diverse group of artifacts at the Grand Coulee Dam in Washington State, the New Melones Dam in California, the Central Arizona Project and Glen Canyon Dam in Arizona, the Medicine Creek Reservoir in Nebraska, and the Jamestown Reservoir in North Dakota. The 55 artifacts on display provided episodic glimpses into thousands of years of human activity. Plaster casts of 18,000-year-old mammoth bones, a buffalo shoulder blade, a bird effigy pendant made from groundstone, and a Redware bowl represented some of the older objects on display. Highlighting more recent history were objects from the mid-nineteenth century unearthed at Grand Coulee Dam’s Lake Roosevelt, when reduced water levels revealed the site of a Hudson Bay Company trading post that had been abandoned in 1871. Those objects included an English earthenware snuff bottle, brass finger rings, and forged iron pincers used to trim horse hooves.

At Home with Frederick Douglass | May 28, 2004– February 5, 2005

This exhibition explored the many dimensions of Frederick Douglass, the man whose compelling words and life story challenged slavery and racial prejudice in America. The exhibition convened original furnishings, art, and personal effects from Douglass' Anacostia home, Cedar Hill, where he lived during the last 17 years of his life (1878-1895). The artifacts were on loan to the Interior Museum from the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site while Cedar Hill was temporarily closed for renovations.

Earth as Art | February 18– April 23, 2004

Twenty Landsat 7 satellite images of verdant deltas, desert dunes, and wind-driven clouds taken from 440 miles in space were displayed in the temporary exhibition. The accurate data these images provide about land, sea, air, and biotic communities are used in agriculture, regional planning, and global change research. Still, their abstract beauty is beguiling, and the images appear almost painterly yet serve as important scientific tools. The Department of the Interior's U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have partnered on Landsat since 1972.

The U.S. Park Police: Responding to the Attacks of September 11 | August 2002– September 2003

United States Park Police personnel stationed in Washington, DC and in New York City were among the first responders to the sites impacted by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The exhibition included 31 items on loan from the Park Police, including a flag from a Park Police Marine vessel; a flight helmet of the type worn by air crews from Eagle One, the first helicopter to the Pentagon on 9/11; photographs of the Pentagon; and a three-minute video compilation showing the Aviation Unit arriving at the Pentagon minutes after the attack.

Parasaurolophus: A Dinosaur Discovery on Interior's Public Lands | August 2001– September 2002

This traveling exhibition from the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science spotlighted an eccentric-looking herbivore called a Parasaurolophus, a hollow-crested duck-billed dinosaur that roamed public lands in the U.S. Southwest 70 to 80 million years ago.  Paleontologists discovered the skull and thigh bone of this three-ton giant in 1995 on Bureau of Land Management public lands in the San Juan Basin in northwestern New Mexico. Visitors were able to hear simulations of the sounds Parasaurolophus made through its long hollow crest; see a plaster cast of its skull; and touch its fossilized thigh bone. Additional objects from the Interior Museum's collection augmented the story of fossil finds on Department of the Interior public lands. 

The Arrow People: The Story of a Navajo Sandpainting Rug | June 30, 2000– August 31, 2001

After several decades in storage, the Interior Museum presented the highly significant textile, "Sandpainting of the Arrow People," a magnificent 13' x 12' rug created over two years circa 1935 by the accomplished Dine weaver Bahi Shondee (born circa 1895) for Roman Hubbell of the Hubbell Trading Post in Ganado, Arizona. The Department of the Interior purchased the textile in 1937 at the request of Interior Secretary Harold Ickes, who was interested in promoting Native American culture and artwork, as further evidenced by the Indian Arts and Crafts Shop and murals by Native artists located throughout the Main Interior Building. The textile depicts one of the sacred histories of the Navajo Nation.  In this exhibition, it was showcased along with the watercolor that inspired it, historical photographs, and a textile vest created by the weaver.

Beguiled by the Wild: The Art of Charley Harper | October 28, 1997– February 28, 1998

The exhibition included several serigraphs by Charley Harper, plus—on loan from the National Park Service—the original acrylic on canvas works commissioned for the National Park Service posters.

Storyboards from the Republic of Palau | September 1997

This show featured 13 works as representative samples of Palauan storyboards across four decades. Artists represented included Marino Debesal, Kerradel Eterochel, Charlie Gibbons, Tobias Kuchad, Yohim Masters, Baules Sechelong, and Ngiraibuuch Skedong. Storyboards from the 1950s painted with natural pigments and those of the 1960s and 1977s that tell their stories in enamel paints were juxtaposed with deeply carved, unpainted storyboards from more recent years. Palauan Ambassador Hersey Kyota spoke at the Interior Museum about the history of storyboard carving in Palau and its future.

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