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Galleries

Bliss and Orientation Galleries

A small space located immediately to the right of the Museum lobby, the Bliss Gallery is used for small-scale, rotating exhibitions related to the founders of Dumbarton Oaks, Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss. Selected artworks highlight themes relevant to the collections and institutional research programs, with a particular focus on the Blisses’ collecting practices. The Orientation Gallery hosts occasional special exhibitions of photography and other works.

Courtyard Gallery

The permanent displays encountered in the Courtyard Gallery cluster mostly along the walls, with much of the central courtyard space reserved for temporary exhibitions. The majority of objects in this gallery predate the Byzantine Empire. The space is one of broadened geographic spaces and deepened timelines, representing the variety of artistic traditions and the diverse cultures from which the Byzantine Empire inherited its artistic vitality.

Byzantine Gallery

The displays in the Byzantine Gallery highlight the overlapping realms of sacred and secular life in the Byzantine world. The gallery covers five main overlapping themes: the spiritual realm, personal adornment, imperial imagery, icons, and funerary practice. Throughout, an emphasis on precious materials—silver, ivory, gold, and gemstones—underscores the luxurious nature of Byzantine art, even though beautifully decorated objects such as plates, boxes, lamps, and jewelry also had a practical function in Byzantine life.

Textile Gallery

The Textile Gallery features changing exhibitions of Andean and Byzantine textiles. Garments, hangings, and other light-sensitive objects illustrate weaving styles, iconographic elements, and the use and function of cloth in early societies. The Gallery’s floor bears a Byzantine mosaic with scenes in which hunters actively engage with a boar and tigress on a field strewn with florets.

Pre-Columbian Gallery

Objects from the Pre-Columbian Collection are on display in the Pre-Columbian Gallery, which opened to the public in 1963. This building is comprised of eight circular domed galleries, with an open-air fountain at the center, all set within a perfect square. Composed of curving glass walls, Illinois Agatan marble columns, radial teak floors, and rims of mottled green Vermont marble, the Gallery provides a bright, glittering casement for the world-class Pre-Columbian objects displayed within it.

Music Room

European paintings, sculptures, tapestries, and antique furnishings from the House Collection are displayed in the Music Room. Framed by two sixteenth-century Italian Verona marble arches and a sixteenth-century French chimneypiece, the room is essentially Renaissance in character. Artworks and objects are exhibited much as they were when the Blisses were in residence: sculptures sit on Italian Renaissance cabinets, and paintings hang alongside tapestries.

Special Exhibition Gallery

The Dumbarton Oaks Museum organizes temporary special exhibitions that offer new and different perspectives on the collections. These exhibitions are intended to enhance and complement the permanent exhibitions. Special exhibitions may be on view in the museum’s Special Exhibition Gallery, as well as in the Bliss Gallery, the Textile Gallery, and the Orientation Gallery.

Rare Book Gallery and Reading Room

The Rare Book Gallery features changing exhibitions of the Rare Book Collection’s holdings. Displays often highlight the works collected by Mildred Bliss, who, with advice from Beatrix Farrand, acquired rare books, manuscripts, and drawings in the field of landscape architecture, garden design, and garden history.