White House Historical Association
Waddell painting of the White House Tiffany Screen

Peter Waddell, The Grand Illumination, 1891, 2007.

Celebrate with Us

2011 Programs, Publications, and Events

Something of Splendor

Decorative Arts from the White House

The central theme of this exhibition is the story of an emerging American culture represented in the White House collections of furniture, silver, glass, porcelain, paintings, engravings, photographs, and documents that record periods of American interior design and decorative arts, presidential biography, and aesthetic tastes of the first families. An underlying theme of the exhibition is the role of the White House Historical Association's contributions to and support of the White House collection to mark the 50th anniversary of the organization. The realm of association gifts, educational endeavors, preservation and conservation initiatives is woven into the historical context of the design and decoration of the White House with a focus on the association's founding and the nature of its contributions since 1961.

This exhibition allows visitors to explore the history of the decorative arts in the nation's foremost home. It includes 95 objects from the White House collection, many of which were made by the most celebrated craftsmen of their time, and some that have never been seen outside of the White House. The exhibition and its related publication include archival prints and photographs of the interiors to help the visitor envision life in the President's official residence.

Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, October 1, 2011–May 6, 2012. Free and open to the public.

Monroe Plateau in the State Dining Room

White House collection 1817 plateau in the State Dining Room.

The White House: An Historic Guide

By William Seale and Betty Monkman

The White House: An Historic Guide, published in 1962, was the first project of the newly chartered White House Historical Association. It was First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy's wish that a book be written describing the contents, architecture and history of the President's House for those visitors touring the house. She felt they should have a memento of the occasion and actually participated in the editing of the manuscript. Now in its 23rd edition with more than 4.5 million copies distributed, this book remains a reference to be read and enjoyed by both children and adults alike. The 50th anniversary edition of the guide provides a new and different way to appreciate the history and beauty of the President’s House whether on tour or sitting at home in your easy chair. A special section about the White House Grounds provides a unique look at the 18 acres, within the iron fence, used and enjoyed by the President and his family.

Guides can be purchased for $15.95.

Lady Bird Johnson presents one-millionth copy of the White House Guidebook

Lady Bird Johnson presents the one-millionth copy of the White House Guidebook June 17, 1964.

An Artist Visits the White House Past

The Paintings of Peter Waddell

This exhibition of 14 paintings depicts the origin and evolution of the President’s House from construction in 1792 to Theodore Roosevelt’s major renovation in 1902. Although recognized around the world, the White House interiors today bear little resemblance to their many 19th-century incarnations. The earliest rooms were rarely documented visually and so are largely unknown today. Short of actually reconstructing the rooms, paintings offer a way to present an authentic visual recreation of the past.

White House Visitor Center, 1450 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20230. On view March 23–December 31, 2011. Open daily 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Free and open to the public.

Can't make it?

Order the exhibition catalog, or explore the online exhibit of An Artist Visits the White House Past to interact with the paintings, listen to the audio tour, and discover the historical resources used to create each scene.

1902 Lafayette Square painting by Peter Waddell

Peter Waddell, Lafayette Square, oil on canvas.

The White House: A History in Photographs

by Vicki Goldberg

This book is about the way 19th and 20th century photography has shown us the American presidency—how the camera has reported on, reflected, and influenced the public's interest in and opinion about the head of state and the seat of government. Several hundred photographs, beginning in the 1840s, trace the changing nature of photographic coverage of the president, his family, his residence and the circumstances of White House life—major events like wars and funerals and less earth-shaking ones like the White House Easter Egg Roll and the White House dog's private Christmas. Photographers (and eventually newsreels and television) recorded pets, servants, recreation, birthdays, historical changes in transportation, communication, and technology, what the public was allowed to see, how the media treated the presidency and pursued it, and how the presidents courted publicity, or sometimes did not. Most of these photographs come from the collection of the White House Historical Association and a good number from the Library of Congress or presidential libraries; the histories these images encapsulate, and many of the images too, belong to the American people.

Available to order in November.

Photographers on the White House South Lawn, 1945

White House photographers on the White House South Lawn, January 20, 1945.