The best free museums in the United States


Museums are excellent places for anyone with a passing interest in culture and history. Filled to the brim with important cultural artifacts, they’re a testament to human creation. That’s why it’s such an annoyance when you get to a museum and they suddenly ask you to hand over an exorbitant amount of cash. Luckily, there are still a lot of museums out there that keep that ethos and make their exhibits free to anyone who wants to walk in and appreciate them.

Menil Collection

Opening relatively recently in 1987, the Menil art collection has nonetheless come to be regarded as one of the most striking and accomplished collections of art in the United States. The museum was started by John de Menil and Dominique de Menil, a French couple who believed that everybody should have the chance to appreciate various kinds of art. To that end they displayed their collection of over 17000 works, with an expansive and eclectic point of view that moved beyond collecting just one style. The Menil collection consists of three buildings, and regularly rotating exhibitions, to always demonstrate just how vast the scope of art is.

Menil Collection

The Smithsonian

The Smithsonian is more accurately a museum complex, rather than a single museum. It was established at the behest of James Smithson, a british scientist who died in 1933, and bequeathed his estate to the United States. The museum holds a whopping one-hundred-fifty million items, only 1% of which can ever be exhibited at a time, for obvious reasons. The purview of the Smithsonian is as wide as would therefore be expected, with examples of art, industry, pop culture, fashion, important historical memorabilia etc. Just some of the things it displays include; the ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz, the Star Spangled Banner, and Abe Lincoln’s chimney hat.

The Museum at FIT

The Museum at FIT, the Fashion Institute of Technology, is one of the few museums dedicated entirely to clothing and fashion. Located in Manhattan, New York, the museum was established in 1969, and initially loaned exhibits from the Brooklyn Museum of Art. Nowadays however, the museum has its own collection of over fifty-thousand garments. The museum puts on exhibitions and lectures every year exploring different facets of fashion. They’ve covered a wide range including exhibitions of corsets, gothic fashion, and LGBT fashion.

Baltimore Museum of Art

The Baltimore museum of arts had humble beginnings. After a fire damaged part of Baltimore in the early 20th century, an art gallery was to be built in an attempt to revitalise the city. As a result the museum was founded, with just one painting. The BMA has come a long way since, now playing host to over ninety-five-thousand pieces of art – including the largest collection of Henri Matisse paintings in the world, with over 1000. The art covers a wide range of cultures, with pieces from America, africa, asia and europe. Not bad for a one painting museum.

Baltimore Museum of Art

Frye Art Museum

The Frye Art Museum is a personal project if ever there was one. Opened in 1952 in Seattle, Washington, it was built to house their 230 painting art collection after Charles’ death. Originally sticking with his largely conservative taste in art, the museum has in recent years started taking in more daring and outside the box works, and experimenting with how it exhibits its art. As a result, it has come to be known as one of the most exciting galleries in Seattle.

These museums are exemplars of the desire to share art in an effort to connect people. Anyone with an interest in art should swing by and see if they can find the inspiration their founders hoped to provoke.