Current Exhibitions


Did you know that in the year 1800, the average American over the age of fifteen consumed thirty-two gallons of hard cider and beer, seven gallons of distilled spirits, and one gallon of wine? 

Pick Your Poison explores the history of drinking the Federal Period. With sections on wine, beer, cider, tea, chocolate, punch, and hard liquor, you will learn about the full spectrum of drinks in the capitol city 200 years ago! Pick Your Poison will be open from February until July. 

You can read the exhibition panels here: Pick Your Poison text panels.


The disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) are essential to further how we understand, preserve and interpret historic houses and the collections contained within. Conservators, curators, fine art movers, artists and a variety of museum staff use systems and methods developed through the STEM disciplines to support and enhance their work.

Through this exhibit you will discover how STEM is involved in examining historic building plans, producing historic wallpaper, conducing microscopic paint analysis and painting restoration, aiding in frame construction and crate manufacturing, facilitating X-ray fluorescence and developing 3-D scanning, casting and printing methods.

Never before have museum professionals had access to such a wide array of technological innovations to assist with historic preservation, conservation and interpretation!

We encourage you to think about how STEM disciplines strengthen museum experiences. Archaeological remains are often only uncovered thanks to STEM technologies. Virtual reality experiences and mobile apps are increasingly being used by museums to allow visitors to more fully engage with their surroundings.

The combination of traditional historical research methods and STEM developments is the clear path towards more deeply understanding our past. 


An exciting exhibition series, The Exchange, is designed to present two items from history in a way that engages visitors and helps them reflect on issues over time.

The Exchange 2019|4, the eighth in the series, examines the role that women have played in education through history as both teachers and students – from organizing the very first formalized classrooms, known as Dame Schools, to spearheading advancements in education in the late 18th and 19th centuries. It highlights Josepha Nourse, the daughter of the man who lived here from 1804-1813. 

The exhibit will be on display until March 29th, 2020.

Come to Dumbarton House to learn about preservation in all its forms.


History’s Keepers:
The Legacy of the NSCDA

Since 1891, The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America (NSCDA) has worked to inspire a spirit of patriotism and a genuine love of country by creating widespread interest in the stories of our nation’s founding and development. The legacy of the NSCDA is continued in the work of its 15,000+ members, placing it among the national leaders in preservation of historic sites, buildings, gardens, art, and artifacts.

One hundred and twenty-five years ago, a group of about thirty men and women gathered in Philadelphia to consider forming a women’s organization dedicated to honoring the colonial history of the United States. Fifteen years earlier, the Centennial Exposition of 1876 revived popular interest in our nation’s earliest period. Architect Robert S. Peabody wrote at the time, “With our Centennial year have we not discovered that we too have a past worthy of study?”

Those gathered in Philadelphia agreed that our past was indeed worth studying, and the women in attendance formed the PA Society, the first Corporate Society of what would become the NSCDA, on April 8, 1891. Within three years, all thirteen of the original states and the District of Columbia had joined the NSCDA. By 1896, the NSCDA adopted a structure that would allow non-colonial states to join. Today, Corporate Societies in 43 states and D.C., made up of 15,000+ women descended from leaders in colonial America, work together Entrusted with History’s Future.

Click here to learn more through an interactive timeline!


Past Exhibitions


Women of Vision









100 Dollars Reward



From East to West Exhibition Catalog

Instruction with Amusement-Children at DH Exhibition Catalog