Museum Guide

Use this guide to find important information during your visit to the museum.

About the museum and building

View of the museum from outside showing the Neoclassical building from one corner. The building is a tan-colored stone with an arched doorway, long vertical windows, and detailed molding around the roof.
Photo credit: Cameron Robinson


The museum’s founders, Wilhelmina Cole Holladay and Wallace F. Holladay, started collecting art in the 1970s, just as scholars and art historians were beginning to discuss the underrepresentation of art by women and various racial and ethnic groups in museums.

Among the first to apply this approach to collecting, the Holladays committed themselves to assembling art by women. By 1980, Wilhelmina Cole Holladay began to devote her energies and resources to creating a museum that would showcase women artists.

The National Museum of Women in the Arts was incorporated in November 1981 as a private, nonprofit museum.


In 1983, the museum purchased its building at 1250 New York Avenue, NW, a Washington landmark near the White House that was constructed in 1908 as a temple for the Masons, an organization that did not allow women members. In 1987, after extensive renovations, NMWA opened with the inaugural exhibition American Women Artists, 1830–1930, a survey curated by one of the country’s foremost feminist art historians, Dr. Eleanor Tufts.

In 2021, the museum began its first major renovation since opening, which expanded gallery space, created a new Learning Commons, and increased accessibility.

Floor by Floor

A woman is standing in front of a group next to a large painting. She is gesturing with her hands as she talks, engaging the group. She has a medium-light skin tone, long hair, and is wearing a mustard yellow dress.
Member preview day at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, October 20, 2023; Photo by Elyse Cosgrove/Asico Photo

Additional Visitor Information

Plan Your Visit

A modern museum gallery is photographed at a wide angle. It features several inset bays in which art of various sizes and mediums is hung. Visitors walk through the galleries and observe the works.
Find detailed information about hours, admission, how to get to the museum, and things to do.

Tips for Your Visit

A modern museum gallery is photographed at a wide angle. Visitors observe large artworks on the walls.
To help make sure your visit to the museum is a positive experience, we’ve compiled a list of helpful information.


Two people look up at a large peach, tan, and ivory art installation in a gallery. The person with medium skin tone and tattoos on their right arm sits in a wheelchair and wears a red t-shirt, gray pants, gray-and-black striped winter hat, and black face mask. A person with medium skin tone, long curly black hair stands behind, wearing a burnt orange tank top, black jeans, and a black face mask. A large checkered blue artwork unfolds onto the gallery floor behind the pair.
As you plan your visit to NMWA, check out our on-site accessibility offerings.

More Ways to Get Involved