The area is home to one of the strongest collections of visual art in the United States. Most museum websites allow you to browse and/or search the Permanent Collection; to overview current, upcoming, and past Temporary Exhibitions; and to download a range of resource materials for classroom use, many including audio & video podcasts and sometimes even twitters. Many institutions also host lectures, symposia, film series, and concerts; check the individual sites.
Each link opens the museum's website in a new window.
WASHINGTON DC ART MUSEUMS (alphabetical)
American Art Museum (Smithsonian)
American art, and lots of it.
Note: shares a website with the Renwick Gallery.
Corcoran Gallery of Art
Another fine collection of American Art (it's strongest in 19th century works). The gallery also has a smaller selection of European art from the Renaissance to the Present, including a complete 18th-century period room from Paris and medieval stained glass from Soissons.
Dumbarton Oaks Collection
World renowned collection of Byzantine art, and home to a strong collection of Pre-Columbian art. It also houses a smaller collection of European & American art.
Freer Gallery of Art & Arthur M. Sackler Gallery (Smithsonian)
The area's premier collection of Non-Western art, including Egyptian, Ancient Near Eastern, Islamic and Asian art. The galleries also have a smaller collection of medieval manuscripts & American art, including Whistler's Peacock Room.
Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens
"One of the most comprehensive collections of eighteenth and nineteenth-century Russian Imperial art outside of Russia, as well as an extensive collection of eighteenth-century French decorative arts." At least that's their line.
Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden (Smithsonian)
Modern European & American Art, primarily late 19th to 21st century. Don't miss the great, sunken outdoor sculpture garden.
The Kreeger Museum
The David & Carmen Kreeger collection of Modern European & American art from the late 19th to 21st century, plus examples of African & Asian art, all housed in a Philip Johnson house.
The Library of Congress
Conceived as the research arm of Congress, the world's largest library also houses a collection of illuminated manuscripts from the Middle Ages & Renaissance, and printed illustrated books from the fifteenth century to the present in its Rare Book & Special Collections Division. It also has a collection of photographs & prints (woodcuts, engravings, etchings & lithographs) in its Prints & Photographs Reading Room.
National Building Museum
Devoted to architecture & design, and housed in one of the city’s truly awe-inspiring interiors, which is well worth the trip in itself.
National Gallery of Art
One of the world’s premier collections of European Art & American art from the 14th to 20th century; smaller collections of Medieval art, decorative art, and Asian art. The NGA's collections are particularly strong in Italian Renaissance, Dutch & Flemish Baroque, and French Impressionist/Post Impressionist paintings, and that is only the start. This is also one of the best museum websites in the world for on-line educational resources for use in the classroom.
National Museum of African American Art (Smithsonian)
The area's premier collection of African and Afro-American art, soon to move to a new location on the National Mall.
National Museum of the American Indian (Smithsonian)
"One of the most extensive collections of Native American arts and artifacts in the world," or so says the NMAI website.
National Museum of Natural History (Smithsonian)
The Anthropology Department is home to a little known collection of antiquities, from Egyptian sarcophagi to Greek vases. Selections are on display in the Western Cultures section of the museum, with really bad wall labels. Also on display: a cast of Hammurabi's stele, with his code of law in cuneiform (the original is in the Louvre).
National Museum of Women in the Arts
Private vs. Smithsonian, and not yet 30 years old. It still boasts being "the only museum in the world dedicated exclusively to recognizing the contributions of women artists." Lucky for us; sad for the rest of the world.
National Portrait Gallery (Smithsonian)
Just what the title says: portraits, all American all the time. The collection includes "the nation’s only complete collection of presidential portraits outside the White House," including the recently added Shepard Fairey 'Obama Hope' poster.
Duncan Phillips's fine collection of European & American Art, opened to the public in 1921 and America's (the world's?) first museum devoted exclusively to Modern art. Also home to half of Jacob Lawrence's famous "Migration" series.
The Renwick Gallery (Smithsonian)
American crafts, and a beautiful grand salon. You'll think you're in Vienna.
Note: shares a website with the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
The Textile Museum
Founded in 1925, the museum has more than 18,000 objects in its collection, spanning more than 5,000 years.
(More to come.)
BALTIMORE ART MUSEUMS (also alphabetical)
American Visionary Art Museum
"Art produced by self-taught individuals, usually without formal training, whose works arise from an innate personal vision that revels foremost in the creative act itself." I'm not sure how this definition excludes past artists, but it's so close you can go find out.
Baltimore Museum of Art
European and American art; Pre-Columbian & Native American art; African & Asian art. Also home to the Cone Collection, particularly strong in works by Matisse.
The Contemporary Museum
Founded in 1989 on the first "Day Without Art", this museum "explores the art and culture of our time by presenting new art, new ideas and new creative processes."
The Walters Art Museum
In the region, this collection is second only to the NGA, and indeed even stronger in certain areas, particularly pre-Renaissance and non-Western art. The Walters has the best Medieval collection in the area, with many spectacular objects and a particularly strong collection of illuminated manuscripts. Also a fine selection of Egyptian & Mesopotamian art, European & American art, Pre-Columbian art, Asian art, and Islamic art. The closest thing this region has to an encyclopedic art collection. It's website, however, is not as complete as the NGA's.
(More to come.)