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Spending Twenty Minutes at the National Portrait Gallery

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D.C. is filled with architecturally interesting public spaces. To get an idea of how people are using these spaces, Curbed writers are spending twenty minutes in a given location and taking note. Want to nominate a place for this series? Hit up our tipline. Here's what happened between 3:55-4:15 p.m. today at the National Portrait Gallery. For reference, we spent lots of time walking around the exterior. Let us know in the comments if we should spend more time inside for a future post.

3:55 p.m. — The 7th street facade is not an entrance even though it's the side of the building closest to one of the three Chinatown metro exits. Across the street at the metro exit, a man has plugged his guitar into an amp. He has a duffel bag and a hand truck set up next to him and he and wails on guitar. A Verizon Center employee circles him on the phone.
3:57 p.m. — Feel the sudden urge to take a photo of the Daguerre Monument outside. The significance is not lost of taking a photo of the monument dedicated to the father of modern photography.

3:58 p.m. — Sometimes during the day there are several people on the stairs facing 7th Street. Today, just one guy on a phone. Should have come closer to 6 p.m.
4:01 p.m. — There's slightly more activity on the G Street side. That's to say, there are two people on phones, one eating a bag chips and one smoking. 4:02 — Three teenagers head in. One has a skateboard in his arm and a DSLR camera around his neck. Consider asking him about the camera since he's likely a student of some sort, but the only audible words he says to his friend are "Hashtag stupid!" (or #stupid). Perhaps it's better that he just went on in.
4:04 p.m. — There's a plaque on the front indicating that this used to be the Patent Office and that it's a national landmark.
4:05 p.m. — From G Street, it looked like the crane on the corner might be working on the Portrait Gallery roof. From the corner of G and 9th Street it's possible to see that there's an upcoming project across 9th Street called 900G. From the looks of the renderings on the fence next to the very loud cement truck, it'll be an office building with, shocker, a gym.

4:07 p.m. — Look up in time to see a young teen girl fall on her rear end. She's alone. Time to actually head inside.
4:09 p.m. — This marble entrance is awfully impressive up close.


4:10 p.m. — There's an information desk in the center of the welcome area and the floors are marble, too. That is actually more annoying than impressive because after walking for too long on marble floors, the back ache sets in. Thankfully, this is not a two to three hour trip. A guard points out the elevator down the hall and then goes into a podium and rustles through a plastic bag for a snack.
4:11 p.m. — A man walks into the bathroom and immediately back out. He then walks briefly down the hallway to the left going into the Portrait Gallery (the hallway to the right leads to the American Art Gallery) and he's back thirty seconds later. He's wearing a gray sweatshirt, a faded denim jacket, frayed pants and his hair is unkempt. Perhaps he's homeless?
4:12 p.m. — The lighting down the hallway is extremely low. That doesn't dim the wow factor of the two portraits on the right wall of baseball great Hank Aaron and actor Morgan Freeman. They look like blown up photographs, but the descriptions show them to be oil paintings on canvas. Even after reading that, the Hank Aaron portrait still looks like a photograph.
4:13 p.m. — Next to those photos has to be the most uninviting, aluminum cafeteria in the city. It's tucked in the wall like a secret.
4:15 p.m. — The Yousuf Karsh exhibit has much smaller photos. His subjects such as Katharine Graham and Cesar Chavez greet you but only when you move up close.