There may be no such thing as a free lunch, but if you play your cards right, you could get free admission to one of your favorite museums on September 22, 2018 — on The Smithsonian’s 14th annual Museum Day. This nationwide event allows participating museums to emulate the spirit of the Smithsonian Institution’s Washington, D.C.-based facilities, and give free admission to their patrons.
For a list of participating museums, go to https://www.smithsonianmag.com/museumday/museum-day-2018. After you choose a museum, just print out your free tickets and prepare to enjoy a day of culture on the house. It’s that easy. And there’s a wide range of museums that are participating — most of which boast excellent access. Here are a few of my favorites.
Millicent Rogers Museum – Taos, NM
Housed in a 1940s adobe which was once a private residence, this museum features an impressive collection of Native American jewelry, textiles and pottery. There is level access to most of the galleries, with wide doorways and ample room to wheel around. The only exception is the Hispanic furniture gallery, which can only be accessed by descending six steps. Still, you can get a pretty good view of it from the landing. There is also one step up into the adjacent religious icon gallery. Don’t miss Millicent’s personal collection of turquoise and silver jewelry — it’s absolutely stunning.
Museum of Appalachia – Clinton, TN
Known as the most authentic and complete replica of Appalachian pioneer life in the world, this living history museum spans 65 acres. There’s level access to the Appalachian Hall of Fame which is filled with historic photos and artifacts, and a large collection of Cherokee baskets, pottery and arrowheads. “What better way to know a people than to study the everyday objects they made with their own hands?”, reads the sign above the exhibit. Outside there is level access to an old jail cell and the adjacent barn room, which is filled with old farming implements. The rest of the complex is dotted with old farm houses and cottages, with costumed docents on hand to demonstrate crafts and old time daily living skills. Many of the paths are level and topped with decomposed gravel, so they’re easily accessible. And don’t forget to stop by the restaurant, which is located next to the gift shop, for a spot of lunch before you depart.
Pony Express National Museum – St. Joseph, MO
Located in the former Pony Express stables, this fascinating museum traces the history of the Pony Express, and offers some insight to the challenges faced by the brave riders. Access is good throughout the single-story museum, and the cement floor makes for easy rolling. A wheelchair is available for loan at the front desk, and there’s also an accessible restroom in the lobby. Highlights include the stables and tack room, where there’s a large collection of saddles, harnesses and blacksmith tools; and a 60-foot diorama that illustrates the geographic features and extreme weather the riders faced along the route. There’s also a replica of a relay station, where riders reportedly had two minutes to get a drink of water, go to the bathroom and change horses. Top it off with the bios of the early riders, and an exhibit about the completion of the transcontinental telegraph, and you have a comprehensive history of this fledgling mail service that only lasted 18 months.
And if you don’t fancy one of these museums, then check out https://www.smithsonianmag.com/museumday/museum-day-2018 for more choices. Even if you aren’t on a trip, there may be a participating museum near your home, and the free admission makes for a very affordable day excursion.