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Mid-Century Modern Design in Pennsylvania

In-Person Program

All-Day Tour

Friday, May 3, 2024 - 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. ET
Code: 1CD032
Departs Mayflower Hotel, DeSales St side
1127 Connecticut Ave NW
Fringe: I-495, Exit 27 Carpool lot
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”Conoid Chair” by George Nakashima, 1988 (Photo: jimcchou)

From the period after World War II through the late 1960s, the Mid-century Modern design movement swept through the United States and Europe, emphasizing functionality, clean lines, and simplicity. Design historian Elizabeth Lay Little leads a tour to eastern Pennsylvania that explores how the movement took root in the region.

Begin the day with a private tour of the George Nakashima House, Studio, and Workshop in New Hope, Pennsylvania. Nakashima (1905-1990), a preeminent furniture designer-craftsman of the American studio craft movement of the mid-20th century, embraced American and International Modern styles while infusing his pieces with Japanese designs. A guided tour of the complex visits structures built by Nakashima using traditional Japanese building principles, including incorporating indigenous materials and demonstrating respect for the natural landscape, while experimenting with innovations.

During the afternoon, visit Rago Auctions in Lambertville, New Jersey, one of the country's principal specialty auction houses, founded by David Rago, a leading dealer in the field of American arts and crafts. Meet with staff members, who talk about notable modern pieces and show some examples before they go to auction.

Conclude with a tour of the Michener Art Museum that focuses on the permanent collection, which showcases the strong Arts and Crafts and modern studio furniture traditions of southeastern Pennsylvania. Visit exhibitions on the studio craft movement and the Nakashima Reading Room, a traditional Japanese-style room that includes several classic pieces of furniture in the Nakashima tradition.

World Art History Certificate elective: Earn 1/2 credit*

Know Before You Go

  • The tour departs by motorcoach from downtown Washington, DC with a designated secondary pick-up outside the city. Content delivered by the study leader on the way to the destination, after the secondary pick-up, is an integral part of the study tour experience. Meeting the group once the tour is en route is discouraged.
  • Tour participants meet at and leave by bus from the Mayflower Hotel, Connecticut Ave. & DeSales St. (DeSales Street side), with a stop at the I-495, Exit 27, carpool lot at 7:25 a.m.
  • The tour involves walking and a significant amount of standing.
  • Lunch is provided.

General Information

  • Registration for this tour will end by 2 p.m. ET on Thursday, May 2, 2024.
  • Smithsonian Associates is a mask-friendly environment. Please feel free to bring and wear a mask at any time during a tour, both for your safety or the safety of others.
  • For additional tour information:

*Enrolled participants in the World Art History Certificate Program receive 1/2 elective credit. Not yet enrolled? Learn about the program, its benefits, and how to register here.