Maybe it's the setting -- the airy, architecturally stunning Kogod Courtyard -- but the Portrait Gallery's trivia night might be the most refined in town. No elbowing your way to the bar or booing the quizmaster. This feels more like a stress-free, 75-minute history lesson with one welcome addition: wine (or beer or bottled water).
Jessing, the museum's auditorium program coordinator, began hosting about a year ago, and the crowds have followed. The event, which draws 30 to 100 people, typically takes place during the last week of the month. The 20 questions (plus one bonus) are based on different themes (Hollywood history, American authors) and are taken from wall labels or descriptions from the museum's Web site. While queries tend to be longer, they are also projected on a large screen. Each tends to teach a lesson before asking a tangentially related question about, say, the location of the Baseball Hall of Fame (Cooperstown, N.Y.) or the name of Scout's lawyer father in "To Kill a Mockingbird" (Atticus Finch). Given the source of questions, frequent museumgoers are at an advantage, but the idea of the event is also to encourage new visitors.
"It makes people feel comfortable in a museum," Jessing said. "It's not just a place where you have to be quiet and whisper and tiptoe."
Pro tip: Check the National Portrait Gallery's Face to Face blog (www.face2face.si.edu) the day of Pop Quiz to read a bonus question, worth 10 points.
-- Stephanie Merry (March 16, 2012)