Bead Museum and Study Center


Editorial Review

Not just for bauble zealots, this one-room museum dedicated to ornament and beads hosts exhibitions and outreach programs and houses an extensive library. Founded in 1995 by the Bead Society of Greater Washington (BSGW), the Bead Museum moved to its current digs in the downtown gallery district in 1997. At the museum and at sites around the city, the BSGW hosts exhibitions, semi-annual Bead Bazaars, international conferences, and the annual summer Bead Swap.

Regularly scheduled exhibits at the museum situate the tiny treasures in cultural contexts. Past shows have included "Barter and Trade: Beaded Adornments Used as Currency" and "Made in Africa: Beads and Adornments." Many shows include both ancient and contemporary artifacts, some of which are culled from BSGW members' collections. The museum's eager docents -- all volunteers -- will proudly discuss the history of each holding.

The museum's only permanent exhibit is its still-evolving Time Line. Based on the time line published in seminal bead historian Lois Scherr Dubin's "History of Beads," the museum Time Line showcases the beads and artifacts associated with significant eras both ancient and contemporary.

Education forms an important part of the BSGW mission. The bead library includes a 1300-piece reference collection with books, magazines, exhibition catalogs, videos, and slides on bead-related subjects. The BSGW also sponsors an outreach program with DC public school students, where society members use beads for social studies and art lessons. Museum workshops welcome both society members and the curious -- call for a schedule. And for those who'd like a trinket for the road, there's a tiny gift shop offering hand-crafted jewelry by local artisans.

-- Jessica Dawson