ARTS CLUB OF WASHINGTON

The works of past and present members are exhibited in this 1802 house that was the home of James Monroe when he was Secretary of State and War, and of a Weather Bureau founder, Cleveland Abbe. 2017 Eye Street NW. Tuesday 10-5, Wednesday 2-5, Thursday & Friday 10-5, weekends 1-5. Free. 331-7282. BETHUNE MUSEUM & ARCHIVES -- Civil rights leader and educator Mary McLeod Bethune lived and worked here, and the house was the headquarters of the National Council of Negro Women. A charming example of a Logan Circle Victorian townhouse, with notched trim outside, and marble fireplace, crystal chandelier and heavy dark wood doors inside, it provides a backdrop for changing exhibits on black American women. 1318 Vermont Ave. NW. Monday-Friday 10-4:30; Saturdays and Sundays by appointment. $1 donation requested. 332-1233. B'NAI B'RITH KLUTZNICK MUSEUM -- Jewish ceremonial and folk art, representing the life cycle, the Sabbath, the Jewish holiday cycle and synagogue observance. Objects range from kiddush cups to Hanukkah lamps, including the original correspondence between George Washington and the president of the Touro Synagogue in Newport, Conn. Sculpture garden. Visiting shows on Jewish heritage. 1640 Rhode Island Ave. NW. Sunday-Friday, 10-5. Recommended donation, $1 adults, 50 cents children. 857-6583. CAPITAL CHILDREN'S MUSEUM -- It's hands-on to the Nth degree in the "International Hall" (somewhere in Mexico), "Communication" and "Changing Environments." In a Mexican hut, under the supervision of a goat named Rosie, children can make tortillas, Mexican chocolate and paper flowers. There are serapes to try on and adorable necklaces to make from yarn and wax.

In "Communications," on user-friendly terminals, kids can compose their own songs and play them back, learn state capitals and so on. There's a giant walk-through camera, and you can make yourself in your own image by simply walking into the strobe room and standing there til the light goes on. Superimpose yourself.

"Changing Environments" is for children young enough to pretend they're actually driving a Metro bus (part of it anyway). There's also the back of a fire engine to climb on, and a firepole to slide down. An optometrist's office and a mini kitchen to wash dishes in, hah. And uniforms, full size: fireman, janitor, police, military. Small just wouldn't be real. 800 Third St. NE. Open daily 10-5. Admission, $2; 60 and over, $1. 543-8600. CHILDREN'S MUSEUM OF WASHINGTON -- In the last one-room schoolhouse in the city, this is a small, informal community museum full of old-fashioned toys and games, and children's books from all over the world. 4954 MacArthur Blvd. NW. Summer schedule: open 10:30 to 4 Tuesday through Friday, occasionally Sundays; closed on Saturdays. October through March, open on Saturdays. Free. 337-4954. CHRISTIAN HEURICH MANSION -- Once the home of a German brewmaster who produced Senate Beer and Old Georgetown Beer, the mansion shows us life in the Gilded Age. Christian Heurich had the house built in the 1890s, and the interior and furnishings are basically unchanged, from the rathskeller in the basement to the nymphs painted on the ceilings, and everything in between -- including 13 carved wooden fireplaces inset with marble, no two alike.

Tours of the 31-room mansion, headquarters of the Columbia Historical Society, are conducted Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from noon to 4. 1307 New Hampshire Ave. NW. Adults, $2; seniors citizens, $1; students and children, free. 785-2068. CORCORAN GALLERY OF ART -- Founded in 1869, the Corcoran was Washington's first art museum (it occupied the building that is now the Renwick). The Corcoran has been having some lively visiting shows of contemporary art. In the months ahead, more objects from the permanent collection are slated to be exhibited.

The American collection is of special importance: Look for Mary Cassatt's "Susan on a Balcony Holding a Dog"; full-length portraits by John Singer Sargent; Frederic E. Church's "Niagara Falls"; by Thomas Cole, "The Departure" and "The Return"; Samuel F.B. Morse's "The Old House of Representatives"; and, of course, Albert Bierstadt's "Mount Corcoran." 17th and New York avenues NW. Tuesday-Sunday, 10-4:30; Thursday, 10-9. Free. 638-3211. DAR MUSEUM -- Cherished and handed down through generations: Silver spoons made by Paul Revere and a tea chest from the Boston Tea Party. Chinese export porcelain, Wedgwood creamware, Jasperware, Delft. And furniture, silver, glass and needlework. The museum has cut off the collection at 1830, but a few heirlooms from around 1850 have slipped in.

In Memorial Continental Hall, a guide shows 30 period rooms decorated by 30 state chapters -- Chippendale and chandeliers for some, spinning wheels and homemade candles for others. Note New Hampshire's room, which is the children's attic, home to a collection of 19th-century toys and dolls of every stripe. 1776 D Street NW. Monday-Friday, 9-4; Sunday, 1-5. Free. 628-1776. DECATUR HOUSE -- Stephen Decatur, hero of the Barbary Coast and the War of 1812, hired architect Benjamin Latrobe to design this federal-style townhouse on Lafayette Square. Decatur lived here with his wife Susan for 14 months, until he was killed in a duel in March, 1820. The guilty pistols are on display.

Furnished with antiques, the house is federalist style downstairs, as it was restored to Latrobe's original plan by a later occupant, Washington hostess Marie Beale, wife of diplomat Truxton Beale. Upstairs is Victorian, with handsome parquetry floors. 748 Jackson Place NW. Tuesday-Friday 10-2, weekends 12-4. Adults, $2.50; children and 65 and over, $1.25. 673-4030. DIMOCK GALLERY -- shows George Washington University student and faculty art as well as sometimes displaying parts of the 3,500-item permanent collection. Most of it is 19th- and 20th-century American art, but there is also an eponymous collection of things pertaining to George Washington; the U.S. Grant collection of documents, prints and clippings; and pre-Columbian artifacts. George Washington University, lower Lisner Auditorium, 730-21st St. NW. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday 10-5; Thursday 10-7; Saturday noon-5. Closed June 28 through July 18 for building renovation. Free. 676-7091 or 676-8652. See also visiting shows in the Colonnade Gallery in G.W.'s Marvin Center, 800-21st St. NW. Daily 10-7. Free. 676-7469. DIPLOMATIC RECEPTION ROOMS AT THE STATE DEPARTMENT -- Chiefs of state, foreign ministers and tourists bask in the warm glow of 18th-century English cut-glass chandeliers in the Diplomatic Reception Rooms. Tourists are cordially received by appointment only, which appointment should be made from four to six weeks in advance.

This extraordinary collection combines 18th- and 19th-century decorative arts, period furniture and paintings. Rooms are named for early Secretaries of State who became President and for Benjamin Franklin, also known as the father of American diplomacy. Queen Anne, Chippendale, Hepplewhite, Sheraton, all the great early American styles are here, largely gifts from corporations and private citizens. Held Monday-Friday at 9:30, 10:30 and 3, tours last 45 minutes. Call 647-3241 for reservations, which may be made up to three months in advance. Free. 2201 C St. NW. DUMBARTON HOUSE -- Antique-lovers are always searching for a bargain. So here is one for them, a conveniently located house full of exquisite antiques, and the tour is free.

Looking like a displaced Woodlawn, Dumbarton House was built about 1799 -- a plantation house in the city of Georgetown. The National Society of the Colonial Dames of America acquired it for its headquarters in 1928 and restored it to the federal period style.

Here is the place to take your first tentative steps in learning the differences between Hepplewhite and Sheraton furniture design. In every doorway, the Dames have very kindly provided a list of the room's contents, with dates and provenance.

Unusual items are a Persian rug woven with a love poem, a Sheraton reading chair modeled after the spectator chair used at cockfights, an 18th-century French silver "plateau" to reflect candlelight on the dining table. And items associated with somebodies -- Sevres vases from Lafayette, Martha Washington's carriage cloak, writing desk, fan, sewing box, etc., etc., and George's camp tumbler. Just the things you'd expect from Colonial Dames. 2715 Q St. NW. Monday-Saturday 9:30-12:30. Free. 337-2288. DUMBARTON OAKS -- The wing designed for the Robert Woods Bliss collection of pre-Columbian art is a series of acoustically perfect rotundas with a fountain thrashing in their midst. Cool and quiet except for the crunch of rubber-soled shoes on polished wood and marble floors. A word whispered in just the right part of one of these circular pavilions echoes through the chamber. Try it.

Move from the finest gold here to the courtyard where a sixth-century image of the Titan goddess Tethys swims in a mosaic pool, then on to the Byzantine collection -- sumptuous jewelry with religious motif, gold crosses and ecclesiastical silver from the sixth century and carved ivory icons from the 10th.

Outside, the beautiful grounds with their private gardens are not to be missed. 1703 32nd Street NW. Tuesday-Sunday, 2-5. Garden library, many but not all weekends, 2-5. Grounds, daily, 2-6. Grounds admission, $2. 342-3200. FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION -- The 10 most-wanted criminals, a tape recording of a ransom call. What could be more chilling? And all that Crimestoppers Textbook stuff, about bloodtests and analyses of human hair (seen through laboratory windows, of course). Then top it off with a shoot-'em-up at the indoor firing range -- and a peek at J. Edgar Hoover's badge. Tours of the FBI building happen Monday-Friday, 9-4:15, except holidays. E Street between Ninth and 10th streets NW. Free. 324-3447. FEDERAL RESERVE BOARD -- hosts visiting exhibitions of 19th- and 20th-century American art about four times a year. C Street entrance of Eccles Board Building, between 20th and 21st streets NW. Public hours, Tuesday-Friday 11:30-2 or by appointment, 452-3686. Free. FOLGER SHAKESPEARE LIBRARY -- Starting with a $1.25 set of Shakespeare's works he purchased in 1885, Henry Clay Folger amassed the world's largest Shakespeare collection. At the Folger Library, the Great Hall, with its rows of heraldic flags, attempts valiantly to display selections from it. A First Folio is always there in an exhibit case, open to the famous engraving of the Bard. (The Great Hall will be closed for renovations this July through September.)

At the east end of the building is the Theater which successfully suggests an Elizabethan innyard theater. Note, too, the building's exterior -- the bas reliefs depicting scenes from Shakespeare, and the statue of Puck, delivering his famous line, "Lord, what fools these mortals be!" 201 East Capitol St. Monday-Saturday, 10-4. Daily, April 15-Labor Day. Free. 544-4600. FONDA DEL SOL VISUAL ARTS & MEDIA CENTER -- Besides hosting visiting contemporary art shows, the center periodically brings out some of its permanent collection of pre-Columbian art and folk art such as santos (carved wooden saints). 2112 R St. NW. Tuesday-Saturday 12:30-5:30. Free. 483-2777. FORD'S THEATER -- The Presidential box is furnished the way it was the night of April 14, 1865, when Lincoln was shot. Visitors can look in, except during a matinee or a rehearsal when the box is off-limits.

In the basement, the Lincoln Museum displays memorabilia from his boyhood through the presidential years, including the clothes he was wearing the night of the assassination. Across the street at Petersen house (516 10th St. NW), better known as HWLD, or the House Where Lincoln Died, the first floor is decorated much the way it was that fateful night. 511 10th St. NW. Daily 9-5, closed Christmas. Free. 426-6924. FREDERICK DOUGLASS HOME -- The way the light filters through the curtains, the solitude of the hilltop, the ancient magnolia, all give a Victorian aura to Cedar Hill. This was the last home of Frederick Douglass, former slave, a self-educated man and eloquent abolitionist.

His second wife, Helen Pitts Douglass, strove to keep the house intact as a memorial to him. So these are not just the sorts of things one would find in such a house, but his library as it was, with family photos and favorite books like "Les Trois Mousequetaires." His top hat, four of his walking sticks, his violin, his checkerboard and his barbells -- yes, he was a fitness buff. 1411 W St. SE. Daily, 9-4. Summer hours, 9-5. Free. 426-5960. GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY -- A Victorian parlor has of late been turned into a little museum here, on the first floor of the Healy Building. When the university was started in 1789, a collection of old masters, including van Dyke, came with it.

Also on display are Emmanuel Leutze's self-portrait and work by Jasper Cropsey and James Alexander Simpson, Georgetown's first art professor. Cases contain Victorian fans, dolls and historic objects. 37th and O streets NW. Hours during school year: Monday and Wednesday, noon-2. Free. 625-4605. HILLWOOD -- At the home of the late Marjorie Merriweather Post, visitors drool over her Russian chalices, icons, imperial porcelain and Faberge', and her collection of French decorative arts. But it's the intimate details they want most, and before they finish the tour they have wrested from the guide the fact of Post's four husbands and that she could've bought and sold most of them.

Though her 50 pairs of dancing shoes have been overtaken by events, her Russian collection has not. It's considered not only the biggest but the most comprehensive outside the Soviet Union. A house museum where little is labeled, it has been kept much the same as it was when "Mrs. Post" (her father was cereal magnate C.W. Post) lived there. The house has the wistful, yearning quality of a Romeo without a Juliet -- a lost Eden.

Tours of the grounds may be taken separately, and are best done on a fine day in late April or early May, when the azaleas are blooming. Minimum age is 12. 4155 Linnean Ave. NW. Four house tours daily, except Sunday and Tuesday, $7, by appointment only: 686-5807. Gardens only, 11-4, $2, no reservations necessary. Cafe, reservations suggested, 686-8893. HOWARD UNIVERSITY MUSEUM -- In the Spingarn Research Center, which focuses on the black experience, the collection runs from civil rights documents to African artifacts, rare books and 16th-century maps of Africa, to a papier-mache automaton made in France in 1880, a black windup toy that plays the harp.

Notable is a collection of African gold weights, part of the Ashanti culture, carved as people, acorns and turtles, and used as counterbalances in weighing gold dust. Traveling exhibits alternate with the permanent collection. Founders Library Building, 500 Howard Place NW. Monday-Friday 9:30-4:30. Free. 636-6108. LIBRARY OF CONGRESS -- Some of the 20 million books, millions of photos and maps, and thousands of posters have as much aesthetic interest as scholarly value. So the Library of Congress has four major exhibit areas: In the Jefferson Building, the ground floor gallery (White House Press Photographers or other photo exhibits or posters have been here) and the Great Hall (recent shows on Dickens and Cervantes come to mind); in the Madison Building, the Madison Gallery (beautiful shows of the best of the maps and posters have been mounted here), and the Swann Gallery (6th floor -- caricatures and cartoons).

Evanescent smaller exhibits may also appear in the various reading rooms, such as rare books, or outside the Pickford Theater. Jefferson Building, First Street and Independence Avenue SE. Madison Building, 101 Independence Avenue SE. Monday-Friday, 8:30-9:30; Saturday 8:30-6. Free. 287-5108. When at the Kennedy Center, see also the changing exhibits at the Library of Congress Performing Arts Library on the roof terrace. LIBRARY OF THE SUPREME COUNCIL -- In case you were wondering, this temple on 16th Street is modeled after one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World -- the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, an ancient city in Asia Minor across from Rhodes.

Designed by John Russell Pope and finished in 1915, the building is the headquarters of the mother church of the Scottish rite of Freemasonry. Past its pillars and within its ponderous doors, echo marble halls and chambers decorated with gold leaf over oak beams. Brass lamps gleam with the image of the Greek god Hermes, and tinted windows, heavy with ritual decoration, let in a parchment-colored light.

In the library is a collection of museum pieces, Masonically inclined: a life mask of Lincoln, handmade flags that Buzz Aldrin took to the moon, Masonic rings and badges. And portraits of famous Masons: "There's a good Mason," the guide loves to say, pointing to a picture of President Truman, Teddy Roosevelt, the last king of Hawaii or Paul Revere. 1733 16th NW. Weekdays 8-4, last tour at 3. Free. 232-3579. MERIDIAN HOUSE -- Art exhibits with an international flair visit here. This is a cultural exchange center, providing a sort of welcome mat for international visitors. The mansion is a lovely example of 18th-century French urban architecture -- designed by John Russell Pope, built in 1920 for the late Irwin Laughlin, an American diplomat. Look for over-door paintings and antique French furnishings. 1630 Crescent Pl. NW. Monday-Friday 8:30-4:30. Free. 667-6800. MUSEUM OF MODERN ART OF LATIN AMERICA -- Behind the Organization of American States, the hacienda where this museum dwells was built by Andrew Carnegie in 1912. Blue tile and a terra cotta fresco adorn the rear portico which overlooks the lily pond in the Aztec Garden. A statue of Xochipilli, the "flower prince," presides there.

The art here is diverse, collected from different Latin American countries, cultures and traditions; works from the largely contemporary collection are rotated every six months. 201-18th Street NW. Tuesday-Saturday 10-5. Free. 789-6019. NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES -- periodically houses the work of visiting artists in its halls, particularly if the art has to do with science. 2101 Constitution Ave. NW. Monday-Friday 9-5. Free. 334-2436. NATIONAL ARCHIVES -- The keeper of the federal record trots out some of its more unusual holdings in the Circular Gallery -- from pre-World War I posters to Elvis' letter to Nixon. With these shows, the Archives holds up a mirror for us. It also permanently displays the Biggies, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and supporting 18th-century documents. Eighth Street and Constitution Avenue NW. April 1-Labor Day, daily 10-9; otherwise, daily 10-5:30. Free. Call 756-6498 for information on the playing of the Watergate tapes. 523-3000. NATIONAL BUILDING MUSEUM -- Has been better known as the Pension Building and as Meigs' Red Barn. The Great Hall, the size of a football field with eight faux marble Corinthian columns for goalposts and an erupting fountain, make this 1880s building a winner for visiting shows on architecture. It's also a monument to the architect, Gen. Montgomery C. Meigs, who based his plan on Italian Renaissance palaces. The building has largely been returned to the way he wanted it, including the sky blue ceiling way up there. Temporary shows highlight aspects of American architecture, from wrought-iron working to dam building.

On F Street NW between Fourth and Fifth (Judiciary Square Metro stop). Monday-Friday 10-4; Saturday-Sunday noon-4. Walk-in tours, Tuesdays at 11, Thursdays at 12:15 and Saturdays at 1. Free. 272-2448. NATIONAL GALLERY EAST & WEST -- One of the world's finest collections of European and American art from the 13th century to the present. Here are some of the most popular sights: Leonardo da Vinci's "Genevra d'Benci." El Greco's "Laocoon." Vermeer's "Woman Weighing Gold." Raphael's "Alba Madonna." Jacques-Louis David's "Napoleon in his Study." Rembrandt's "Self-Portrait." Fragonard's "A Young Girl Reading." Renoir's "Girl With a Watering Can." Copley's "Watson and the Shark." Homer's "Breezing Up." Whistler's "The White Girl." Picasso's "Family of Saltimbanques." And the Calder mobile that dominates the atrium of the East Building.

For information on gallery film series, concerts and lectures, write to ask to be put on the mailing list for the calendar of events: Information Office, National Gallery of Art, Washington 20560.

West Building, Constitution Avenue at Sixth Street NW. East Building, Fourth Street between Constitution Avenue and Madison Drive. Monday-Saturday 10-5, Sunday noon-9. Free. 737-4215. NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC SOCIETY -- Notes from all over in the Explorers Hall: On tape, Dr. Mary Leakey describes her discoveries. Nearby stands (or so it appears) "Lucy," the diminutive Australopithecus Afarensis, three million if she's a day. Jaw fragments, even older.

In the shadow of a giant globe, a cave painter paints his cave, and cliff dwellers dwell in their kiwa. Here's Robert E. Peary's dogsled, next to the living Henry, resident macaw, complacent in the window; just down from a working stroboscope. Visiting shows are just as eclectic, often with child-appealing themes. 17th and M streets NW. Monday-Saturday, 9-5; Sunday, 10-5. Free. 857-7588. NATIONAL MUSEUM OF WOMEN IN THE ARTS -- Works by women from the Renaissance's Lavinia Fontana to Impressionism's Mary Cassatt to modernism's Helen Frankenthaler and Georgia O'Keeffe as well as unsung artists, from 19 countries in all, make up the permanent collection. This is temporarily on view in a private home in Georgetown and is slated to move to new quarters, 13th and New York Avenue NW, in 1987.

Tours of the collection are held on Thursdays from September through May, by appointment only, and cost $5 a person. For reservations, call the museum's headquarters, 4590 MacArthur Blvd. NW. 337-2615. NATIONAL SOCIETY OF THE CHILDREN OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION -- Though not a children's museum, the CAR museum does attempt to go down to tot level, with low exhibit cases, small fingerprints on the glass being the only problem. The requirements for joining the CAR are the same as for the Daughters who founded them in 1895. But although its headquarters are in the same building as the DAR's, it is a separate corporation.

The museum is certainly smaller, but no less authentic -- going back to the 17th century and up to about 1850 -- including fracturs (hand-decorated family documents and penmanship practice, including some rare ones from the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia), cut glass, maps, silver and porcelain. 1776 D Street NW. Weekdays 8:30-4. Free. 638-3153. NAVAL OBSERVATORY -- Are the stars out tonight? Is it Monday? If the answer is yes to both, then the Naval Observatory will be showing visitors the celestial sights through its telescopes. There are also old telescopes and heliostats to look at in the museum, and clocks to synchronize your watch with. On Monday nights at 8:30 DST (7:30 EST), tour passes are handed out at the Observatory gate on a first-come, first-served basis to the first 140 people. No parking on grounds except for handicapped parking. 34th Street and Massachusetts Avenue NW. Free. 653-1543.OCTAGON -- Built in 1800 by Col. John Tayloe, the Octagon was occupied by President Madison and Dolley after the burning of the White House. After six months they moved because, it's said, Dolley thought the basement too damp.

As its name would suggest, the geometrics of this house are fascinating -- curved doors in the circular hallway lead to the servants' quarters and triangular staircases. The central vertiginous oval staircase seems to go to infinity.

Antiques appropriate to the day furnish the Octagon -- of special note is the table where Madison signed the Treaty of Ghent ending the War of 1812. Galleries on the second floor feature changing shows on architecture and the decorative arts. The museum is run by the American Institute of Architects Foundation -- which, by the way, also hosts visiting shows in the AIA's modern office building, 1735 New York Ave. NW, directly behind The Octagon. 1799 New York Ave. NW. Tuesday-Friday 10-4; Saturday-Sunday 1-4. Tours on an ad hoc basis. Donation, $2; students, $1. 638-3105. OLD EXECUTIVE OFFICE BUILDING -- The gingerbread house on Pennsylvania Avenue is open for tours. With restoration well under way, the Old Executive Office Building is looking like an elegant mansion inside these days. Two magnificent skylighted domes are now painted much as they were in the last century -- except nowadays bronze powder replaces gold leaf, in the interest of economy.

Completed in 1888, the old EOB was designed to hold the departments of War, Navy and State. The doorknobs tell as much, decorated with crossed swords and shield, anchor, and eagle, respectively. Visitors tend to walk with their heads down, looking for fossils in the marble floors (chambered nautilus is easy to spot).

While the libraries are splendid symphonies in wrought iron, a favorite spot is the East Rotunda, where designer Richard von Ezdorf let himself go -- an oval skylight in blue, white and salmon colored glass, supported by sirens in the corners.

Tours are held from Saturdays 9 to noon. Book the hour-long tour at least three weeks in advance. When doing so, have your Social Security number and birthdate ready and be prepared to reveal them or you can't have a tour. Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street NW. Tour office is reachable Monday-Friday 9-noon: 395-5895. Free. OLD STONE HOUSE -- The oldest existing house in Washington, the 1765 Laymen-Chew house is the daytime home of Park Ranger Rae Koch, who has worked here for 21 years. "George Washington was never in this house," she avers. She has seen a few movie stars, though ("I got so tongue-tied when Alan Alda came"), and other presidents ("President Ford used to wave, the limo beeped the horn when it was passing").

Inside there is always a fire going -- and sometimes there are spinning and cooking demonstrations. Outside something is usually blooming in the colonial garden, an oasis on a busy thoroughfare in Georgetown. 3051 M Street NW. Wednesday-Sunday 9:30-5. Free. 426-6851. PEIRCE MILL -- Flour milling began here about 1820, the first millwright being Isaac Peirce of Pennsylvania. Milling operations along Rock Creek ended there in 1897, but started up again in the 1970s, this time for purely recreational purposes. Grinding demonstrations take place Saturdays and Sundays at 1, if there's a big enough crowd. Mill hours: Wednesday-Sunday 8-4:30. 5000 Glover Road NW. Free. 426-6832. PHILLIPS COLLECTION -- Developed by the late Duncan and Marjorie Phillips, the collection of American modernists, including Dove, Marin, O'Keeffe, Demuth and Hartley, is one of the best in the country. "An air of comfort, ease and domesticity" was what Duncan Phillips sought and achieved in his gallery, with its wood-paneled music room and double Victorian parlors.

See: Renoir, "The Luncheon of the Boating Party"; Klee, "Arab Song"; Eakins, "Miss Van Buren"; Daumier, "The Uprising"; Bonnard, "The Palm" and "The Open Window." 1600 21st St. NW. Tuesday-Saturday 10-5, Sunday 2-7. Closed Monday. $2 donation suggested. 387-2151. POTATO MUSEUM -- Okay, so maybe we haven't been thinking a lot about potatoes lately. E. Thomas Hughes wants to change that with his family-owned museum in a Capitol Hill townhouse. You recognize it by the spuds growing on the front stoop, and the large baked potato on the breakfront of his dining room. You will be reminded of the happy hours you spent fooling with good ol' Mr. Potato Head -- until consumer advocates said the pieces were too small for your own good.

Here are bygone harvesting implements, peelers, mashers, an operating potato clock (don't ask) and a little pistol that shoots morsels of potatoes (want a shot?). Potatoes, after all, made the first color photographs possible, with the autochrome. And they changed Irish history.

"The museum world is full of museums devoted to war and destruction," says founder Hughes. "We are attempting to have an alternative to that, to develop a museum concerned with life and a life-supporting plant." We'll never look a potato in the eye the same way again. 704 N. Carolina Ave. SE. Donation, $2.50. Weekends, by appointment only. 544-1558. SEWALL-BELMONT HOUSE -- A museum devoted to memorabilia on suffrage and equal rights. Alice Paul lived here for a time, and from here lobbied Congress for the Equal Rights Amendment. Here are Susan B. Anthony's desk, Elizabeth Cady Stanton's chair, Clara Barton's tea set and a banner carried in the suffrage parade. 144 Constitution Ave. NE. Tuesday-Friday, 10-3; weekends, noon-4. Free. 546-3989. LILLIAN & ALBERT SMALL JEWISH MUSEUM -- is housed in the first building constructed as a synagogue in Washington. It was built in 1876 by the second Jewish congregation in Washington, Adas Israel, which in 1869 broke away from the first congregation, Washington Hebrew, established in 1852.

In addition to changing exhibits on Jewish life, there is a small permanent exhibit related to the building, and how it was moved from its original site three blocks away in 1969. Now at Third and G streets NW. Open Sundays only 11-3. Closed in August. Free. 789-0900 or 881-0100. SUPREME COURT -- On the ground floor, in the Lower Great Hall, an exhibit on the construction of the building (1931-35) and in the reception area, an exhibit on William Howard Taft. And there are changing exhibits periodically on -- what would you call it -- justiciana? One First St. NE. Weekdays 9-4:30. Free. 479-3298. TEXTILE MUSEUM -- In their tightly woven grasp, the fine and sometimes faded carpets and cloth here hold the secrets of the family or royal court that possessed them. They may explain -- through symbols, intricate weaves and designs -- the societies that made them, wore them, or performed rituals with them.

It was this fabric of fascination that sewed it up for museum founder George Hewitt Myers when he bought his first carpet in 1890, for his Yale dormitory wall. The collection specializes in pre-Columbian, Egyptian and Islamic textiles and Oriental carpets, with samples from India and Indonesia, the American Southwest and Japan. 2320 S St. NW. Suggested admission: adults, $2; children 50 cents. Tuesday-Saturday 10-5; Sunday 1-5. 667-0441. U.S. CAPITOL -- Let's clear up one thing at the outset. The statue on the Capitol dome, "Freedom," by Thomas Crawford, is not an Indian. Nor is it Ben Franklin. It is a 19 1/2-foot-tall woman, now 123 years old. For those without binoculars, we note that she holds a sheathed sword and U.S. shield, and a laurel wreath, and that her helmet sports stars and eagle feathers.

Downstairs, inside the Capitol, tours are held daily from 9 to 3:45. If you can schedule a tour through a member of Congress, you won't have to stand in line in the Rotunda; those VIP tours are between 8 and 9 a.m.

In the Rotunda, note the fresco "The Apotheosis of Washington," and the frieze with 19 scenes from American history, from Columbus' landing to the Wright Brothers' taking off. And by John Trumbull, who served under Washington, four large paintings on the American Revolution; his "Declaration of Independence" being the most famous. And in Statuary Hall, some 94 statues, two for each state but six. (If you're with us on the math here, six states have only one.) In the Crypt area under the Rotunda, there are semi-permanent exhibits pertaining to the art, architecture and mores of the Capitol. Guide office: 225-6827. Free. U.S. DEPT. OF INTERIOR MUSEUM -- Something endearing here, in the quaint 1930s dioramas romanticizing Hoover Dam and Juneau, Alaska, and in the endangered species booty confiscated by U.S. Customs agents and Fish & Wildlife inspectors. After seeing one on a visit here, you will surely check the reptilian handbag on the arm of the woman next to you in the Metro -- for the telltale single hair follicle in each scale that means: Crocodile. You also will be versed in leopard skin coats, African elephant foot-stools and canned whale meat.

Under a birchbark canoe and buffalo and moose heads, Indian arts and crafts are displayed by tribe in the more aesthetic part of the museum. C Street between 18th and 19th streets NW. Monday-Friday 8-4. Free. 343-2743. WASHINGTON DOLLS' HOUSE & TOY MUSEUM -- is also a museum of nostalgia. You never know when you're going to run into an old doll. The two-story house is also brimming over with antique toys and dollhouses, such as a block of Baltimore row houses or a 1903 Jersey shore hotel. 5236-44th Street NW. Tuesday-Saturday 10-5; Sunday noon-5. Adults, $2; children under 14, $1. 244-0024. WASHINGTON CATHEDRAL -- When completed, it will be the sixth largest cathedral in the world. Done in 14th-century Gothic architecture, it is itself a work of art -- with flying buttresses, intricate wrought ironwork, carved statuary and gargoyles. The sublime West Rose Window, over 25 feet in diameter, is best seen while it is being blessed by the setting sun.

Usually the last Saturday in September the Cathedral holds open house, the one day in the year thou art permitted to climb the bell tower. See also: Tomb of Woodrow Wilson, Herb Cottage and Brass Rubbing Center. Wisconsin and Massachusetts avenues NW. Daily 10-4:30. May 26-Sept. 1, weekdays 10-7:30; weekends 10-4:30. Tours: 10 to 3:15 daily except Sunday when tours are held at 12:30 and 2. Free. 537-6200. WATKINS GALLERY -- occasionally displays works from American University's permanent collection of 19th- and 20th-century American art -- paintings, prints and drawings. Changing temporary exhibits range from student work to visiting group shows. In the Watkins Art Building, The American University, Massachusetts and Nebraska avenues NW. Weekdays 10-4; June and July, weekdays 10-noon, 1-4; September-December 15, also open Saturdays 1-4. Free. 885-1670. WHITE HOUSE -- Your basic historic building. The Blue Room is a big favorite, often used by Presidents as a place to receive guests and, once, to tie the knot, when Grover Cleveland married Miss Frances Folsom.

An elliptical-shaped room, it's furnished to represent the time of James Monroe, who bought some of the chairs, the Hannibal clock and a pair of French porcelain vases, after the fire in 1814. Tours of the White House are conducted Tuesday-Saturday 10-noon. No tickets, but most people in line before noon get a tour. The line forms at the Visitors' Entrance on East Executive Avenue across from the Treasury Department. 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Free. 456-7041. WOODROW WILSON HOUSE -- In the 1920s, this was President Wilson's retirement home. He chose Washington for the Library of Congress -- and probably for the prospect of motor rides through Rock Creek Park. He chose this house because he couldn't afford to build his dreamhouse. The house today holds a wealth of Wilson memorabilia, authentic down to the cookie cutters. 2340 S St. NW. March-December, Tuesday-Sunday 10-4; February, weekends 10-4; closed January. Admission $3.50 for adults, $2 for 65 and over and students. 673-4034.