Block by Block on Malcom X Park's namesake
Malcolm X, Unidentified Artist; Printer: Personality Posters, Inc. Halftone poster. 1967. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

Block by Block: Naming Washington 

Your morning commute may feel like a chore—the streets just a means of connecting you from A to B. But Leslie Ureña, the National Portrait Gallery’s curator of photographs, sees things a bit differently. In a press release for the Gallery’s current exhibit, Block by Block: Naming Washington, Ureña says “the naming of streets and places creates a living history, connecting past to present.” This feels especially true in Washington, D.C., where many streets bear the names of historical figures. The goal of the exhibit is to connect these namesake’s with the modern-day locations. For instance, gallery visitors will see Mathew B. Brady’s portrait of Clara Barton alongside information about the Clara Barton Parkway, off which sits the home of the American Red Cross founder. Similarly, a portrait of Malcolm X by an unidentified artist connects with today’s Malcolm X Park. Ureña hopes that this exhibit will inspire D.C. residents to get a new appreciation for their city, and turn daily commutes into a communion with icons of decades and centuries past. All together, it features 16 reproductions of portraits and is housed in the National Portrait Gallery’s Riley Gallery. Other figures represented include astronomer Samuel Pierpont Langley, architect Raoul Wallenberg, and Civil War officer David G. Farragut. Whether you are a history buff or looking to spark your curiosity, this ongoing show promises to deliver. The exhibit runs through Jan. 16, 2023, at the National Portrait Gallery, 8th and G Streets NW. Free.