Pre-Columbian Society of Washington DC

The Pre-Columbian Society of Washington, D.C. (PCSWDC), is an educational organization dedicated to furthering knowledge and understanding of the peoples of the Americas before the time of Columbus. Founded in 1993, the Society provides a forum for the exchange of information regarding these pre-Columbian cultures between academic professionals and interested members of the public.

Membership Benefits


  • Monthly Illustrated Lectures--Talks by experts in the field of pre-Columbian studies are presented once a month at the historic Charles Sumner Museum and Archives. These meetings usually are held the first Friday of every month in the evening. Following the lectures, members may join speakers and others at dinner (dutch treat) for further stimulating discussion.
  • The Smoking Mirror Newsletter--Each month, members receive copies of the Smoking Mirror, the Society's newsletter. The Smoking Mirror is filled with summaries of recent Society talks; announcements of upcoming lectures and other Society-sponsored activities; profiles and stories about members; book reviews; a calendar of pre-Columbian activities and events in the greater Washington, D.C. area and around the country; and much more. 
  • Electronic news service (e-lerts) and events calendar--E-lerts are electronic news flashes designed to give members advance notice of upcoming events and activities. They provide snapshots of newly scheduled events as well as notification of last minute changes and cancellations.  
  • Special tours and exhibitions--The Society collaborates with local museums, embassies, and other institutions to offer limited-access, members-only events and activities. Recently, members enjoyed a behind-the-scenes visit to the Jay Kislak pre-Columbian collection at the Library of Congress. 
  • Glyph Group--The Society caters to the particular interests of individual members through Special Interest Groups (SIGs)--small communities within the Society where members join together to explore topics of particular interest. The Glyph Group is one such community and its members meet monthly to study ancient writing systems of Mesoamerica. The group is open to all active Society members--beginners and experienced glyphers alike. 
  • Book Club--Another of the  Society's Special Interest Group (SIG), this group meets three to four times a year for informal discussions of selected titles. Selections are varied and range from classic volumes as well as "hot off the press" books. Discussion are followed by convivial potluck dinners. All members of the Society are warmly welcomed.
  • Gift books for new members--As of August, 2014, each new member of the Society will receive a free copy of the Society publication, Adventures in Pre-Columbian Studies: Essays in Honor of Elizabeth P. Benson. This 209-page book is comprised of nine essays written to celebrate the remarkable career of Ms. Benson, first curator of the Dumbarton Oaks Pre-Columbian Collection and a long time friend and supporter of the Pre-Columbian Society of Washington, D.C.   
  • Discounts on annual symposium and other events--Members receive substantial discounts on the Society's annual symposium and other programs of interest, such as those presented by the Smithsonian and other pre-Columbian groups (e.g. Maya at the Playa).

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