The National Bonsai & Penjing Museum has had a rich and beautiful history since its founding in 1975. 

Museum Milestones


The 69th Congress passes Public Law 799, authorizing the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a National Arboretum in Washington D.C.


The U.S. National Arboretum is open to the public on a daily schedule.


President Richard Nixon accepts several penjing trees as a gift from the People's Republic of China following his historic visit to that country. He gives these trees to the National Arboretum and they are placed under the care of Robert Drechsler who becomes the first curator of bonsai. One of these trees remains in the Chinese penjing collection today. Note: This was not the beginning of the official Museum.


The Japanese people present 53 bonsai and 7 viewing stones to the citizens of the United States in celebration of the upcoming American Bicentennial. This Green Mission for Peace heralds the beginning of the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum at the U.S. National Arboretum, the first museum in the world dedicated to the public display of the art of bonsai.


On July 9th the Japanese Stroll Garden and the Japanese Bonsai Pavilion. designed by Masao Kinoshita of Sasaki Associates, along with the gift of bonsai trees and stones, is dedicated in an historic event attended by many dignitaries from Japan and the United States. A Chrysanthemum viewing stone, presented to President Gerald Ford, is given to the Museum's National Viewing Stone collection.


President Jimmy Carter displays a tree from the Museum collection in the Oval Office at the White House which was a gift from Japanese Prime Minister Fukuda on the occasion of the Prime Minister's visit to the United States.


American bonsai master John Y. Naka donates his bonsai 'Goshin' (Keeper of the Spirit) to the Museum's growing North American Collection.


Completion and opening of the John Y. Naka North American Pavilion.


Construction of the Haruo Kaneshiro Tropical Conservatory and the George Yamaguchi Garden is completed with funding provided by NBF. Seventeen tropical species bonsai are selected by NBF for display in the Conservatory.


The Yee-sun Wu Chinese Garden Pavilion for the display of penjing and the Mary E. Mrose International Pavilion for Information, Education and Cultural Exhibits are completed with NBF funds. More than 30 penjing, donated by Dr. Yee-sun Wu and his colleague Mr. Shu-ying Lui, are put on display in the Chinese Pavilion. NBF selects North American viewing stones for the permanent collection.


Death of Yuji Yoshimura and NBF establishes a fund to benefit the Museum in his honor.


Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi presents to U.S. President William Clinton two bonsai and a suiseki on the occasion of President Clinton's visit to Japan. Robert Drechsler retires as the first Curator of Bonsai. Warren Hill becomes the second Curator. An exhibit of trees and stones inspired by the teaching of Bonsai Master Yuji Yoshimura opens in the Special Exhibits Wing to commemorate his teaching and his life.


Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi presents to President William Clinton seven bonsai for the Museum's collection.


The National Bonsai & Penjing Museum celebrates its 25th Anniversary with an Asian Arts Festival attended by over a thousand visitors. A sculpture of John Naka by artist Bonnie Kobert is unveiled in the North American Pavilion. NBF sponsors the first North American Bonsai Pot Competition for ceramic artists and the winning pots are displayed in the Special Exhibits Wing. NBF, along with the U.S. National Arboretum and the Potomac Bonsai Association, are selected by the World Bonsai Friendship Federation as the sponsoring hosts for the 5th World Bonsai Convention to be held in Washington D.C. in 2005. Warren Hill retires as Curator.

Sculpture bust of John Y. Naka, by artist Bonnie Kolbert, installed in the North American Pavilion.


A Scholarly Symposium on Bonsai and Viewing Stones, funded by Mary E. Mrose, attracts an international group of participants. The Japanese Stroll Garden is rededicated as the Kato Family Stroll Garden. Jack Sustic, formerly Assistant Curator at the Museum, becomes the third Curator. The Second North American Juried Bonsai Pot Competition is held.


The Maria Vanzant Upper Courtyard and the H. William Merritt Entrance Gate to the Kato Family Stroll Garden are dedicated. This is the first phase of a project that will make the interior space in the Museum accessible to all visitors. The designer of the project is Rhodeside and Harwell, Inc., of Alexandria Virginia. An innovative exhibit exploring the relationship between modern ceramic art as pots and traditional bonsai plants, Bonsai inSites: Collaborations between Tree and Container, curated by Ron Lang, is displayed in the Special Exhibits Wing. A continuing exhibit Bonsai: Test your Knowledge! for the orientation of new visitors to the Museum opens in the International Pavilion. An orientation map to the Museum complex is also installed here.


On May 19th NBF Honorary Director John Y. Naka dies and a fund is established in his honor. The Museum hosts a symposium dedicated to the art of Penjing. A Shohin Exhibit from the collections of Jack Billet and Doris Froning is on display in May. In October a special exhibit of Chrysanthemum bonsai designed by David Garvin is in the Special Exhibits Wing.


The 5th World Bonsai Convention is held in Washington D.C. and the Arboretum and the Museum host a banquet for the event. The paving of the Lower Courtyard is completed and the area, including the Melba Tucker Demonstration Arbor and the Rose Family Garden, is dedicated. Jack Sustic retires as Curator in July and in December James Hughes, Assistant Curator for Plant Collections, becomes the fourth Curator in the history of the Museum.


Kathleen Emerson-Dell is appointed Assistant Curator for Artifact Collections and Aarin Packard is appointed Assistant Curator for Plant Collections. Three trees from the Japanese Collection are displayed at the White House in honor of the visit of Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to the United States.


The first Kusamono exhibit for the Museum, featuring arrangements by Young Choe and ceramics by Ron and Sharon Lang, is displayed in the Special Exhibits Wing of the Mary E. Mrose International Pavilion.


Jim Hughes retires as Curator in May and Jack Sustic returns for a second term as Curator in November. Death of Saburo Kato, Patron of the Museum and Honorary Director of the National Bonsai Foundation.


Death of Dr. John L. Creech, Founder of the Museum and Honorary Director of the National Bonsai Foundation Retirement of Dr. Thomas S. Elias as Director of the U.S. National Arboretum after 16 years of service.


Dr. Elias is appointed an Honorary Director of the National Bonsai Foundation.


Thirty-fifth anniversary of the Museum.


An internship, "The First Curator's Apprenticeship", in honor of the Museum's First Curator, Robert Drechsler, is inaugurated.


"CSI: Bonsai" an exhibit, which explores common "bonsai crimes", is on display during the summer and early fall.


Renovation and reconstruction of the original Japanese Pavilion begins in January.


40th Anniversary of the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum - opened on July 9, 1976

Curator Jack Sustic retires.

The renovated Japanese Pavilion is rededicated on October 6th and reopened to the public on October 7th.



Michael James appointed as Curator.