One of the most famous collections in the Smithsonian comes to our state when the North Carolina Museum of History presents the touring exhibition Portraits of the Presidents from the National Portrait Gallery, from June 21 to Sept. 15. The exhibit features 61 paintings, sculptures and photographs of American presidents from George Washington to Bill Clinton, including works by artists like Rembrandt Peale, John Trumbull, George P.A. Healy, Mathew Brady, Elaine de Kooning and Norman Rockwell, covering a wide range of styles and media. Everything from a life mask of Abraham Lincoln to George Tame's famous silhouetted image of John F. Kennedy in the oval office is presented here. The exhibition also sheds light on the challenges of presidential portraiture. George Washington was so inundated by requests to paint him that he came to view artists the way today's movie stars view the paparazzi. Andrew Jackson, facing the same problem, invited his favorite portrait artist to live in the White House. Norman Rockwell admitted that he flattered Nixon's "troublesomely elusive face" because he wanted the portrait to go "in a positive direction." Admission is free to the museum, which will have Monday hours from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. during the exhibit's duration (the museum is normally closed Mondays). Call 715-0200 for details.