March 06, 2004

Smithsonian Trip

Every time I visit the Smithsonian Museums, I am awed at the national treasures available for all to see.

These are rightly described as treasures, and they aren't hidden behind massive vault doors. It's emphasized often in each museum that the contents belong to the entire American people. You get the sense that you're not being allowed to see the items so much as that the caretakers are making sure that everyone gets the best view possible.

To say I don't like the city of Washington DC is an understatement. I believe that if they were to give Uncle Sam an enema, the nozzle would be inserted in DC. But I also think that everyone should spend a couple of weeks visiting Washington, because there is just so much history to see. I hate DC, but I also sincerely recommend it as a vacation destination for all.

We started our trip by driving to the nearest Metro station and parking there. The DC Metro system is excellent, it's much easier than trying to find a parking spot in DC, plus the metro fare is less than parking in the city. Plus, the metro took us to within a block of the National Museum of American History, our choice for the day.

We had a 5 minute wait to get in, standing in line as everyone went through security checks. When it was my turn, I handed over my car keys and pocket watch, walked through the metal detector, and buzzed it. Stepping back through, I realized that I was still holding my umbrella. I handed it to the guard and set off the detector again. Hmmmm... doing a quick pat of my pockets, I realized that I was carrying (as always) my Swiss Army knife. Wondering what kind of reaction I'd get, I pulled it out and put it on the table, then walked through the detector again. No problem this time, and the guard handed me my things without a second glance at the knife.

So let's get to the treasures, eh? We started on the third floor and worked our way down. First up were the music exhibits, including two really nice features on Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington.

A display case full of Star Trek stuff caught my eye, and when I wandered over to look I saw the really cool stuff. There were three more displays in a nook: one had the original ruby slippers from Wizard of Oz, another had one of Dizzy Gillespie's trumpets. The third case held (get this), Muhammed Ali's boxing gloves, Sonja Heine's ice skates, a baseball autographed by Babe Ruth, a Michael Jordan Bulls jersey, a sweater from the 1980 Miracle on Ice US Olympic hockey team, and tennis racquets from Arthur Ashe and Chris Evert.

I'm going to quickly mention a few other nifty items, and then get to the real 'wow' stuff. There was a very impressive exhibit about the First Ladies. Money, clocks, transportation (many restored vehicles, I'd love to see what's stored in their warehouses). Archie Bunker's chair. The key to the padlock of rod 21, which is the one removed to start the chain reaction on the worlds first nuclear pile.

It takes more than "stuff" to make a museum come to life, and the Smithsonians are world-class. They use innovative displays and lots of hands-on, you don't just look at the exhibits. They use sound and touch as well, and it's consistantly impressive.

Ok, the 'wow' things:

The top hat worn by Abraham Lincoln on the night he was assasinated.

Everyone has seen that picture of the workers unfurling the American flag from the roof of the Pentagon when they began making repairs. That flag is now hanging in the second floor rotunda, and you don't appreciate just how huge it really is until you stand in front of it and look up and up and up.

The space suit worn by Alan Shepard on board Freedom 7, making him the first American to go into space.

The Star Spangled Banner. Not the song, but the original flag that flew over Fort McHenry that inspired our National Anthem. It's being restored, and just the glass walled room showing the restoration equipment is pretty amazing. Without a doubt, this was the highlight for me.

We just skimmed the museum today. Realistically, there is just so much to see and absorb that each building of the Smithsonian is a two-day visit. You really should make the trek at least once, you won't regret it.

Posted by Ted at March 6, 2004 09:38 PM
Category: Family matters

No, no, no, you shouldn't come to Washington. Really, nothing to see here, just move along, move along...particularly if you happen to be on the left side of a Metro escalator, just please, please move along!

I'm the opposite of Ted. I like DC, but I don't encourage anybody else to come here. ;-)

Posted by: nic at March 7, 2004 09:09 AM

I have to return to DC and the Smithsonian just to check and see if it was really 'elephantitis in a jar' that I saw the last time I was there - 8th grade... (aka a long time ago.)

Posted by: Cindy at March 7, 2004 08:02 PM

Now I MUST visit! I've been avoiding it ever since my mom moved down there (hnyuk), but, I definately have to lay my eyes on the Fort McHenry flag and Archie Bunker's chair.

Posted by: Tuning Spork at March 8, 2004 12:18 AM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?

Site Meter