Before I left, I had mentioned to my roommates that I was going to be in Washington DC for a business trip. Both of us were thrilled as it turned out all three of us would be in DC at the same time and all of us were taking an extra day to sightsee. We decided that being together was far better than being alone so early Saturday morning we met up just outside the White House.
We said we’d meet at the front of the White House first thing in the morning. The problem was both of us had a very different definition of what the front of the White House actually meant. After a bit of confusion and the magic of cell phones, we met up and started our journey.
We touched base on some of the memorials I saw last night, but the big focus was seeing the Smithsonian Museum. I had strong suspicions on what I’d see, but I tell you – I couldn’t have been more surprised by what was actually in each of the museums.
The Smithsonian: The Museum of American History
I was in Washington the weekend of Flag Day and there was a big celebration outside The Museum of American History. Fortunately we found the back door and though a long line was there we got in quickly.
I expected to see exactly what we learned in high school history: the American flag, Betsy Ross, something about the Civil War, and a very distant and impersonal version of history. Instead, they were unique exhibits about topics in American history. The first thing we saw was a covered wagon. I mean, it was cool but it sort of confirmed my hunch of what the rest of the trip was going to be.
As we rounded the corner, there was a 1960s Mustang right on display. An older gentleman and his wife were looking fondly at the car. It seemed natural to include them in the photograph. They were very much a part of the experience.
A little further into the museum we saw Google’s corkboard server. This I didn’t expect it all to see. Technology doesn’t seem to be a part of history. I mean, we learn about that in science class. But the fact is that technology has had huge impacts on history. Not only has technology begun to creep into the history books – it’s also changed how we explore, record, and playback are past. At this point I was interested in engaged to see what else was inside the museum.
The next major exhibit was all about the Star Spangled Banner. I love our flag. I remember seeing it in so many places on my cross-country motorcycle ride that it had a real impression on me. I had traveled so far from home the seeing the same banner overhead. It was the uniting item across the whole journey.
While our national anthem is somewhat difficult to sing, I do love hearing it as well as singing it. It notes a fundamental part of our history and capitalizes on our flag as an outward appearance of who we are as a people. Through our history it has evolved as we have which is a good thing. It continues to reflect who we are as a people.
My roommates really enjoyed the exhibit on food in the American kitchen. Both of them like to cook and were deeply engrossed in the exhibit. Only one thing really caught my eye. It was an advertisement about a new kitchen. Our views on women have really changed. I can only imagine what a flop if not an out right outrage that ad would cause today.
The final exhibit we saw was one on transportation. I was in heaven. This exhibit really spoke to me. Ever since being a kid transportation has always intrigued me. Literally, they had everything I could think of inside of there.
The Smithsonian: The Museum of Natural History
The Museum of Natural History was the second stop on the tour. Much like the Museum of American History, the Museum of Natural History was full of stuff. They had prehistoric animas like mammoths and dinasaurs, to ocean createures like big fish and jellyfish, to present day animals from all over the globe. Having recently been to Australia, the Australian exhibit made me smile. Turns out, the dingo was guilty!
One exhibit that made me smile was on evolution. The exhibit was comparing primal monkeys to modern day children. All I can say is someone who works there has a real sense of humor!
The Smithsonian: The Air and Space Museum
Air and Space was probably the most surprising to me. When walking into the museum, it was clear the exhibits were taking a historical approach to air and space. There were lost of old planes from the early 1900s and space memorabilia from the 1960s era.
I didn’t see a lot of what was going on in space exploration today. That’s the part I actually really wanted to see. With so much need for more people interested in science and technology, I was disappointed to see such little enticement of today’s youth. There was just little wow factor. Don’t get me wrong. The museum was interesting. It just wasn’t inspiring.
The Capitol and the World War II Memorial
At this point in the day we were all feeling tired. It’s deceiving how far everything is from one another in the national mall. All of us wanted to see the Capitol and Mark really wanted to see the World War II Memorial. Being so far away in California, Washington at times seems less relevant than what’s going on in Sacramento. Seeing the Capitol was a big reminder of how large the federal government really is – despite which party is in power.
The World War II Memorial was harder for me to understand the subtle details in the memorial. By the time we got to modern history in school, we were usually behind schedule and flying through the schedule to keep up. As one of the newer memorials, it was interesting to explore as well as see each of the geographies involved in the war.
Back to the White House
As the sun was going down we all headed off to dinner. The sun’s warm rays lit up the Washington Monument in a warm gold that was breathtaking to see. I think the Washington Monument or the Lincoln Memorial were my two favorites. After dinner, I took a slow walk back and saw the White House from the other side. I’m still not sure which is the front or back, but it was beautiful none the less.
Now that I’ve seen Washington, DC I do feel more complete as a citizen and educated as an American.