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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Musée National de l'histoire Américaine

Another weekend, another museum. Washington is chock full of 'em, and it seems as if we've set out to check out as many as we can before we're off to Asia early next year. And why not? The museums in D.C. are huge, informative and, best of all, FREE (at least the ones we've been to, so far). Today (Saturday), it was the National Museum of American History's turn to receive the Kaminoge family's attention. The building itself is an ugly box dating from the 1950's, but once inside, it quickly becomes apparent why this is one of the most popular museums in the United States. The following pictures are just a few of the highlights of our six-hour visit...

The first floor showcases American scientific and technological achievements. The best part, without a doubt, had to be "America on the Move", dedicated to virtually all forms of transportation in the U.S. going back to the 19th century. Here you can see the John Bull, one of the earliest steam locomotives:

My daughter and wife take a ride on a Chicago El train:

Getting our kicks on you-know-where:

Amber poses in front of a huge Southern Railways train. There were also extensive exhibitions on the Interstate Highway System and shipping, but the photos I took of those didn't turn out so well:

The first floor also had a mockup of Julia Child's kitchen. She learned the art of French cooking while serving as an EFM in the Foreign Service:

On to the second floor, and the Star-Spangled Banner Gallery. Here you can see the actual flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write The Star-Spangled Banner following the bombardment of Fort McHenry. Unfortunately, photography wasn't allowed, so the best I could do was to take a snap of this:

The prohibition against taking pictures apparently hasn't deterred others, if this photo of the actual display I copped from Google Images is any indication:

Other things that stood out on this floor included the actual lunch counter from the Woolworth's sit-in in Greensboro, NC. I would like to think the U.S.A. has made remarkable progress since then, and in many respects it has. But in this day and age of the Tea Party, Chick-fil-A, Michele Bachmann, Rush Limbaugh and the GOP drive to combat non-existent "voter fraud", there is still so much that needs to be done before this nation finally starts living up to its ideals. Far too many people are still on the wrong side of history, even in 2012:

There was a lot to see on the third floor, as well. Here are Dorothy's ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz:

Archie Bunker's chair, Bob Dylan's leather jacket and Muhammad Ali's boxing gloves:

Roberto Clemente's jersey and batting helmet (there were also baseballs signed by Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig):

One of the first PC's:

"Slavery at Monticello: Paradox of Liberty" explored how Thomas Jefferson could be both the author of The Declaration of Independence and the owner of 600 slaves (and father to some of them). This statue of the third president had a wall with the names of his "property" listed on it:

My daughter, fortunately, is still too young to understand, but one day I'm going to have to explain to her why some human beings treated other human beings in such a manner as this in the so-called Land of the Free:

On a less serious note, there were exhibits on the presidents and their wives. Several inaugural gowns worn by First Ladies were on display, including Jacqueline Kennedy's...:

...and Michele Obama's, designed by Taiwanese-Canadian Jason Wu:

In the presidential section, Amber gave her inaugural address:

The last exhibit we checked out concerned the many wars this country has been involved in, from the American Revolution...: the Civil War (go, Sherman, go!)...:

up to the Second World War...:

...and beyond, through Korea and Vietnam, and all the way to the present day. In addition to slavery, I'm going to have to explain 9/11 to my little one. She did, in fact, ask about these actual pieces of wreckage from Ground Zero and the photograph of the World Trade Center:

Outside, and across the street from the massive Greco-inspired building currently housing the EPA, my daughter enjoyed a Pink Panther ice cream, while contemplating her introduction to the history of one of her two passport issuers:

Three months in the District of Columbia, and we've yet to visit a museum that failed to impress. Like the hometown Washington Nationals, D.C. is on a winning streak.

The sunset reflects off an office building somewhere in Arlington, VA.

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