D.C. Road Trip – A Long Day at the Museum

25 Jul

Going into the trip, we had not settled on what day we would visit the Smithsonian, but the decision was made on the road to Lynchburg. Through social media, my wife found out that some old friends were going to be in Washington, D.C. on Saturday and were planning on taking their daughter to a couple of the museums. It would be the perfect day to see them and see some artifacts.

It turned out to be, in my mind, an imperfect day. We started with a visit to Starbucks and a cab ride to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, a place that we definitely wanted to see. Then, we were informed that it would take almost two hours to get in. I could sense that, by this time, my wife had tired of getting tickets and hanging around for a while to see something. When she asked if we should stay or go somewhere else, my gut told me that we should go somewhere else. It would not be the last time that my gut spoke to me that day.

With plans to tour the National Museum of American History with our friends, we bypassed that one and went to the one next to it, the National Museum of Natural History. This is one of the most famous Smithsonian buildings and begins with the iconic stuffed elephant.image-23

That proved to be the first of many stuffed animals. It was cool to see, but, honestly, I thought it was kind of creepy. We have a collection of stuffed animals on campus that I do not find creepy, and I kept trying to figure out the difference. It could be because the Smithsonian is in the business of protecting information about the world, and these animals were far from protected.

The Hope Diamond was the highlight of the museum. I thought it was cool and could tell that my family thought it was more cool.

When we walked out of the building, we were looking straight at the Smithsonian Castle.image-24

I could only think that the secret headquarters for Sigma Force were underneath. Never heard of Sigma Force? It is a team of government agents whose exploits are chronicled in a series of books by James Rollins. I have been reading them forever.

I do not need to be a secret agent to know that my next decision was my worst. I already had the feeling that my wife was done walking and sightseeing, and I suggested going to the National Museum of the American Indian. The decision was made for two reasons. First, I thought it would be a cool museum. Second, it was time for lunch, and the restaurant in the museum was supposed to be the best around. I had seen it on television, and our contact in our congressman’s office said it was great.

As we walked toward the museum, my gut spoke up. It told me that this was an awfully long walk, and no one else was happy about taking it. It also told me that we were next to the National Museum of American History, and we were getting further from it by the minute. Funny thing, my gut was speaking to me more than my wife. In fact, she was not speaking to me, at all.

We get to the museum, and the restaurant is packed. Apparently, everyone was the same television show that I had watched. On top of that, it was all traditional food of the American Indian. I do not think my family found it very appetizing. Luckily, our friends arrived as we finished eating. Hopefully, that would make the day go better.

We toured the museum, and, to me, it was a disappointing experience. There were not as many artifacts as I expected, and there looked to be a lot of wasted space. The worst part? They displayed pottery from the Santa Clara Pueblo in New Mexico. Everyone knows that they should have displayed pottery from the San Ildefonso Pueblo.

Then, we made the trek back across the Mall. I must say that it went quicker because we had more people to talk to. However, it did not make it any shorter. By the time we got to the museum, my family had done enough. They went through a few rooms but, eventually, found somewhere to sit. We saw some cool stuff, though.

Dorothy’s ruby slippers.

Archie Bunker’s chair.

Abraham Lincoln’s hat.

Thomas Jefferson’s writing desk, which we heard about at Monticello.

However, it was not enough. At some point, my wife and I discussed the idea that we should have left some things out. In my book, those things would have been the museums of the Smithsonian. Look, the Smithsonian is a national treasure, but it does not rank with the other places we visited. That could be because I am not a big fan of museums. I would rather visit the places where history happened rather than a place that holds objects. Sure, they have some interesting items, but George Washington never walked through their halls.

Also, we went to the Smithsonian after a couple of days of continuous activity. We were all tired and ready for something else. If I had it all to do over, then I would skip the Smithsonian and continued our trip to Virginia Beach. However, we live and learn. That is what history and historic sites are all about.

7 Responses to “D.C. Road Trip – A Long Day at the Museum”

  1. Marilyn Armstrong July 25, 2014 at 21:04 #

    I like small museums, like the Rockwell museum in Stockbridge. I also hate stuffed animals. I don’t even like zoos. I get all emotional about caged animals.

    I’ve been to the Smithsonian. The space museum was my favorite. It has stuff you can’t see anywhere else. Washington IS a big museum and when I was a kid, my favorite tour was the FBI. They used to let you shoot guns. I don’t know if they still do. It was very cool, though loud. The Mint also give a great tour. There’s something about watching men shoveling money into furnaces.

    But for art, it’s New York. Starry nights at the Hayden Planetarium, and the ultimate medieval experience, Sunday mornings at the Cloisters with monks wandering about singing plainsong.

    • Rick July 26, 2014 at 03:55 #

      I like art museums better than history museums. However, I would still rather see where Picasso painted than what he painted.

  2. Andrew Petcher July 26, 2014 at 04:32 #

    I like the idea of visiting those museums. Generally I have to be very careful about museums as Kim’s patience is shorter than mine and I have to be able to recognise the signs that she has had enough and is ready to leave.

    • Rick July 26, 2014 at 14:05 #

      I am not sure I have the patience for museums, either. While other people read the plaques, I find myself roaming around.

  3. thehistorytourist July 28, 2014 at 16:55 #

    I agree with you about museums: I’d much rather see a historical site, rather than a warehouse of objects.

    Definitely go to the Virginia Beach area the next time. Lots of history in the area for you and nice beaches for relaxation for your family.

    • Rick July 28, 2014 at 16:59 #

      I was thinking the same thing about Virginia Beach. They could hang out at the beach while I went to Williamsburg and Jamestown. We will make it back.

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