History Hunting in the Nation's Capital
News from the National Museum of American History was a shock to my inbox yesterday:
"The museum will begin closing some of its exhibition galleries this spring and summer, and the entire museum will close to the public in the fall."
That's right, folks; the museum that holds the ruby slippers, Seinfeld's puffy shirt and one of my favorite exhibits, "America On the Move," will be temporarily closed in several months. American History is just one of the Smithsonian museums suffering from aging facilities and this renovation is intended to update the building and make a new "state-of-the-art" gallery for the Star-Spangled Banner, the flag that inspired the song. More details are forthcoming in a briefing tomorrow about precisely how long the museum will be closed, but I'm already wondering where D.C. visitors will go to find those factual tidbits about our nation's history. Here are a few suggestions:
- The National Archives: The nation's founding documents are obviously a big draw, but the Public Vaults exhibition gives a good sense of the breadth of the Archives holdings, which include photographs of Americans through the ages.
- The Library of Congress: Check out its rotating exhibition of American treasures. On view now are photographs and artifacts from the Willard Hotel.
- Local battlefields: Antietam, Gettysburg and Manassas top my list.
- Daughters of the American Revolution Headquarters: Yes, there's more here than just the concert venue. There are 31 period rooms in the huge estate on D Street.
- House museums: These are smaller than your average museum, but places like the Sewall-Belmont House, Woodrow Wilson House and Petersen House serve up specialized slices of history.
- And of course, no history tour in Washington is complete without a trip to the monuments, White House, Capitol and Supreme Court.
All of these places are loaded with history, but they don't have the quirky pop-culture charm of American History or the exhibits that tell about segregation, transportation and the office of the president all on the same floor. Since this popular spot to take out-of-town guests will be out of commission in a few months, anyone have other local suggestions for American history and culture seekers?
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