Sneak Peek: Museum of American History
After two years and $85 million in renovations, the Museum of American History's reopening is almost upon us. True, as of Thursday afternoon, many of the floors and walls were still a work in progress, and Horatio Greenough's godlike statue of George Washington wasn't looking quite so imposing, wrapped in a shawl of protective plastic. But the great unveiling is set for Nov. 21, and builders and curators are working around the clock to ensure that the museum will be ready.
The content of the museum will remain largely unchanged -- you can still get your fill of Dorothy's ruby slippers and Julia Child's ever functional peg boards -- but the interior setup has been spectacularly altered. The layout is less cluttered, while the addition of a skylight allows natural light to pour in and gives the building a new feeling of openness. An especially helpful trick for the directionally-challenged (myself included) has also been added. All the east-to-west walls will be marble; the ones that travel north to south will be glass and steel.
One of the most striking new additions is also the first thing museumgoers will see when they enter from the Mall -- a 40-by-19-foot abstract representation of the American flag consisting of 960 reflective, moving tiles.
As for the museum's most famous flag, the Star-Spangled Banner, that exhibit has been moved. Down a dimly-lit hallway, the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key's poem-turned-national anthem will appear to be floating in its own glass case. The low lighting is good for the nearly 200-year-old artifact and serves as a more accurate representation of seeing the flag in "the dawn's early light."
Opening day will also bring the opportunity to see one of the five drafts of the Gettysburg Address, which is on loan from the White House where it was most recently located in the Lincoln Bedroom.
Opening festivities on the 21st will include extended museum hours until 7:30 p.m., live music, free giveaways and a cast of historical reenactors, including Mary Pickersgill, who was the flagmaker responsible for the Star-Spangled Banner.
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