The National Museum of American History is about my favorite museum on the planet. When I was on my 8th grade trip to Washington, we visited. Later that day, we were told that we had an hour to spare. We had two choices on how to spend that time:
Go back to the History Museum; or
Go Next Door to the Natural History Museum and see the Hope Diamond.
Of the 120+ students on the trip, exactly three of us went back to the History museum.
At AU, there were regular class assignments that involved going off campus to use the resources of our Great Nation’s Capital. Once in biology, we were sent to a cemetery in Georgetown to research infant mortality rates. I’d blame that on being pre-Internet, but we could have gone to the Library. The professor just wanted us to run around a cemetery. Anyway. About once a semester, someone on my floor had an assignment that involved going to the History Museum. The pact was that if one of us had to go, we all went. It made the work easier. And anyway, it was my favorite museum.
It shut down for renovation so long ago that I don’t remember. There was some buzz about the big donor throwing his weight around about things, but I guess if you are spending $100 million dollars on a museum, you are allowed to be pushy. I withheld judgement. The Reopening was in November and yesterday was my first chance to see it. I tried to take a picture from the lobby, but none were coming out, so I stole this one from the press packet:
That big silver thing in the back? Is supposed to represent the flag. Because that is where the original Star Spangled Banner was. Well, actually, that was just a representation, also. When I was very young, they lowered it a few times a day for the masses to behold. Behind that silver thing is the Star Spangled Banner exhibit. I didn’t get back there – there were too many children.
The place is clearly not done yet. There were serious wastes of space that I attribute to exhibits not being finished yet. But the impression I left with?
The exhibits are as great as always. (The old First Ladies one seems skimpy, but maybe that is just because I am older). The American President was great. And the Lincoln one was fabulous. It made me feel much better for having forsaken my ritual pilgrimage to his shrine to go to the museum.
Having said that. The design? Is what I like to call “a post-modern monstrosity”.
OK, maybe the old look was a little dark. And there are better ways to preserve the artifacts – like Lincoln’s top hat! But…ugh. If it had been like that in the Air and Space Museum, it would have been ok. But Mr. Behring, if this is what you were fighting for – I am disappointed.
Anyway, the Public Service Annoucement here is Go See President Lincoln’s Exhibit!