Monday, October 3, 2011

Washington - the "say cheese, weirdo!" edition

Our second full day in Washington started with the National Museum of American History. Well, technically it started with a bowl of the most flavourless cereal ever, a bagel, and mocking Fox News, but that's an entirely different kettle of fish. 

So, the NMAH. Their collection of pop culture-y stuff was much smaller than we'd anticipated. But their collection of stuff relating to the presidents was kind of nifty. Here's me standing in for...someone famous and presidential. FDR, maybe? I honestly can't remember...

And here's a terrible photo of Abraham Lincoln's iconic hat:

Some of the stuff was kind of creepy. Here's a board filled with bits of hair from each of the first thirteen presidents, apparently so that future generations could learn about them. I don't know about you guys, but I wouldn't want to learn about the presidents by staring at chunks of their hair #gross


Once we'd finished looking at creepy chunks of dead people, we headed over to the gallery about America and war. The stuff on the American Revolution was pretty interesting - lots of swords and guns and slightly ridiculous outfits:
Some outfit or other of George Washington's. With
bonus Kat in the background playing with interactives.

The section on the Civil War was interesting too, although there was barely any mention of the causes behind the war. From memory, there was a taxidermied horse there. And we learnt that women who enlisted as nurses had to be "plain and dress simply". Then...THEN. We reached the World War II gallery. There, we were greeted by this sign. 

Um, WHAT??? I understand that 1941 marks America's official entry into the war, as evidenced by the "joining the Allies" statement, but surely there should have been SOME acknowledgement of the fact that the war had actually started two years earlier? It's the SMITHSONIAN, for crying out loud. People are going to take what they read there as cold, hard fact. I would have settled for a story panel that said "Yeah, we KNOW the war started in 1939. But America didn't have a lot of involvement prior to Pearl Harbour, so that's where we'll start the story.". But there wasn't even that. 

After ranting repeatedly having a lively discussion about that sign throughout the rest of the war galleries, we decided that we should stop for lunch. The range of food was impressive. The prices were astronomical, even by museum standards. I guess that's the catch when entry is free...

After lunch, we discovered an exhibit about pirates, which made us both much happier. This was followed by a trip to the transportation gallery, but I think by that point we were both experiencing museum fatigue. So pretty much all I remember about it is that there was a giant train, and a dog wearing goggles (Work Wife - this one's especially for you):


From there, we wandered over to the National Portrait Gallery. On the way, we went past the Archives:

The inscription along the top reads as follows:
"The glory and romance of our history are here preserved in the chronicles of those who conceived and builded the structure of our nation." 

Really, America? BUILDED?????? *cringe*

We also walked past the FBI Building. Sadly, Seeley Booth wasn't there (sorry, Sara!)... Neither was Fox Mulder. 28 year old Kirsti wasn't as disappointed about that as 14 year old Kirsti would have been. Eventually we made it to the Portrait Gallery. I was rather taken with this bust of Andrew Jackson. He's Kat's favourite president because he was basically batshit crazy, and still wound up with his face on the $20 bill. 

I also liked this bust. I can't remember who it's of, but he seems rather surprised that he had a bust made of him!

Eventually, we exhausted the possibilities in the early American section, and moved on to the portraits of presidents. On the way up the stairs, a slightly crazy man accosted us:
Slightly crazy man: Is this the way to the presidential portraits??
Kat: That's what the sign says...
Slightly crazy man: Oh, I'm just so excited! I'm like a kid in a candy shop!! [runs off]
Me: O...kay then...

We hung back to avoid the crazy look at some kind of dollhouse thing. By the time we got into the gallery, he was snapping photos of one of Washington's portraits from every angle. When I next saw him, he was taking a self portrait in front of this painting of Lincoln. 

Sadly, he wasn't doing the same pose. Because that would have been awesome. We spent a large chunk of time being on the opposite side of the gallery from him, just in case he asked us to take his picture in front of a presidential portrait. The last we saw of him, he set his camera on top of a showcase on auto-timer, ran across the gallery to  stand in front of a portrait of...I can't remember who, but I'm pretty sure it was one of the random presidents from the 70s. Gerald Ford, maybe...and then got yelled at by a security guard for leaving his property unattended AND on top of a showcase. 

After the self portrait taking weirdo had gone, we quickly tired of the presidents and headed over to the 20th century section, figuring we stood a chance of actually knowing who some of the people were there. Sadly, I neglected to take a photo of the portrait of that most American of 20th century figures - WINSTON CHURCHILL. Okay, so it was only there because it was a study for a painting of FDR, Churchill and Stalin signing the something-or-other treaty (I think. Possibly something to do with the Yalta Conference...). But they still have a portrait of Churchill in the section of famous 20th century Americans... #weird

Shortly thereafter, we got bored of mocking the art and figured it was time for happy hour. We headed to Chinatown in the hopes of finding a bar and then somewhere for dinner later on. Instead, we wound up at an Irish pub. In Chinatown. Because we're spontaneous and non-conformist like that! When they brought us a menu, we decided that it couldn't hurt to have a pre-dinner snack, which somehow turned into us being too lazy to find anywhere else to eat and ordering like three different entrees (in the normal context, not the bizarre American context). They were delicious. 

Next up, a millionty monuments, the non-Reflecting Pool, and we discover that walking around in the sun all day is a very warm experience. Oh, and cocktails.

K xx

4 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing your adventure with us! I didn't know a lot of these facts so was nice to hear your thoughts on the displays. Very interesting!

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  2. I am not sure I've been to any of those museums, but to be fair, I am not really a museum lover. Can't wait to see what's on tap next :)

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  3. I'd love to go around museums and galleries with you. I seriously think we'd find the exact same things to mock/be irate at. I remember being outraged about the WWII dates when I was at the museum!

    missish.blogspot.com

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  4. I actually looked up "build" in the OED (sheer curiosity, I swear), and it makes mention that the acceptable past tense forms are both "built" and "builded." However, the latter was used more frequently in the 1500-1700s (and one note is in the 1800s), so it's a good possibility that it was stylised in that fashion. However, I don't know anything for sure (and the NAB website doesn't tell where the inscriptions came from, which I find slightly ironic). Thankfully, the best thing about being a history nerd is that I can fall back on the typical excuse taught during my studies: I can't know everything. :x

    Otherwise, you're forgetting where you were! This is America, and everything is centered around us! Obviously the only real dates of WWII are for when America joined in. Nothing matters if we're not there, and we're allowed to steal other cultural icons as we wish! (Before I get beaten up by someone who miraculously thinks I'm serious, I'm entirely not.)

    Except I didn't get to take what I want and steal you, so I've failed at being American. I guess that's why I'm leaving. :x

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