Since Abigail didn’t have to go to work today, we decided to make this our day for exploring the museums in DC that she hasn’t been to yet. Our first thought was to go to The Smithsonian, plan that was hampered only by the facts that (a) there isn’t actually one place called “The Smithsonian” and (b) the museum that we thought went by that name (the National Museum of American History), with the first ladies’ dresses and Dorothy’s ruby slippers and Seinfeld’s puffy shirt, is closed until summer for renovations. So that didn’t really work out.
Instead, we stopped by the Smithsonian information center which is housed, for no apparent reason, in an ersatz castle, and which has a kind of sampler of all the collections from the various museums, and also some maps. From there we made our way to the Bureau of Engraving, passing, along the way, the absolutely vast and surprisingly plant-free buildings for the Department of Agriculture. But it turned out that the Bureau of Engraving (that is, the Mint) keeps rather odd hours, not including the one we were there, so we made our way back.
Or next stop was the National Museum of the American Indian, which we had been alerted had good food in their cafeteria and, since we were there, we figured we might as well take a look at the exhibits too.
I have to admit, this was not my favorite museum. It was very heavy on the interpretive displays and the pictures of the committees of people who were responsible for putting together the displays, and shockingly light on actual items in the exhibits. Of the artifacts that were there, very few dated to even before the twentieth century, and a surprising number were modern reproductions, which seemed kind of inappropriate for what was supposed to be a major national museum. Actual interesting information was largely abandoned in favor of vague aphorisms, some apparently from the tribe of Hallmarkcardia (actual one I saw: “In order to love others, you must first learn to love yourself.) Also, one tribe had included their tourism packet in a nicely shadowboxed display, complete with brochures and coupons “good at local businesses.”
On the other hand, there was an interesting an informative temporary exhibit on women’s dresses, and as for the rest, the people there who were not horrible heartless cynics seemed to be enjoying it quite well. Also, the cafeteria was quite good, and I was able to get fry bread with honey, so there’s that.
It was actually a beautiful day, so we paused on the Mall on our way between museums and watched for a while while some people played softball and others tried, and repeatedly failed, to launch a radio-controlled helicopter, all against the backdrop of the Capitol building. That was cool even if, as Abigail pointed out, the Mall really does need to be reseeded.
Last stop of the day was the National Gallery of Art, where we stuck to the classic, rather than the modern wing, and enjoyed an afternoon with the works of many fine artists, including two of the four ninja turtles, plus the Impressionists (always my favorites). It had been a day with a great deal of walking, which meant that by the end of our time in the galleries we were doing a lot more in-depth appreciation of the paintings, particularly the ones situated directly in front of the benches.
And, the funny thing is, I’ve hardly seen anything at all.