The Smithsonian Institution consists of nineteen museums/galleries, the National Zoo and a Sculpture Garden. Sixteen of the museums are located in Washington DC, eleven of those are on the National Mall. It’s impossible to see all of them within our two week time frame and be able to do anything else. Originally we’d chosen three of them to visit but that was whittled down to two when a museum docent informed us that the dinosaurs at the National Museum of Natural History were no longer on display. Seems the bones had collected several years worth of dust so the museum dismantled them and sent them out to be cleaned. A delicate process we were told and one that would take five years to complete. We were disappointed by this news, especially me since I had never seen them. (Don was here once before in his youth.)
THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AMERICAN HISTORY
“The National Museum of American History collects, preserves and displays the heritage of the United States in the areas of social, political, cultural, scientific and military history.”
Three stories high with sixteen different exhibits, we covered every last one of them. We recommend arriving early, plan to spend the entire day, plan to eat lunch here (good food but very pricey or step outside to one of several food trucks), and wear comfortable walking shoes.
A McDonald’s food truck, first time we’ve seen on of these.
Most of the first floor exhibits were just a quick walk through for us, with the exception of the Food Exhibition. This exhibit was based on the 1950’s to present day food processing technologies and how different cultures transformed the American diet. Two of the more popular displays in this exhibit appeared to be the wine making process and a replica of Julia Child’s kitchen.
On the second floor we found the American Stories exhibit intriguing with artifacts form the 1600’s to present day. On this level is also the one exhibit that drew us to this museum, the Star Spangled Banner. This exhibit displays the actual flag that flew over Fort McKinley during the Battle of Baltimore in 1812 and inspired Francis Scott Key to pen the words to our national anthem.
I truly would have liked to take photos of the flag but no photography is allowed. Due to the fragility of the banner, a camera flash could cause damage to the flag’s fibers. With a daily average of 30,000 people viewing this historic artifact, you can well imagine the damage that could be done over time. The reason a no flash photograph isn’t permitted is because the museum doesn’t have enough security staff to monitor visitors, ensuring that everyone complies with the rules. I will tell you however that we were in awe. Our national symbol is beautifully displayed and the exhibit is impressive.
We found three of the four exhibits on the top floor enthralling. The Price of Freedom: Americans at War, the Gunboat Philadelphia and the American Presidency. The Price of Freedom tells the history of America’s military from the colonial era to the present. The American Presidency explores the personal and private lives of all forty-three of our Presidents and the Gunboat Philadelphia is the oldest surviving American fighting vessel. Built in 1776, it was sunk in Lake Champlain that very year in a battle against the British.
THE NATIONAL AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM
The National Air and Space Museum holds the largest collection of historic aircraft and spacecraft in the world. Two stories high with over 160,000 square feet, your jaw will drop at the sight of some of the items on display here. Our favorites being the Apollo 11 Lunar Module and the 1903 Wright Brothers Flyer. We also enjoyed exploring the WWII Aviation, the Sea-Air Operations, the Apollo to the Moon exhibits and the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall.
In the air……………
We also made an unplanned visit to the the Sculpture Garden in lieu of visiting the National Archives. It was our desire to see the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights on public display in the archive building but the line was down to the street when we approached and we just didn’t have it in us to stand in line for a lengthy wait. Not a fan of modern art, we did see a few whimsical sculptures that we liked.
And our favorite………………
Thanks for stopping by. We hope you liked your visit to The Smithsonian with us.
Here’s lookin’ at you kid…………………………..