Welcome to the final post for our DC visit! This post covers: National Museum of African Art, Arthur M Sackler Gallery, National Museum of American Art, Spy Museum, Air & Space, George Washington Masonic Temple, Thanksgiving, Bureau of Engraving & Printing, Library of Congress, and visit to the Swedish House for a Christmas Fair. Still so much to do and see in DC. While it’s been a great trip, we were definitely ready to move on – writing to you now, over a week later, from frigid (approx 1 degree right now) Chicago!
Around the Smithsonian Institution Building….
National Museum of African Art (Sat, 11/19): interesting collection, well worth the visit!
Arthur M Sackler Gallery: odd and interesting museum. It was easy to visit as it was right next door to the African Art Museum, but it had a limited number of exhibits, definitely not at the top of the list. I saw an Art of the Qur’an exhibit, a reproduction of the famous Peacock dining room that looked like it was trashed. Chinamania below is a crazy pyramid of China.
Around the National Mall and National Gallery sculpture garden:
Smithsonian American Art Museum (Sat, 11/19): this museum shares a building with the National Portrait Gallery (that I visited earlier on during our stay.) I’m glad I came back to check out the other half!
Noguchi Archaic/Modern Exhibit: Noguchi was a Japanese American born in LA, considered to be a cultural ambassador between East and West. He aspired to ‘build bridges’ between opposites of modern life, addressing the collision of traditional cultures and modern progress.
James Hampton crazy tin foil art, the Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nation’s Millennium General Assembly, this took 14 years to craft. The throne embodies a complex fusion of Christian and African-American spiritual practices overlaying themes of deliverance and freedom. Objects on the right refer to the New Testament and Jesus, while objects on the left to the Old Testament and Moses.
American Art through 1940:
Modern Art wing:
After a tasty brunch at Clyde’s, Dave and I went to the International Spy Museum (Sun, 11/20)
After choosing your ‘cover’ and spending a few minutes memorizing it, you watch a video (where we learned that DC has the largest number of spies in the world!) and then you go into the Spy School exhibit, where you learn about various skills, special training, and expertise of spies. There are interactive kiosks where you can test your ability to identify ‘drops’, suspicious characters, and other spies in disguise. Throughout there is a huge variety of spy memorabilia, most of it very old and very cool!
A few featured spies!
George Washington Masonic Temple (Mon, 11/21)
Memorial Hall – Lobby, Statue, and Murals:
Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22 Replica Lodge Room, includes furniture and other items used by Washington:
Royal Arch Masonry dress and memorabilia:
George Washington Museum:
Chapel dedicated to the Knights Templar. The stained glass windows in this chapel depict four scenes from the Christian Bible: Jesus healing the blind, the Sermon on the Mount, the crucifixion, and ascension.
Thanksgiving visit – Dave and I had a great time spending time with family in NY for Thanksgiving – a rare treat as it’s been years since I’ve been home for Turkey Day! Many laughs, a lot of tasty food, and Dave got to go skeet shooting with Tommy and Natalie! Out to dinner on Thanksgiving Eve:
Shaw Bijou (Sat, 11/26) – really up-close and personal dining experience with the Drew and Ngoc! Amazing cocktails. Owned by Top Chef winner Kwame Onwuachi:
National Air & Space Museum (Sun, 11/27)
Military Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), America by Air, and Golden Age of Flight:
Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall:
Lunar Module LM-2 – Reproduction of a lunar module, identical to the ones that landed 12 American astronauts on the moon from 1969-1972. LM-2 never flew in space, it was built for lunar landing testing, here on Earth. Note the camera focused on astronaut for proof of landing!
Mercury Friendship 7 – On Feb 20, 1962 John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth in this spaceship, which he named Friendship 7. The spaceship was tiny – astronauts couldn’t be taller than 5″11″. Astronauts joked that you don’t ‘get in’, you ‘put it on’!:
Gemini IV – achieved the first American spacewalk – June 3, 1965. Edward White became the first American to walk in space when he opened the hatch and floated out of his capsule for 21 mintues. Called Gemini since there are 2 seats.
SpaceShip One – privately-built piloted craft reached space and returned safely – capable of carrying 3 people into suborbital space flight (about 62 miles) in 2004. The success of SpaceShip One inspired the creation of Virgin Galactic whose goal is to send tourists into space:
West side of gallery – the Bell X-1 Glamorous, piloted by Chuck Yeager, proved that aircraft could travel faster than speed of sound (Mach 1) in 1947. It was bright orange to help observers track it during flight – seriously!:
Moving Beyond Earth:
Explore the Universe and Lunar Exploration Vehicles:
Skylab Orbital Workshop:
Spirit of St Louis (Ryan NYP) – In 1927 Charles Lindbergh completed the first solo nonstop transatlantic flight in history from Roosevelt Field on Long Island to Paris, France.
Bureau of Engraving & Printing (Tues, 11/29): After being ‘greeted’ by an unnecessarily rude attendant, we went on the tour with a friendly guide. You watch a video of how money is printed and then you see some printing in action. No photos allowed on the tour unfortunately. Really cool to see (from far away and above) the separate stations printing 5’s, 20’s, etc. – and reams and reams of 20’s being inspected manually and then by machine. The average employee sees more than $$ billion each day, more than they’ll earn in a lifetime. Pretty staggering! The tour was OK and somewhat informative, but I think we expected an even more close-up experience. I wouldn’t go out of your way to do this in DC.
Old Ebbitt Grill – enjoyed some breakfast at this DC mainstay!
Library of Congress (Tues, 11/29) – Our Uber driver dropped us at the wrong building….Madison….
…then made our way through the basement tunnels over to the Jefferson building, which was completely spectacular – a must-do on your DC itinerary!
Thomas Jefferson Library –
Throughout his life, books were vital to Thomas Jefferson’s education and well-being. In the midst of the American Revolution and while United States minister to France in the 1780s, Jefferson acquired thousands of books for his library at Monticello. By 1814 when the British burned the nation’s Capitol and the Library of Congress, Jefferson had acquired the largest personal collection of books in the United States. Jefferson offered to sell his library to Congress as a replacement for the collection destroyed by the British during the War of 1812. Congress purchased Jefferson’s library for $23,950 in 1815. A second fire on Christmas Eve of 1851, destroyed nearly two thirds of the 6,487 volumes Congress had purchased from Jefferson. Through a generous grant from Jerry and Gene Jones, the Library of Congress is attempting to reassemble Jefferson’s library as it was sold to Congress.
Jefferson’s library was divided into categories of Memory, Reason, and Imagination—which Jefferson translated to “History,” “Philosophy,” and “Fine Arts”—and further divided into forty-four “chapters,” the collection placed within Jefferson’s fingertips the span of his multifaceted interests.
If you look closely at the photos, you’ll note the following:
- Green ribbons are books that were from Jefferson’s collection
- Gold ribbons were recently purchased to reconstitute the library
- Books already owned by the Library identical to Jefferson’s have no ribbons
- Boxes denote ‘missing books’ from his collection
Main Reading Room:
A mural of twelve seated figures, male and female, are arranged against a wall of mosaic patterning. They represent countries, or epochs, which in 1897, when the building was constructed, were thought to have contributed the most to the evolution of western civilization. Egypt represents Written Records. Judea represents Religion. Greece represents Philosophy. Rome represents Administration. Islam represents Physics. The Middle Ages represent Modern Languages. Italy represents the Fine Arts. Germany represents the Art of Printing. Spain represents Discovery. England represents Literature. France represents Emancipation. America represents Science.
Portrait Statues: Art – Michelangelo & Beethoven. Commerce – Christopher Columbus & Robert Fulton. History – Herodotus & Edward Gibbon. Law – Solon & James Kent. Philosophy – Plato & Francis Bacon. Poetry – Homer & Shakespeare. Religion – Moses & St Paul the Apostle. Science – Sir Isaac Newton & Joseph Henry
Exploring the Early Americas Exhibit, including:
- 3000 rare maps, documents, painting, prints, and artifacts
- drama of the encounters between Native Americans and European explorers and settlers, and the pivotal changes caused by the meeting of the American and European worlds
- Martin Waldseemüller’s 1507 map of the world—the first on which the word “America” appears
Nice view of the Capitol:
Gutenberg Bible – the first great book printed in Western Europe from moveable metal type. It marks a transition point from the Middle Ages to the modern world. Printing completed around 1455 at Mainz, Germany. Johann Gutenberg is generally credited for inventing this printing process. This bible was translated by St Jerome in the 4th century. Capital letters and headings are ornamented by hand in color. Only 3 volumes of this bible exist!
The Giant Bible of Mainz – 1452-1453:
Swedish House & Swedish Christmas Fair (Sat, Dec 3)
Final DC Dining!
Rocket Launch – from Wallops Island – sometime in Oct. This was kind of cool. We walked up to the George Washington Masonic Temple and were joined by at least 50 others to watch the rocket launch! Dave also had live streaming coverage of it in the background on his videos.
Sampson the Cat!
Dave and I made friends with Dean and Mari’s cat, Sam – who would often keep guard our door and come in for a visit!
Final thoughts on DC: we had such a great time here. There’s so much to see and do, it’s so iconic, and we loved having friends and family close by. However, we wouldn’t want to live here – rude people, bad traffic (and signage), too much horn honking, high cost of living, etc. Great to visit though!