Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Museum Sirens

 Like a moth to a flame, I can’t get near Washington, DC without being drawn to it.  It’s not the source of political power that calls to me, it’s the free museums.

So we packed into the van, turned on the GPS, and headed toward DC.  About fifteen minutes into the drive, we discovered that Luke and Ariel’s new GPS had some kind of short or computer chip glitch. Near a complicated interchange, the GPS announced, “Bear left and take...”  Ack!  Take what?  And where?  At which point the video portion of the GPS showed us four-wheeling across green fields.  Clearly something we were not doing in our minivan.  Then we got to enjoy the beauty of U-turns and cloverleaf interchanges.

Our kids in Union Station
After much gnashing of teeth, we arrived in DC and found a wonderful parking place.  But then we noticed signs posted that read “Parking with SAA permit only.” All the streets near the national mall had these signs posted. The kids decided that SAA stood for “Society of Amazing Americans” to which they felt that they belonged by virtue of their collective coolness.  Since Cal and I didn’t want a parking ticket, I asked a policeman (they were on just about every street corner) where we could park.  He said, “Union Station.”  We did find parking at Union Station, but the word “gouging” would not be an inappropriate adjective to describe their pricing structure.

We walked from Union Station to the American History Museum.  Since it was bitterly cold, I suggested that we walk through the National Gallery of Art because it would be warm.  This brought bitter laughter to the kids—apparently I tried the same trick last time we were it DC and we spent hours in the Gallery.  Of course, as I remember it, we did spend hours in the gallery, but Cal and I had to drag the kids out of the gallery.

At any rate, we finally made it to the AHM.  Luke got caught up in a Supercollider exhibit.  He grumbled imprecations against the exhibit designers “who were clearly not scientists” as they described something as “degrees Kelvin” and everyone knows that Kelvin is just Kelvin not degrees Kelvin.  And then there was the exhibit demonstration that wasn’t working.  Luke tried to fix it.  I hastily whispered that the Smithsonian probably didn’t want his help.

Jacob with the robot controlled car.
Jake found the robotic car exhibit. He found the sample coding for the robot and gleefully reported that he could read the code.  Then he discovered that different companies hire engineers to program and design these vehicles.  He said, “Does this mean I could actually do this for a living?!”  I said, “Yep.”  If robotics team wasn’t enough to convince Jake that he wanted to be an engineer, the Smithsonian did the trick.

Strad lust.

We also got to see a violin, viola, and violoncello all made by Stradivarius. Surrounding the glass cases were musicians all experiencing varying degrees of instrument lust.

After a visit to see the first ladies inaugural gowns (btw, Mary Todd Lincoln was much skinnier than pictures made her out to be), the boys went to a massive history of war exhibit while Ariel and I made a jaunt to the Museum of Natural History to look at the Hope Diamond—every woman needs to see it once in her life.

Afterwards Ariel and I headed to the National Gallery.  Vermeer, Rembrandt, Da Vinci et al. sing to me their siren song and like Odysseus I refuse to cover my ears.  They call to Calvin too, but he’s the gracious, patient parent and took the guys to the Air and Space Museum.  Ariel and I joined them eventually—ASM has a great McDonalds that serves extra large fries.  Bliss.  Museum experience complete.


  1. Ah, I remember the National Gallery. Being, like Mr. Keller, gracious and patient, I very willingly told Mom I would stay with David in the Museum of Natural History while all the girls went to the Gallery. I am so long-suffering. :)

  2. So jealous! I love the Smithsonian's! My favorite is the Natural Museum...especially the stuffed bats *sigh*...I love the castle too. Gosh. DC is just plain fun:)

  3. That was a great trip and good pictures. I have never been but need to go.

  4. We ALMOST went to the museum this past weekend too. A fun-filled family time for all. I haven't been to DC in YEARS. Perhaps a reason to get back?

  5. Very fun! Sounds like a great trip--I haven't been to DC in so long! I laughed a little at Luke's assessment of the exhibit--my husband used to work at a planetarium, and when they let the scientists write the exhibits, they were impossible for non-scientists to decipher! Perhaps there needs to be a consortium of scientists and exhibit designers where they can let one another in on their secrets to explaining the universe :)

  6. I don't remember anything about trying to fix an exhibit, what are you talking about?

  7. Luke-

    I'm talking about the electrical cords on the fission reaction model.

  8. I can just see Jacob's grin and wide eyes at his discovery. You know the old hack: find a job you love, and you never work a day of your life.