Day 21 – More Smithsonians & other stuff

We saw some iconic American objects today.

First we went to the National Air and Space Museum. This museum contains iconic aircraft such as the Wright Brothers Flyer and the Spirit of St Louis . While this museum contains some very nice displays, it is looking quite dated. Many of the displays need to be refreshed. They seem to be developing a new exhibition related to the space shuttles which looks great. Hopefully this great treasure will get some love soon.

We also saw the National Museum of American History. . This museum contains items from recent American history, such as Kermit the Frog and the Ruby slippers. The original star spangled banner which hung over Fort McHenry and prompted the National Anthem is also here. The museum also contains a quick summary of many key events in history, such as wars to present day, various Presidents and First Ladies. The museum would be good to get a quick overview of American history, but not great for exploring any topic in depth.

The museum also had an exhibition on Thomas Edison. I feel that this exhibit was extremely one sided and presented Edison in a very positive light. Very little mention was made of the war of the currents or of his extremely questionable corporate tactics such as the Topsy incident. Nikola Tesla is mentioned only in passing and mention is made of him working for Edison, but not that Edison refused to pay him what he had promised. I understand that some museums may have views on history, but it seems remiss to completely overlook this key controversy which shaped the planet. This page is a good summary of the debate over Edison and Tesla. This one is pretty good too.

We also visited the National Archives. This is the building that stores the American constitution, bill of rights and deceleration of independence. Seeing these documents is quite amazing. After checking your bags and going through the scanner thing (which you have to do in all government buildings, including museums) you essentially just walk up to the documents. I have heard some people say that they have had to wait for several hours, which I was expecting, however we only waited about 5 minutes. The documents are stored under glass and lots of security, but it that security is basically invisible. You can see them only a few inches away and it is pretty awesome. Also, as an added benefit, you get to see the Magna Carta. Inspiring!

We also walked past the White House. Was a long way away, but exciting nonetheless.

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