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December 01, 2008

American History Gets a Make-Over


The Smithsonian's National Museum of American History reopened last week after being closed for several years for renovations and remodeling. It has been years since I spent my weekends traipsing around the history museums, the monuments and the art galleries as an awkward tween-preteen but my Dad was right when he said that one day I would appreciate him taking us there, what seemed like every darn weekend. My Dad took full responsibility for teaching us through action that when you live in the shadow of the Nation's Capital where museums are free and subway transportation is entertainment enough for the younger kid alone, you GO. OFTEN.  And GO we did.  I never liked being dragged from my warm bed early on a Saturday morning, fighting with my brother along the drive to a Metro Station, riding a noisy subway train for thirty minutes and then walking across the dusty vacant Mall to a museum.

A decade and a half later I can reflect on those weekend outings and really appreciate the effort he put into giving us a little bit of culture.  I felt a deep sense of family history and tradition last week when I wheeled my almost-one year old through those remodeled-but-still-familiar hallways of the American History Museum.   And I cannot wait to take him back.   

As soon as I walked into the brighter and lighter museum I knew exactly where I was.  No matter what you do you can't change the smell of one of those old Washington-DC buildings.  The smell of mildew and history and cheeseburgers and sweaty tourists. I had been in this building a hundred times before but not in recent years.  The last time I was there was with my grandma.  She would take us there in the summers and we would casually stroll from one exhibit to the next, have lunch and ride the subway back home. I couldn't get over how much of this museum reminded me of her. It was one of her favorite places and she made sure to share it with me and often my brother too. 

We didn't get the see the restored Star Spangled Banner American Flag because our time was limited and waiting in line would have been a 45-minute ordeal, with a baby in a stroller.   We did see the actual Gettysburg Address,  which is on loan from the National Achieves until January.  For me it was really just a glance as I jiggled Noah's stroller just enough to keep him from enjoying the museum-echo of his baby voice.  The museum building was brighter, more open and very easy to navigate (read: less fighting about NO, IT'S THIS WAY!). Even the poster in the basement cafeteria for an exhibit of a reconstructed 200-year old Massachusetts home very clearly says 2 WEST.   

Perhaps it takes an American Studies major who took a few Museum Studies courses to appreciate not getting lost looking for the elevator for the seventh time, but, even if I put my unused-academic-intellect aside, as a parent I am very excited to take my kids there on winter Sundays to make some new memories. 

This is an original posting to DC Metro Moms by Stacy Kravitz who also blogs as The Fabulous Miss S. keeping track of her family's museum outings (and outings of much lesser fascination), sleep troubles and various other exciting mother-related stories as they happen. 


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