In the midst of farewells, finals, and due dates approaching, I surprisingly found some extra time to visit some of the great museums in DC. Before I get into my observations and experiences I had in these museums, I have to say that Americans perfected the art of making museums fun. As a kid my parents brought me to beautiful museums around the world like the hermitage in Russia or the Louvres in France, but I was 11 and I wanted to go go-karting at that time. Going around the museums in DC, I was surprised at how engaged the kids were. Especially at the air and space museum, the activities made the kids have fun while they were learning and I thought that was great. I definitely think Europe could learn a lot about museums in America because I would have loved these museums as a kid.
So my museum tour of DC consisted (so far) of the Renwick, the Holocaust Memorial Museum, Smithsonian Air & Space and Smithsonian Museum of Natural History (I do plan on visiting some more during my free days in DC after my finals).
I’ve been to the Renwick a couple of times to see their new exhibitions and I really liked this museum, it’s not too big and shouldn’t take more than an hour to get through everything. It’s a great place to go to after getting a coffee and walking around the White House.
The Holocaust Memorial museum carried a very gloomy atmosphere and left me quite shocked throughout the rest of the day. This museum is able to transmit the horrors of the Holocaust very effectively. The museum appeals to most of the senses which makes the experience that much more emotional. In particular, there’s a room where you can hear the actual voices of the victims explaining the horrors they went through during the war and you can clearly feel the terrors they carry in their voices. The part that probably shocked me the most was the model of the Auschwitz concentration camp which clearly displayed how the victims were transported into the gas chambers and the inhuman conditions which they faced.
The Smithsonian Air & Space museum was great because it shows the progress mankind has made from 1903 to today. It was amazing to see how in 116 years we went from a 4 second flight to reaching Mars. I loved how the museum had life-size models of the first planes to ever exist, because till then I had only read about the Wright brothers and watched their accomplishments on a screen. Seeing what they built and the chain of events that followed was super interesting and this museum exhibited this very well. As I was walking around the museum I felt this feeling of motivation and I loved how it showed that as humans can do great things if we put our hearts into it.
The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History was also very impressive. Walking around the large hallways with life-size model of animals all around made me feel as though I was in a zoo in some instances. The museum displayed such life-like replicas of many different animals and I thought it was great, because for some of these animals I wouldn’t be able to see them this close, like the whale and the mammoth and it was an interesting experience. I loved this museum because it displayed the wonders of our planet and it gave me a newfound appreciation of everything that we take for granted in nature.
This weekend I’ll be going to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Portrait Gallery, and the National Geographic Museum. I’ve heard great things about these ones and I’m super excited!
Being told by everyone that I was wasting my time if I don’t go visit the museums, I decided to make a list of the museums I will be visiting this semester. Having a deep interest in History and especially the History of the United States at its genesis, the National Museum of American History was at the top of my list! Also, another thing that amazes me and terrifies me at the same time is space. I mean, we are living in an infinitesimal dot among billions of galaxies. Thus, the National Museum of Air and Space was Number 2 on my list.
This week started with a very heavy Monday, full of exercise, challenging classes and lots of walking. Mondays are horrible. Our Psychology professor told us to come to his Happy Office Hours. It was something completely new to me and I haven’t seen that before. Basically, we had to meet at a pub on K St called, Froggy Bottom and we had to discuss some psychology theories with the professor in a very chill way. I have never ever eaten chicken fingers with a professor in my entire life.
The Museum of Air and Space was incredibly awesome! I went with Angus, a cultivated guy from Australia, who is also an exchange student. If there is one thing I’m so happy to say about my visit to the museum it’s that I touched a piece of the moon. I was also fascinated by all the aircraft from wars. It was so surprising to see real space probes and more historical aircraft such as the first plane that ever flew, created by the Wright brothers. In a nutshell, my visit to the national museum of Air and Space was so exciting and I’m looking forward to going back again.
The second museum I visited this week is the national museum of the American history. Being in DC is already being in a museum of the American History but the one I visited was really worth it. First of all, I went to the museum with an exchange orientation leader, Erin, who is majoring in History and some of her friends. She was so delighted to explain to us some of the episodes that America has known throughout time. From the Independence war to the Vietnam war, going through the period of slavery and the dresses of the first ladies, the museum of the American history is by far one of the best museums I have ever seen.
In a nutshell, this week and the previous ones are making my little experience in DC better and better. It has now been one month that I am in the US and I can’t tell you how fast time is moving.
This weekend it was my turn to play tour guide. A close friend of mine, who I met whilst she was studying abroad at King’s College last year had come down from Philly to catch up and check out DC. Her timing could not have been more perfect as the temperature reached up to 75°F (24°C) and the cherry blossoms came out in bloom. We have been so fortunate with the weather this year, the winter has been extremely mild and spring has arrived early. This time last year it was snowing and now people were out sunbathing. As I hate the cold I am so glad I have not spent the semester freezing my arse off.
We grabbed lunch, headed down to the National Mall and spent the afternoon sitting at the edge of the Reflecting Pool basking in the sun and catching up on all the events of the past year. To escape the heat we went and checked out the Renwick Gallery before heading to Georgetown for dinner. After eating way too much pizza we decided that we still weren’t full and went to the famous Georgetown Cupcakes for dessert. I had only tried the Baked and Wired cupcakes before but I definitely prefer the Georgetown ones. As the sun set on Georgetown and as the Oscars were in a couple of days we went and checked out the film Lion at the AMC cinema.
The next day we headed across town to Eastern Market. Although it is only a small market they still had a decent selection of food stalls. We had Mexican street food for lunch followed up by mini doughnuts. As the weather changed we decided to make the most of the free museums in DC and explored the Air and Space Museum and the Holocaust Memorial Museum. The holocaust memorial was particularly sobering and extremely poignant in the current political climate. It was unsettling to recognise certain parallels between past and present events as the museum also makes connections between past cases and potential future risks of genocide.
Once again we hit up 14th Street for dinner. This time around we headed to Thip Khao, which specialises in Laos food. I had never tried Laos food before as it is not something that is commonly available in London. However, it is definitely something I will be searching for when I return home. We devoured a range of dishes from chicken hearts to pig ears (trust me it tastes better than it sounds!) before finishing the night off at Eighteenth Street Lounge.
It was great to be able to catch up with an old friend and show her around the city. As we explored DC I realised how much I had come to know and love my new home.