Happy Fourth of July!

I hope everyone had a safe and happy 4th of July holiday. Mine started a bit early as we were let out of work on Thursday at lunch time. I took the opportunity to wander the Smithsonian’s Folklife Festival on the Mall. I had fun wondering the tents with artisans from Bhutan but I really enjoyed the NASA tents. I got to speak with several astronauts and scientists about the International Space Station and NASA’s plan to get man back to the moon by 2020.

After I wandered, I keep walking to see some of the monuments as I hadn’t really done that yet since I got down here. I walked past the Washington Monument and on to the World War II Monument which I had not seen yet. It was beautifully done – very open and lots of water fountains and falls. The two sides represent the Atlantic and Pacific theaters with a separate pillar for each state and territory that sent men and women to fight during the war. A lot of the area was blocked off however I think this was because of the fourth of July – they launch the fireworks from the reflecting pool, only a short walk away from the monument. I continued on and walked through the Vietnam Memorial next. This memorial always makes me slightly uncomfortable but always in awe. There are always people taking rubbings and this time an entire family had come to place flowers under what I gathered was a son’s/uncle’s name. It’s a very emotional memorial to walk through.

I next hiked on to the Lincoln Memorial and the Reflecting Pool. This whole area was a bit of a mess – it was fenced off for the fireworks and also they are doing some sort of road work it looks like in front of the monument so it’s less than aesthetically pleasing currently. I climbed up all the stairs to the inside of the monument to see the statue of Lincoln and to read the Gettysburg Address on one wall, the other had his second inaugural speech on it. I also ducked into the exhibit under the monument (mostly to cool off to be honest) but it displayed quotes of Lincolns as well as video of the more momentous occasions that have happened on the steps of the Monument.

At this point, I could go no further so TJ’s monument gets put off for another day. I started my way back up Constitution and when looking for a metro station, I found the Corcoran Gallery which was on my list of museums to visit. This is the first museum I’ve had to pay for since I came. For me, it was worth it though. I liked this museum’s collections of American art a lot and I also liked the special exhibition of photography and film taken by several journalists in countries hit particularly hard with HIV/AIDS. It was thought-provoking exhibit. I also liked the Treasures of European Decorative Art and Sculpture rooms – including a completely transferred salon from 18th century Paris, The Salon Dore. I felt like I’d stepped back into Versailles for a moment. I made my way home after this.

On Friday, I took Kathy out to the Folklife Festival. We got caught in the parade since it starts late for a parade, at 11 AM. Once we got through one of the Mall’s security checkpoints, it wasn’t as crowded as we’d feared. We had fun exploring and I tried some Bhutanese cuisine (very tasty – I had momos, pork-filled dumplings with salsa) and we both downed Lime Fizzes (so good!). After that, we headed back home. We went and watched the fireworks at Kathy and Scott’s friend’s apartment building. His roof was the perfect place to watch – they were stunning though I like music with my fireworks, my only complaint. They should pipe a soundtrack through the city during the 4th of July fireworks, just a suggestion 😉

Yesterday, I didn’t do much. I got my phone fixed (yay) so I can do texting and get voicemail messages again. I watched a couple of movies and went grocery shopping. Today, I went and did the National Museum of Women in the Arts as it is free the first Sunday of every month. It’s a good thing too – I would have been angry if I’d paid for this museum. It was just not worth it to me. First of all, it felt like a highly disorganized museum, there seemed to be no natural flow to see everything by. Also, the lighting was not the best at times. I don’t mind when it means I can’t take a picture, but at times, the natural lighting combined with the chandeliers meant I couldn’t see the painting itself very well. This may be because, unlike many museums, this one had all the pictures with glass over them. However, I was glad for it when several unsupervised kids were reaching up and touching to see if they would get in trouble. Ugh – children in museums is fast becoming a pet peeve of mine. They always look bored and so they try to amuse themselves by annoying everyone around them. The only museum they seem to like, that I’ve noticed, is the NMNH which makes sense, dinosaur bones and rocks they can climb on are more kids’ styles.

Overall, I was also unimpressed with the NMWA’s collection in general. There were a few pieces I liked but most were uninteresting to me. I understand it is a small museum so they rotate what is on display a lot – maybe I caught a bad rotation? I am certainly glad I took advantage of the free Sunday to visit though. This week I probably won’t be doing too much. My family is in town this coming weekend so I need to do laundry and get things organized for that. I may try to sneak the Phillips Collection in on Thursday since it’s open late but if I get pressed for time as I have a report due this week, that may be moved again to a different week. Hope everyone has a great week!!

Visiting the Libraries

Luckily, I have only during the day on Saturday to write about and then this week and I am all caught up!

Saturday, I did the two libraries in my neighborhood. I started at the Folger Shakespeare Library, home of the largest collection of Shakespeare scholarship on this side of the Atlantic. It is quite small, most of it is only open to researchers but the current exhibit is on Armor and Shakespeare which was interesting to look through. My main reason for coming though was right inside the door of the Gallery. One of the First Folios. I had seen one in Stratford of course but I loved this one because it is encased with a touchscreen system which lets you digitally browse through the book as they have digitalized the first part of it. It was fun to look through and see the spellings and find my favorite lines. Like I was looking through Romeo and Juliet and found “I bite my thumb at thee sir!” It took me back to eighth grade and my first experience with Shakespeare (which I will admit, he’s grown on me over the years). I also looked into the theater they have at the library. Their season is already done for the year which is a same, I would have liked to have seen a production there. Though it was sort of a poor substitute after seeing the Globe and the Royal Shakespeare Company theaters in Stratford, it was still faithful to the intimate and country feeling to the theaters of Shakespeare’s time. I picked up a copy of Much Ado about Nothing while I was here. Now I am quoting my favorite Shakespeare heroine non-stop; I need a Benedick to burn my library for 😉

After I finished at the Folger, I crossed the street to the Library of Congress. It seriously is one of my favorite buildings in DC. It has the unassuming green dome terraced, with the fabulous fountain out front and Minerva everywhere (they insist on the Roman names here so I will grudgingly use them – the Greek ones are prettier). I wondered in and just missed the start of the tour but since I couldn’t see the Main Reading Room without a tour, I nonchalantly joined one in front of the Guttenburg Bible. I really enjoyed my tour actually. The tour guide was this adorable old woman who knew everything about every mural, stone bust and painting in the place. The Main Reading Room is sadly under refurbishment at the moment so sections of it are covered in scaffolding and sheets. But it was beautiful to finally see it in person after seeing it in the movies for so long. After the tour disbursed, I wondered Creating the United States which had drafts of the Declaration and Constitution on display along with countless letters and journals. I then found Thomas Jefferson’s Library. It is a reconstruction of Jefferson’s original library that he sold to Congress to start their library. It was a nice tie-in to my visit to Monticello last weekend though I wonder were exactly all those books fit at Monticello… I then walked through an exhibit on the Exploring Early America – lots of maps and arguments over who gets what land in the New World. There was a very neat case on pirating in the New World though. After this, I wondered downstairs and into the Bob Hope Gallery, focusing on Bob Hope but also looking at Vaudeville and Hollywood in general during his time. I saw yet another Oscar – seen a lot of those lately. I then shopped (of course – they had a book store people…) and picked up a great read on the presence of American Women in the Library. I then went and got my Reader’s Card for the Library in the Madison Building so I can actually go and use the Library now if I want to which I am excited to do. I just need to figure out when exactly I am doing that and what I want to look at. The woman who did my application for the card gave me the name of a fabulous woman’s history librarian so I hope to get a hold of her and look at some of their woman’s collections. Maybe store up an idea for a thesis for when I get back to school for my woman’s history masters….

This week has been fairly standard at work – I’ve been scanning all week with the new resolutions the Smithsonian just approved so my pictures take twice as long to scan now but I did the Kennedy files this week which were fascinating to look through and read all the newspaper clippings (like, FYI, did you know the Kennedys had a child die 20 hours after birth while in the White House? I didn’t even know little Patrick Bouvier Kennedy ever existed…that family really is cursed.) We did have our staff picnic yesterday. They shut down the Folklife Festival to the public for the day and give us the run of the place. This year the tents are Texas, Bhutan and NASA (as it’s their 50th anniversary this year). We ate at Texas – Taquitos but I want to try Bhutan when I go this weekend. Hopefully I don’t murder any tourists before then. I cannot wait for the Fourth of July to be over and done with – too many Americans around for my taste. Most of the time I’ve noticed, the tourists come from outside the States. One day, eating lunch in my favorite spot, I didn’t hear English anywhere around me. I like it that way – ugh, Americans.

I will report on the Fourth of July next. I cannot wait for this fireworks show!!!!!