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Posts Tagged ‘National Museum of American History’

One might think a morning at the National Museum of American History would be enough. One would be wrong. There’s still so much to see here! Like this: Abraham Lincoln’s hat. (He would’ve been 200 this year, you know.) People looked up to ol’ Honest Abe. Literally. He was 6 foot 4. And when he added tall hats like this one, he must have seriously towered over people. I imagine that was all by design, don’t you? A President needs to have presence. This particular hat is the one he was wearing the night he died; I daresay it looked better at the time.

Lincoln's Hat (image courtesy National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution)

Lincoln's Hat (image courtesy National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution)

Check this out (it’s SO cool!): the Smithsonian has Lincoln’s watch. They’ve had it for, I dunno, a hundred years or more. But just this last spring, a man contacted the Museum and said, “There’s this legend in my family that my great-great-grandfather, who was a watchmaker, was repairing Lincoln’s watch when the Civil War broke out and he engraved a message behind the dial. What do you think?”

So on March 10, 2009, they looked—and sure enough, it says, “Jonathan Dillon April 13, 1861 Fort Sumpter was attacked by the rebels on the above date J Dillon April 13, 1861 Washington” and “thank God we have a government Jonth Dillon.” (There’s a video of them taking the watch apart here.) But here’s the thing: Lincoln never knew he was carrying around this message. And neither did anybody else (apart from family legend) until a few months ago. Kind of makes those National Treasure movies seem a little more realistic, doesn’t it?

The Secret Message (Image courtesy National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution)

The Secret Message (Image courtesy National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution)

How can you not love a place that has exhibits like this AND Kermit the Frog? I’m not sure one day is enough…but I can’t dally here forever, it’s Monday, which means it’s $10 mussels night at Granville Moore’s!

Described as “A Gastropub with a Healthy Belgian Fetish”, Granville Moore’s is one of those European-feeling restaurants with exposed brick walls and a teeny-tiny kitchen. I saw Executive Chef Teddy Folkman kick Bobby Flay’s butt on a Mussels Throwdown and this place immediately went on my ‘must eat there’ list. Their specialty is “moules & frites” which is “mussels & fries” to us Americans.

Here they don’t have just any mussels, they have a “fromage bleu” version with applewood smoked bacon, shallots, mild creamy bleu cheese, lemon juice & chardonnay. Drool. The crispy fries come topped with herbs & sea salt and are served with European mayo. It’s so good I may have to come back here again before I leave town.

Joyce Carol OatesFinally, I’m heading to the Freer Gallery tonight to hear author Joyce Carol Oates talk about her career. Her books are not exactly my favorite reads, but she’s an amazingly talented writer and I expect her story to be fascinating. Plus, it’s always interesting to hear how writers approach writing. So ta-ta for now…see you tomorrow!

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Retro Look for History Day

Retro Look for History Day


I’m starting the day at the National Museum of American History.

I’ve chosen this little number for my outfit du jour, because the shirt has that whole prairie spinster vibe (but in a good way) and it seemed appropriate for a history museum. Besides, it’s pretty. Now if only I had Jane Seymour-esque hair to go with it, but I gave that up years ago and I left my concert hair at home. (Don’t ask.)

So. American History. If you’ll hearken back to my Vacation Rules, you may recall that I advise choosing one “must-do” thing per trip. Today I’m going to do mine. It’s on the first floor of the Museum and it’s one of the things that brought D.C. to the top of my “need to visit” list more than a year ago. Today—this morning, in fact—I’m going to visit Julia Child’s kitchen.

Julia Child's Kitchen

Julia Child's Kitchen


You have to love the scope of the Smithsonian. They didn’t just take some pots and pans, they moved the whole shebang from Julia’s Cambridge, Mass home. It’s quite appealing in a retro kind of way and the color scheme is fabulous. See for yourself here: Julia will even welcome you to the exhibit in her own words.

But there’s much more to see. For example, up on the second floor is the star-spangled banner. THE. Star. Spangled. Banner. I’ve been singing about this flag my whole life, and here it is, in the . . . in the cloth. It’s a HUGE (30-by 34-foot) flag and used to be even bigger. The poor thing is full of holes (apparently pieces were cut out over the years for souvenirs) and just about worn to shreds. But it’s majestic and touching and brings a lump to my throat. I’d serenade it, but I’m not sure the guards would appreciate my singing, no matter how round my tone may be, so I’ll just sing in my head. (Oddly enough, in my head my Star-Spangled Banner sounds suspiciously like Sandi Patty’s version.)

The actual, original Star-Spangled Banner

The actual, original Star-Spangled Banner

Also on this floor is the First Ladies at the Smithsonian exhibit. We’re talking gowns, Inaugural gowns, plus other personal memorabilia. I did not know that Eleanor Roosevelt was a tall woman until I saw this exhibit; somehow my mental image of her was kind of short and dumpy. Her dress is that pale pink one (it does strike me as slightly dumpy, but not short); it’s made of rayon, which was a new fabric at the time and probably a patriotic gesture—wasn’t silk in demand for parachutes or something during the war?

First Ladies Exhibit

First Ladies Exhibit

All this wandering and gawking and silent singing, not to mention imagining the delicacies that came from Julia’s kitchen, made me hungry. Fortunately, I don’t even have to leave the building. The Stars and Stripes Café is celebrating Hispanic Heritage month, and a bowl of tortilla soup will hit the spot nicely. So I’ll just go there now and meet up with you later, ‘K?

All images courtesy National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution (more…)

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