Saturday, June 18, 2011

On Thursday I Returned to the Smithsonian (Quelle Surprise)

I went back to the Smithsonian on Thursday. I had heard good reviews of the cafeteria in the National Museum of the Native American, so I forgo lunch at home in favor of trying them out. It lived up the reputation - I enjoyed a Navajo taco with buffalo chile and a cold side salad made from squash, pumpkin seeds, and raisins.

The exterior of the building itself is nicely designed with limestone curves and a lovely water feature.

Museum of Native Americans

The interior of the building, the exhibits themselves, had a lot of sparkle and very little substance. There was so much visual stimuli that it was hard to focus on the actual artifacts, and the story they were trying to convey was almost impossible to follow. I started on the fourth floor with the introductory movie. The movie really typifies the fault of the whole museum. The viewing room is round and the audience sits on steps around the perimeter. In the center of the room three white woven blankets are draped over wooden beams - that's what the movie projects on to. On the floor in the middle of the blankets is a large plastic "rock". It is also projected on during the film; they make the surface of the rock appear to be covered with water, fire, blankets, etc. The ceiling is one of those domed projection-screen ceilings, too, so they have various vistas panning across above us during the film. There were glass display boxes scattered throughout the audience area. When the film focused on a particular tribe, that tribe's artifact box would illuminate with a crackling sound effect. Take all of that and add in a 13-minute film about the various types of Native American people with no narrative structure or order that made sense and you've got a very confusing multi-media introductory experience.

While I appreciated that the museum wasn't focused solely on the "classical" American Indians (it ranged from the Eskimos up North, to the Chilean people to the South, to the tribes on the East coast, to the native Hawaiians), the museum was covering such an array of information that it just all muddled together.

As I was leaving the museum, a sudden deluge of rain drove people under any available awning or tree. I had thrown an umbrella into my purse for the day, so I just pulled that out and enjoyed a damp and pleasant walk around the mall in the rain. My skirt and shoes were soaking wet in seconds, since there was so much water on the ground that the falling raindrops made it splash upwards. Lucky my dad talked me into waterproofing my shoes before I came here!

Wet shoe

(I'm going to do a seperate photo-dump post, since I've got pictures from days I've already covered. Just soes you know.)

Upon discovering that the Air and Space Museum was open late that day (until 7:30. Smithsonian museums usually close at 5:30), I headed there.

I like the Air and Space museum. I like the artifacts and the type of history they're honoring. I kept thinking of my relatives who would appreciate the knowledge more than me. Between my parents (both science majors, albeit biology), my dad's dad (a pilot who builds airplanes for fun), and all of my mom's siblings (who all do work/have worked for Thiokol, making them literal rocket scientists) there are many family members whose perspectives and knowledge I'd like to have on hand while looking at the wonders of that museum.

Happily, I am still enough of a geek to get a serious thrill out of this:

Touch the Moon!

I'm touching the moon! How freakin' awesome is that?

Man, I love the Smithsonian. It is so geektastically cool.

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