By Amanda Tu, Henrietta Reilley, and Olivia Millar
Photos by Amanda Tu
We arrived in the Washington D.C. area at about 7 a.m., disoriented and exhausted from our 10-hour bus ride. While we were all very excited about the trip to come, it was difficult to motivate ourselves to begin our first day on so little sleep. After a quick stop at IHOP to change clothes and eat breakfast, we slowly began our day at the Smithsonian Museum of American History.
The door opened from the cold air of the outside to the sound of trumpets blaring and horns blowing. We checked through security and listened as the musical group in front of us continued their intriguing song. They finished, bowed, and a man in a long red coat with gold buttons and blue pants walked to the front. He told the crowd that his group was from Kentucky, and on cue the band began to play “My Old Kentucky Home”. From there we walked into an exhibit about the changes of food throughout the years in America. The most interesting part for us of this exhibit was seeing the food pyramids for different cultures around the world and the global perceptions of cuisine. We then walked up the stairs, where we were greeted by a large group of people. Cameras and soundboards crowded the sides and a stage was set up in the front of the room. Three men sat in front of a sign saying “BackStory – with the American History Guys” talking about historical events in a “humorous” way. Next, we saw artifacts of America-Kermit the frog puppets, Dorothy’s slippers and many other countless treasures. The museum had many other stories to be told, but sadly we were out of time.
Following our trip to the Museum of American History, we walked to the Museum of Natural History. The museum’s contents ranged from ancient, preserved bodies to one of the most valuable gems in the world, the Hope Diamond. While not incredibly large, the Hope Diamond is known for its extreme clarity and its supposed curse.
Mammals ranging from the smallest of rodents to the largest of tigers (all stuffed) were on display, as well as many of their skeletons. A gallery of the best photos taken of nature and its contents was on display as well. The photos were taken in every corner of the earth, of the most impressive flora and fauna on our planet. Bones from numerous types of dinosaurs could be seen in the fossil and dinosaur exhibit. I was especially surprised to see the variety in the bone construction of the ancient reptilian beasts. The mummy exhibit presented ancient ways of body preservation discovered by the ancient Egyptians, and used throughout the colonial ages in the Americas and abroad. I was interested by the removal of organs and blood in order to make the body last longer, as well as the witchcraft and beliefs surrounding the burial and mummification processes of the Egyptians.
After leaving the Museum of Natural History, we began to walk across the National Mall to visit the Air and Space Museum, but were stopped by a large crowd of people huddled on the lawn. CNN was our holding a live broadcast in front of the Capitol building to discuss the inauguration and their predictions for President Obama’s second term. In between interviews from various D.C. locations, the network’s cameras panned over the growing crowd. Most of our students attempted to push their way to the front of the crowd in order to be seen on TV. Some even climbed onto their friends’ backs to be more visible. Others frantically fiddled with their phones, attempting to alert their parents to turn on the television. Finally, after about 30 minutes of intermittent shouting and cheering, we continued on our camera, including Mr. Miller and his son. While he tried to downplay the experience, the lucky students who were able to show their faces on television were delighted about their five seconds of stardom.
The Air and Space Museum was unfortunately not as interesting to as many of us as the previous two museums. Already tired from 24 hours without a good night’s sleep, several students opted to rest on the lobby floor for the duration of our visit. Others decided not to look through the museum’s impressive collection of historical aircrafts and spaceships, but to ride the plane simulator. Two students would sit inside what essentially was a small metal box and would attempt to control the vehicle to shoot down targets. Though most had difficulty steering, the general consensus about the experience was positive, and some likened it to an enclosed roller coaster.
We finished our day with dinner from the Mexican restaurant across the street–a satisfying conclusion to a successful first day of exploration. Look forward to a new update tomorrow!