It is, of course, Colin, who is on winter break—a whopping seven-plus weeks without classes, a marked improvement from the single week he had off last year—as they call what I am doing simply “unemployment.” Anyway…
The good fortune of living in DC instead of visiting DC is that there is no rush to see the treasures held in the halls of the museums here. Because all* of the museums are free, and because we have, you know, “all the time in the world,” we can visit the National Museum of American History one floor at a time and leave when we start to fade, before seeing Judy Garland’s ruby red slippers, because we’re only out the bus fare, and her slippers will be there when we go back in a couple weeks. (We went on this exact field trip just last week, in fact.)
The only time that doesn’t work is when something’s only in a temporary exhibit, like the “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?” exhibit in the National Archives that closed today after only seven short months in residence. Of course, Colin and I waited to go see it until yesterday, and we probably would have put it off even to today but for my fear of the different possible interpretations of “Closes January 3.”
The exhibit took visitors from farm to factory to kitchen to table, from a quote from Thomas Jefferson asserting “The greatest service which can be rendered a country is to add a useful plant to its agriculture” to advertisements for vitamin donuts to keep kids healthy to Lyndon B. Johnson’s barbeque diplomacy and Lady Bird’s recipe for barbeque sauce (previous link). There is a letter to a senator written by a Boy Scout asking him to somehow reduce to cost of sugar because “a nickel doesn’t buy too much candy,” and around the corner, the letter written by Upton Sinclair to President Teddy Roosevelt about how spies would have to infiltrate the slaughterhouses now because the owners were wise to the game after the publication of The Jungle, a book that Roosevelt had considered hogwash. TVs showed PSAs on pitching in for the war effort and praising the newly enacted school lunch program. I dawdled through all of it, thoroughly entertained.
I think Colin best liked seeing the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, all housed in the Rotunda of the Archives.
Of course, the hazard of being a resident rather than a tourist is that you have “all the time in the world” to see something, but that time might never get made to do so. For example, we neglected to ever go to the top of Taipei 101, the then-tallest building in the world and easily the most touristy thing to do in the city, despite our living in the area for nine months and having plenty of spare time. It’s doubly disappointing because in all likelihood, we won’t be going back to Taiwan (plus, what’s so special about going to the top of the second-tallest building in the world?), so it’s a greater offense than our not seeing Dorothy’s slippers, since Washington DC is where it’s at for Colin.
All we can do is learn from our mistakes.
*The coolest sounding museum, the International Spy Museum, is unfortunately the only one I’ve come across that charges an entrance fee; it’s privately owned.