Last week the Menokin Staff took a field trip into Washington, DC. The primary reason for our trip was to visit the National Building Museum. Our goal was to research their exhibits and come away with ideas for our Visitor’s Center and collection.
If you’ve never been to the National Building Museum, you might drive right past it. Looking suspiciously like a federal administration building, it was, in fact, constructed between 1882 and 1887, for the purpose of serving as a fireproof headquarters of the U.S. Pension Bureau’s headquarters. In 1997, the historic building was officially renamed the National Building Museum.
However, it is anything but ordinary.
The interior of the building is dominated by a grand central space, the Great Hall. Measuring 116 x 316 feet, the Great Hall features a central fountain and is divided into three courts by two screens of four colossal Corinthian columns—among the tallest classical columns in the world.
As hard as it was to drag ourselves away from the grandeur of the Great Hall, our first stop, the House & Home Exhibit, was well worth it. This “kaleidoscopic array of photographs, objects, models, and films that takes us on a tour of houses both familiar and surprising, through past and present, challenging our ideas about what it means to be at home in America.” We came away from the exhibit with brains churning with ideas of how to use and display our unique collection of construction artifacts here at Menokin.
After a quick lunch in Chinatown (just a few blocks away), we headed up to President Lincoln’s Cottage at the Soldier’s Home three miles north of downtown. Founded in 1851 as a home for retired and disabled veterans of American wars, the Soldiers’ Home stands on 276 acres atop the third highest area in the District of Columbia.
The tour focuses largely on the time that Lincoln spent at the Cottage during his presidency. The story is told by a tour guide in a friendly, conversational manor, with lots of questions directed at the audience. The house itself is very stark. Little or no furnishings occupy the large rooms. There is not a great sense of the people that lived there, but the use of recorded actors recounting stories, reading letters and holding conversations in each room does lend insight to the kind of life that the Lincolns had there.
Both places are well worth the visit.
On Monday, June 4th, a group of fourteen bird enthusiasts gathered at George Washington Birthplace National Monument for a bird walk led by author and wildlife expert, Joe LaFleur. LaFleur holds a bachelor’s degree in wildlife biology and a master’s degree in communication from Colorado State University. For the past twenty years he has been collecting bird footage of the calls of various bird breeds. The past month, he has been touring the east coast, leading bird walks at various parks along the way to help generate an interest in bird watching.
He started the tour with an audio-visual presentation of bird breeds that are prevalent in the Tidewater area and thus might possibly be spotted on the walk through the park grounds. As the footage played, Lafleur discussed the birds’ markings, calls, and habitats so that the group could better identify and differentiate the breeds. Some of…
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George Washington’s Birthplace, part of the National Park Service, offers an entertaining and educational adventure in one of Virginia’s most beautiful and historical settings. The park is located along Pope’s Creek, which neighbors the Potomac River, and the water can be seen glistening through the cedars from almost any point in the park. A memorial obelisk marks the park’s entrance leading to the historical grounds, picnic area, and visitor center.
The park’s main attraction, the historical area, was created in 1932 as part of the bicentennial celebration of George Washington’s birth. The historical plantation buildings can all be viewed by walking along a crushed oyster shell path that loops through the grounds, although you might have to share the path with the numerous butterflies weaving in and out. Along the loop you’ll first pass the tobacco garden, right outside of the animal barn where sheep can be seen grazing in…
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