Looking for treasures? The best place is a museum. Sure, you can’t take any of those treasures home but you get to see what matters to collectors. It is only fitting that America has its own national treasures museum. That would be the Smithsonian Institution. Instead of being one ginormous museum, the Smithsonian spreads its treasures over 19 museums and galleries and the National Zoological Park thrown in for good measure.
The first of these museums opened in 1923 and the collecting began in earnest. Since its inception, the Smithsonian has had the mission to promote scientific research. It also has a bunch of cool stuff. How much stuff? At last count, there were 137 million artifacts on display and in storage. That’s a lot of dusting. There are rotating and permanent displays. Bottom line: If you’re going to pay a visit to the Nation’s attic, then give yourself a couple of days to see it all. Here are some of the highlights:
Pop Culture Stuff
When you think of museums, images of old art and lofty statues come to mind. The Smithsonian has plenty of those but they pride themselves on their collection of cultural icons. Over at the American History Museum you’ll get up close and personal to a wide range of recognizable items. These include Archie Bunker’s chair, the puffy shirt from Seinfeld, Dorothy’s ruby slippers, Tony Hawk’s skateboard, the original Kermit Muppet and Muhammad Ali’s boxing gloves. We’re only beginning. They also have Fonzie’s jacket, Michael Jackson’s hat and Indiana Jones’ whip. Recently, they put Julia Child’s first television kitchen on display. No matter how old you are, you’re going to find something here that triggers some amazing memories.
The Presidential Stuff
It’s not a stretch to imagine that the Smithsonian would have all kinds of American Presidential memorabilia on display at the Smithsonian. After all, the White House is in walking distance of the museum. How hard is it for the curators to walk down on their lunch break to pick up a few things? As you go exploring, you might stumble across the hair collection of the first fourteen presidents. Yes, these are actual locks of hair from our founding fathers. Not sure why they stopped after fourteen. You can also see the hat Lincoln wore on the night of his assassination and the silk pajamas Warren Harding wore to bed. There are also campaign artifacts and official White House dishes.
The Air And Space Stuff
Over at the National Air and Space Museum, you’ll find the history of flight hanging from the rafters and propped up to walk through. Here is where Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis airplane stands within yards of the Apollo 11 moon capsule. If that doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about this museum, nothing will! As an added bonus, they also have the model of the Starship Enterprise used for the original Star Trek series on display. Yes, before CGI, the actually filmed models flying across backdrops. Still cool.