Sunday, October 30, 2016
Several Exhibits at American History
When: until November and December, 2016
I took the afternoon off on Friday, just because you need an afternoon off every once in a while. I met some friends for wine and pastries in Georgetown later in the day, and spent the time between work and my gathering at several museums. Because that's what I do with a few free hours - I go to museums.
I saw three small shows at American History: one on giving in America - about philanthropy. There was a time when the very wealthy and successful felt an obligation to give back to the society which had given them so much, and some of the great cultural and artistic institutions we all enjoy today, like the Smithsonian to take but one example, are the result of this giving back. I was particularly happy to see a mention of Andrew Carnegie and his support for what came to be known as "Carnegie libraries." The industrialist believed that libraries were a path to good moral character and self-improvement. A noble sentiment that greater funding for public libraries would help to continue.
The second show I saw was from the archives and was on the subject of Cyrus Field and the first transatlantic cable. Running a wire from England to the North America still strikes me as an amazing undertaking, even though I'm typing this on a desktop computer and sending it out over the Internet, accessible to billions of people worldwide. The humble cable was the basis for modern telecommunications, and really did make the world a smaller, more connected place.
The final display I saw was on celebrations in African-American culture during segregation. It's in honor of the opening of the new African-American museum and features many photographs from the Scurlock Studio, which was the subject of a large exhibit at American History several years ago. The photos were chosen by a poll of Smithsonian staffers and visitors to the museum's website, and they chose well. Birthday parties, weddings, anniversaries - all of them happy occasions - just what I needed to lift my spirits during what has been a contentious and stressful election year.
Verdict: The pick of this litter is the photographs - they're on display through December 27, on the lower level. Who doesn't need a little extra joy?