In high school in the mid 60s I took a school trip train ride to Washington DC. While the trip was packed with the big historical attractions, somehow I convinced my history teacher to let me spend the entire time at the Smithsonian.
Reading about the Smithsonian in my encyclopedia I had plotted out a map of “must sees”.
The highlight of my trip was getting stuck in an elevator there with over twenty teenage girls. It was great fun for the first hour until they started to cry.
My father was a big Charles Lindbergh fan and I wanted to see the real “Spirit of St Louis” airplane, after seeing the film with Jimmy Stewart.
The Air and Space Museum is packed with aircraft to the ceiling and is the most visited museum.
It’s also where Peter Fonda’s “Captain America” bike from Easy Rider is exhibited, which my friend Dan Hagerty had built.
The Smithsonian Institution was established in 1846 with funds from Jason Smithson, a British scientist who left his entire estate to the United States of America.
While Smithson had never traveled to America, he regarded the United States as a new frontier for scientific discoveries, unburdened by the many troubles that plagued the Old World.
Smithson died in 1829 and was buried at a cemetery in Genoa Italy. In 1905 an adjacent quarry was expanding so his remains had to be removed.
Alexander Graham Bell traveled to Italy and personally oversaw the exhumation and transport of the body from Italy to the United States. Smithson is entombed at the Smithsonian institution Castle.
Today the Smithsonian is the world’s largest museum and research complex with 20 museums and galleries, with 137 million artifacts.
With thirty million annual visitors it’s called “The Nation’s Attic”.
Open every day except Christmas from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and admission is free.
David Garland DC Washington Oct 23, 2023 Back in Time History Museums