Thursday proved to be our busiest day, at least in terms of learning and museum hopping. We awoke early, had a quick breakfast, and rolled out (ha) to our first stop: The Newseum. It had topped the list of recommended spots, higher with some folks than even the Smithsonian. Once we arrived and figured out their elevator system, I could see why.
The Newseum was only opened in 1997, but has a wealth of news-related history and knowledge. They have the largest display of the Berlin Wall outside of Germany: eight twelve-foot sections of the former separator of East and West Berlin and a complete guard tower from Checkpoint Charlie. Along with news footage and some other signage, it was easier to imagine being separated from the rest of the world by such an imposing concrete barrier. I learned about tactics the West used to try and get information across the border and the various ways people tried to escape to West Berlin. I wasn't old enough to really understand when the Wall fell, but this exhibit helped connect the dots.
I was keenly interested in their special exhibit showcasing Pulitzer prize winning photographs. There's also a room dedicated to famous news stories that date back to the 1400s. I saw actual newspapers talking about the shootout at the OK Corral, the Titanic disaster, and even the Beatles arriving in America. They had artifacts from reporters and news anchors and all manner of evolving technology from all ages of news. One section of the building was entirely dedicated to 9/11 and the museum houses the twisted remains of the antenna structure that once resided atop Tower 2. The whole museum was really amazing.
After that, our next stop was the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. The nine-year-old in me went crazy seeing skeletons of a T-Rex and Triceratops, a huge room full of taxidermied mammals, and a huge floor of gems and geodes, including the Hope Diamond. There was a huge section devoted to aquatic life and they had a huge squid that rivaled the one I saw in Wellington, NZ all those years ago.
The last hurrah of our overall museum tour was the Museum of American History. We saw artifacts right out of Social Studies class, such as the desk used to draft the Bill of Rights, and large sections dedicated to the evolution of the military from the Revolutionary War up to current. The most breathtaking thing I saw there, however, was the original Star-Spangled Banner. The actual flag that inspired the National Anthem that flew over Fort McHenry. No photography was allowed, but it wouldn't have done it justice anyway. We wrapped up our visit to the museum by going through the First Ladies exhibit; Mom was very excited to see dresses, china, and other items belonging to the First Ladies all the way back to Washington.
It was another long, tiring day but one that was completely worth it. Our last day in D.C. wasn't nearly as packed, but something I was equally excited to experience.