Friday, June 11, 2010

Sherri and Rheid's Most Excellent Washington DC Adventure Day 6

Day 6: June 9, Wednesday

Today started out bright and early with our thank-you-Congresswoman-Markey tour of the Library of Congress. The best word to describe it is incredible. Beautiful architecture, vibrant colors, symbolic murals, majestic sculptures, and magnificent marble columns all combine to make a dazzling feast for the eyes. I learned the library started out to be mostly a collection of history and law books--kind of what you might expect a congress to want and then under the influence of Thomas Jefferson they expanded the collection to include genres of all kinds. I was bummed to find out my concept that the Library of Congress houses every book ever printed in the US is mythical. They do get about 20,000 submissions a day for inclusion but only about 50% of those are chosen--which is still an amazing number of books and other media. After the tour it was time to get up close and personal with the gift shop--all I can say is I exercised an amazing amount of restraint not to purchase everything in the store. I did get a cool book bag, book mark, and t-shirt--there were too many interesting books to choose from to just pick one…so I decided to ponder on the matter because I didn't want to make such an important decision rashly. Oh, I forgot to mention that if you are a researcher and want to actually touch a book, you must go to one of the 22 reading rooms and submit a request to the reference desk. The librarian will put in the request and about 45 minutes later your book will arrive from a series of conveyor belts from wherever it is housed within 3 massive buildings. Then you must sit and read your "chosen one" there at a desk--there is no checking out at this library. Pretty cool.

A lunch break and it was off to the National Archives. There is a reason why smart tourists plan ahead and pay a dollar to get timed entry tickets. But it takes a brilliant tourist to plan ahead, pay the fee, and then stand in line anyway because you missed your entry by two days…yep, we did our penance standing in line for about an hour in pouring rain. Enterprising entrepreneurs were selling 5 dollar umbrellas like hotcakes to desperate folks caught in the deluge--we luckily borrowed one from our hotel before we left since it looked threatening. (See, we can be smart at times.) When we finally got into the building, being now slightly damp, I froze in the exhibits. My toes turned into raisins with my wet sandals- but I like to think, they were cultured raisins! We got to see the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and even the Magna Carta. Awesome!

A quick on-the-run dinner then we were at the Ford Theatre watching a two man play. The one act show told the story of the Ford Theatre manager and an actor who piece together the events of the day leading up to the assassination of President Lincoln. It was riveting to see the pieces come together of that fateful night and how they come to grips with the fact they missed the signs of John Wilkes Booth's intentions. Loved it.

On our way back to the hotel we found something going on in The Mall. We stopped and watched the world premier of a documentary (coming to a public television station near you) of Daniel Burnham, an architect and city planner most notably of the Chicago World's Fair and Washington D.C. It was interesting--even the Philippine ambassador spoke briefly since Burnham designed parts of Manilla and their summer capital city. A fun bonus to end our day.

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