Thursday, 10 November 2011

Washington: museum city (but in a good way)

I'm not usually a museum person. There's the people who poke around museums endlessly on their travels, and there's the ones who soak up the atmosphere outside. I am usually the second kind. I'm not even a national monument person, and I don't get excited about West-Wing style politics. So when it looked like Washington DC would be a stop on my whirlwind tour of the US, mainly due to my return flight to Australia, I wondered exactly what I would do there.

To my unexpected delight, I really loved the museums in Washington. For one, they are amazingly well-funded and well set up. They have fantastic exhibits. And they are free.

The Hirschhorn Museum has a wonderful collection of contemporary art from the 20th and 21st centuries. The Museum of American Art and Portrait Gallery has a great collection of folk art, and an amazing atrium in the centre of the building where one could (and perhaps did) spend hours just hanging out with a book.

The world-famous Natural History Museum has its mammoth, and stuffed lions and tigers, but also a fantastic exhibition on race - a very topical issue for Americans - that was curated by the American Anthropological Association. The Air and Space Museum has its fair share of planes and other craft suspended from its ceiling.

The American Indian Museum is probably my favourite. It has remarkable exhibits on native American arts and crafts, as well as exhibits exploring native American identity and contemporary culture, plus a great gift shop and a very tasty cafe with all native foods. Yum.

Suffice to say I was a complete convert to museums, at least the ones in Washington. Amazing, inspiring, and a great way to end my stay in the US.

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