Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Fun at the Smithsonian(s)

One of the greatest treasures of Washington D.C. is all of the Smithsonian museums. They are all awesome and all completely free (well, sort of, our tax dollars go towards supporting them, so in a way all U.S. citizens are season pass holders). Here is Craig in front of a Prairie Scooner - the type of wagon Americans used to travel to and settle the West.

One of the highlights is the Air and Space Museum. Here Craig found the Mars Rover. This isn't the one that actually went to Mars, but is one of the functional models used to test the various systems.

But before the Mars Rover lifted off, Neil Armstrong left this tiny capsule and walked on the moon!

Some of my favorite exhibits are the experimental jets, like the X-15. This rocket-powered airplane broke speed and altitude records way back in the 1960's. It still holds the speed record for a manned flight!

That orange plane wayy in the back is the X-1 that Chuck Yeager piloted while breaking the sound barrier for the first time!

A more modern area of the Smithsonian shows the costume Edina Menzel wore in the original Broadway production of "Wicked".

An here is Kermit the Frog!

And here is one of the original sunstones from the Nauvoo Temple in Illinois.

Our little history buff really enjoyed the Thomas Edison exhibit. He did a report the prior year at school on Thomas Edison. This is a picture of some of the failed designs Edison used for the light bulb.

More designs and experiments. Unlike other exhibits, Craig was constantly saying "Daddy, can you take my picture by this?"


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Our Nation's Capitol

At the top of the most prominent hill in Washington, D.C., is the United States Capitol building. This is where the United States Congress meets to debate laws and pass legislation. We got a tour of this wonderful building while we were in Washington!

Our tour started at the Senate Offices. There are three buildings that house the United States Senators and their offices. They are connected to the U. S. Capitol by an underground subway. Here's Craig and I on the Congressional Train!

Our tour started deep in the basement of the Capitol. Washington, D.C. is a very hot and humid place in the summer time.  Back in the 1800's, when the Capitol was built, there wasn't any air conditioning. So, people would cool down naturally via perspiration. Sometimes, however, this created an odor that was a little too noticeable. Those offending congressmen were asked to come down and diffuse the odor by bathing in one of eight marble tubs located in the basement. These are no longer in operation, but they are a funny reminder of a time long past.

Inside the Capitol is a full-sized replica of Lady Liberty, the statue who stands on top of the huge Capitol dome. She stands 19 feet tall and carries various symbols of freedom. She was designed in the mid 1800's, just before the Civil War. Congressman Jefferson Davis was in charge of the Capitol building committee, and influenced the hat that Lady Liberty wore. You history buffs will recall that Jefferson Davis later became the president of the Confederate States during the Civil War. The original design called for Lady Liberty to wear a Phygian Cap, which was the ancient Roman symbol of an emancipated slave. Jefferson Davis, being a slave-owner, didn't want any symbol that justified the freeing of slaves, so he had the sculptor change the hat to an eagle.

Lady Liberty now stands on top of the massive 4-ton Capitol Dome.

The top of the Capitol Dome is the literal center of Washington, D.C. This star on the floor of the Crypt marks the center as well. This room is just below the Capitol Rotunda, and is surrounded by limestone pillars. During the Civil War, barrels of gunpowder were stored here.

The Capitol is adorned with statues commemorating great citizens of the United States. Each state has donated two statues. This is Craig in front of a statue from Illinois depicting Abraham Lincoln.

Can you guess who is depicted in one of the statues from Utah? Yup, that's Brigham Young, second President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, first governor of the State of Utah, and founder of the University of Utah.


The Capitol is decorated with more than just statues. There are beautiful murals and painted walls throughout the building. The hallway pictured above housed the official Offices of State, but they've long since been too small, and are now empty.

There are some important officials who still make their office in the Capitol. The Office of the Speaker of the House is one of them, and here were are on the balcony of that office. It's got a great view of the National Mall with the Washington Monument in the distance.

The highlight of the tour is the Capitol Rotunda. This great room is decorated with many paintings of important events in U.S. History, such as the Pilgrim's landing, the baptism of Sacajawea, or various battles of the Revolutionary War.

One of the Revolutionary War victories depicted is the surrender of Cornwalis. After Cornwalis' defeat in the United States, he was sent to India, where he was charged with protecting Great Britain's interests in the region. As part of his efforts, he build a military outpost on a tiny island in the Strait of Melacca known as Penang.

At the top of the Capitol Rotunda is the Apotheosis (or exaltation) of Washington. Here, George Washington is depicted in heaven with various Roman deities. At Washington's feet is Lady Liberty, this time wearing a Phygian cap.

We loved touring our nation's capitol! A special thanks to Senator Hatch's office for arranging our tour! Stay tuned for our visit to the Smithsonian Museums!