From Sarah, With Joy

*Poet * Author * Wanderluster*

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Story Gathering at the Smithsonian

We've got some relatives in town, which means we're doing all the fun touristy DC things we wouldn't normally do. Like the National Air and Space Museum. I'm not talking about the normal one in DC, I'm talking about the extension, the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at the Dulles airport in Chantilly, Virginia.

A few things about this center. First, I thought it was way cooler than the main museum, and if you're in this area, this is the one you should go to. Not only that, but I thought this was one of the most well-designed museum's I've ever been to. The railings had built-in seats and there were genius old guys like everywhere just standing there waiting to answer all your questions and listening to them talk, describe how the shuttle lands like a helicopter crashing, was the best part.

Anway, there's my plug. On to my point.

So I did something while we were at this museum that I've never done before, but that I plan on doing at every museum I ever visit from here on out. I feel like museums can be super intimidating, and even if you have good intentions and want to learn there's just too much and you can come out barely remembering anything at all. This time I approached it as a story hunter.

One of my favorite things at this museum (although it was all freaking awesome) was the collection of WWII planes from Germany. So many of the plaques said that they were the last plane of it's type in the world, and talked about how it had been captured and restored and the process of it ending up with the Smithsonian Institute. Can you say fascinating story?

(sorry for the small font and crappy phone pictures)

What about the guy in charge of getting the plane back from Germany? What about the guy who gave it back to Germany? What about the guys who restored it? There are some characters and stories for you. Even just for background history.

So yeah, I was the dufus taking pictures of the plaques with my phone. And it was so much fun! Like I said, this story hunting approach is the one I'm going to take at museums from now on.

 The space plane shuttle thing, that the pilots apparently say lands like a cinderblock. All the outside is made entirely of pure glass. Except for the nose-tip and wing-fronts, which get hotter than the glass melting point. Those spots are coated with an extra layer of a special substance that includes the bodies of dead carpenter ants. Yeah. 

You can't quite tell, but there is a swastika on the tail fin back there.

Anybody else a museum nerd?

Sarah Allen


  1. Awesome pics! I adore museums, and am particularly fascinated by anything WWII. My father served in the war and I was lucky to hear many stories from him. Humbling.

  2. I love museums and even have spent the night at the museum when I was in Girl Scouts. That's a neat idea to approach museums as a story hunter. :)

  3. I love that museum. My favorite was seeing the space shuttle, but all the other planes and stuff are exciting too!

  4. Every time I visit something with a past-- historic marker, museum, old run down house, my mind starts whirring about the story behind what I'm seeing. I love that. It almost haunts me.

  5. We live near the National Air Force Museum. I enjoy the planes but it's the more personal items that get me. Does anyone remember the poem High Flight? Back when TV channels actually went off the air for a few hours at night, this poem was often read at the close of the broadcast day. The museum has the letter a young officer send to his parents with his handwritten copy of his poem. Sadly, they also have the telegram sent not long after telling his parents their son had been killed in action.

  6. The bodies of dead carpenter ants?!!? Seriously!?!? Oh wow - what a thing to discover!

    Thanks for the tour of this fine and fabulous museum!! You know I remember going to a big railway museum in York and thinking I'd be bored stiff looking at trains but by golly they were BEAUTIFUL and I think what made these machines all the more special was the care and love the restorers (mainly volunteers) bestowed on each machine to bring them back to their former glory! Now that's true love! Take care

  7. No so much a nerd, but I love the idea of chasing a story wherever you are. Nice post.

  8. One of my favourite museums in the UK is the Fleet Air Arm Museum in Somerset. I get such a kick out of seeing old planes.

    I love your idea of story-seeking.


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