The Smithsonian Museums make up the world’s largest museum and research complex, consisting of 19 museums and galleries, the National Zoological Park and nine research facilities. Most of the museums are free and are open everyday excluding Christmas. Eleven of the museums are located on the National Mall. Over 137 million objects, works of art and specimens are in the museums and range from ancient history to modern art. The museums include: Smithsonian Institution Building (the castle), Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building, Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum, Smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Natural History Museum, Smithsonian American History Museum, Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian and the National Zoo.
The Smithsonian Institution was established with funds from James Smithson (1765-1829), a British scientist. Smithson left his estate to the United States to found “at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge.” Smithson never stepped foot in America.
My favorite of the Smithsonian’s is the The Smithsonian National Museum of American History. This museum displays artifacts from ever era of our country. I think the most moving of every display is “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the flag that inspired the national anthem. The most fun of the exhibits is the Popular Entertainment section of the museum. This section includes famous athlete’s memorabilia, pop icons clothing, popular movie props and so much more. One of the most popular items in this museum are Dorothy’s ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz.
The Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC was dedicated in 1995. The memorial pays tribute to the troops that fought the Korean War (June 1950- July 1953). The memorial is in the form of a triangle intersecting a circle and the walls are made of black granite. The walls have images representing the land, sea and air troops who supported those who fought in the war are sandblasted into it. There are 19 stainless steel statues that represent a squad on patrol, drawn from each branch of the armed forces (fourteen of the figures are from the U.S. Army, three are from the Marine Corps, one is a Navy Corpsman, and one is an Air Force Forward Air Observer). They are dressed in full combat gear, stand over 7 feet tall and weigh about 1,000 lbs. each. Between the statues is strips of granite and juniper bushes which represent the terrain of Korea.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is one of my favorite memorials in DC. The memorial is made up of three parts: Three Soldiers statue, the Vietnam Women’s Memorial, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.
The Vietnam Women’s Memorial consists of a statue of two women in uniform tending to the wounds of a male soldier while a third woman kneels nearby. The women are named appropriately; the woman looking up is named Hope, the woman praying is named Faith, and the woman tending to a wounded soldier is named Charity. This statue represents the important role women played in the Vietnam conflict.
The Three Soldiers statue is a life-size bronze statue of three young servicemen. The leading statue represents a Marine and the other two represent Army soldiers. The men were made to represent 3 different ethnic groups; Caucasian (the lead man), African-American (man on right), and Hispanic (man on left). The statue was dedicated on Veterans Day, 1984.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall is a black granite wall inscribed with the names of 58,209 American’s killed or missing in the Vietnam conflict, but as of May 2011, there are 58,272 names. The wall is 246 feet 9 inches long. There are often people making pencil rubbings of names off the wall. Directories are located on podiums to help visitors locate specific names.