I emerged from the subway and followed the Google Maps track through the Navy Yard waterfront district. I made my way amongst warehouses past construction sites and via Transportation Walk (theoretically some outdoor displays about transport, but practically where Department of Transportation folks went to smoke). I walked down a quiet street, watched a bicyclist pass me. Watch the bicyclist slow down. Why was he slowing down? Oh, there was a locked gate ahead, blocking the road. I was heading towards a museum on a navy base, so it wasn't super-surprising to find my way blocked by a locked gate. It was too bad Google Maps had sent me this way.
I backed up, headed south to the riverfront and again approached the base. Here, I encountered a locked turnstile. By the turnstile, a map showed the route to the nearest unlocked gate. I'd been going widdershins around the base when, to reach the nearest usable gate, I should have gone clockwise. Oh well; I backtracked and kept walking.
At the nearest manned gate, I got into line with other folks. Reached the head of the line where the guard was. I was used to the DC guard routine, so I already had my bag open. But he didn't want to check my bag, he wanted to see my ID. I handed over my driver's license, but he wanted my Navy ID because this gate was for Navy folks only. He gave me directions to the base's visitor entrance.
Thus I'd walked most of the way around the base before I reached the visitor's entrance. Most of the visitors were truckers bringing supplies onto the base; a line of trucks waited to get in. I entered a small building so that I could wait in a different line so that I could get a form to fill out so that someone could do a background check.
Anyhow, if you're wondering how it took me more time to reach a museum than to see its contents, that's how.
The navy museum was a big warehouse with many exhibits and almost no people. I'm guessing that the background check dissuaded most potential tourists. Mostly it seemed like a confusing collection of stuff assembled by fierce folks who weren't planning on a career of museum curation. Why was this doo-dad next to this portrait of some guy? I couldn't tell. But there were neat things.
The SACO Pennant was evocative. There's an art museum; it was showing a few pieces. I liked Morgan Ian Wilbur's The Brief
There was an Enigma WWII code machine along with some American Bombes, with punch cards. The interpretive text had a pretty good history of how the Enigma code got cracked, not failing to credit the Poles.
There was a Model SQ Radar and an XAF Radar Receiver; most of the important bits were under shiny plastic covers or somesuch; my photos turned out awfully.
There was a pretty big display about Maury, which warmed this sailing nerd's heart.
Eventually, I emerged from the museum, then from the Navy Base. I had a lunch at the nearby Asian-Mexican fusion place named Takorea (get it?) and made my way to the Metro.
I emerged from Metro and there was the Hirshhorn right in front of me. So I looked in at the Hirshhorn.
The main exhibit was by Robert Irwin; its main piece was something that, from a distance, looked like a white wall. I breezed past it. Later on I learned that if I'd looked more closely, I would have discerned that the "white" wall was made up of little colored dots. You will be shocked to learn that I don't regret breezing past that without looking at little dots, given that I pretty much stare at "white" LCD (or plasma?) monitors pretty much every waking hour.
I watched Linn Meyers marking up walls for her upcoming exhibit. But watching an artist work, while fascinating, felt somewhat creepy, and thus I was done looking at those parts of the museum that weren't blocked off, so I left.
Had a lot of text but not so many artifacts. I bet that the things there are important, but I ended up breezing through this place thinking "Well, if I wanted to read so much, I'd do it at home." I kept expecting that the next display would have fewer words and more things, but that didn't happen.
I'd planned to skip this one but my cousin Dan pointed out that there was a pretty nifty mineral section. My local science museum used to have have such a thing, but we lost it in a big re-jiggering of exhibits. I missed it.
So I went to the Natural History museum.
Some of this museum's exhibits didn't make much sense as museum exhibits. There was "Iceland Revealed," partly sponsored by the Embassy of Iceland. It was big photos of Iceland. They were pretty, but I still wondered why I was supposed to visit a museum to look at these photos. They looked a lot like photos that I would see online. This Iceland exhibit did have some physical stuff, some rocks. But these rocks were not from Iceland.
I skipped some other big-photo exhibits.
The minerals were pretty amazing, though. I was totally glad I went. I think the big draw for this is the Hope Diamond, which wasn't open for display when I went. But the stuff that was there was pretty amazing. There were plenty of meteorites which didn't photograph so well, sorry.
An area of "columnar dacite lava" which let me know that columnar lava is pretty.
There was a mining exhibit with a shoutout to Bisbee. And more minerals and more minerals.
This museum wasn't very air-conditioned. You'd think my attitude would be: It's my last day in this city; don't stop touristing, just go go go. Instead, I wilted in the heat. I stumbled off to District Taco, thence to the hotel, and slept. The next day I flew back to lovely gray skies.
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