Oh, Say, You Can See …For a While Longer

Fans of museums, manufacturing and U.S. history have just a few more weeks to visit the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History before it closes until the summer of 2008 for renovation. We hate to see the museum shut for any time because it does such a good job of representing the history of American manufacturing, transportation, agriculture, science and Dolly Parton before she went Led Zeppelin on us. Unless we’ve missed it, the museum has the only exhibits in town on materials testing and the mill history of Bridgeport, Conn.

Still, the renovation serves a noble purpose, not just modernizing the building but also providing a worthy space to display the Star Spangled Banner, the American flag that survived the British bombardment of Fort McHenry, inspiring Francis Scott Key to write the national anthem. (Conservators this year finished treating the flag to ensure its survival.)

The last day to visit before the long hiatus is September 4th. We’ll see you there.

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  • If they do half as good a job as they did renovating the National Portrait gallery, we’ll be in for quite a treat when it re-opens.

  • In 1992 or so, I visited the Smithsonian as part of an unrelated visit to the DC area.

    They had, at the time, on exhibit some machines that were part of the worlds fair in the late 1800s or the early 1900s. All the “power tools” were operated from a central shaft that ran through the building, powered, presumably, in a real installation, by a watermill outside. The power take-offs were leather belts that could be slid onto or off of pulleys by a lever mechanism.

    There were drill presses, bandsaws, reciprocating hack saws, all sorts of stuff. I went nuts and took several rolls of film of the stuff.

    When I came back, I blew up a half dozen of the best pictures and hung them in our toolroom, to remind us all where we came from.

    I still have the negatives in a file somewhere. I should dig them up and post them (in my copious spare time … NOT).

    The exhibit was mothballed 2 weeks after I visited it.