Friday, October 21, 2016

American Revolution Road Trip: A Tour of the US Capitol, Etc.

Sorry, but you don't get any photos of our morning spent at the National Archives, on account of there are no photos allowed. It was for sure a highlight of the trip, though, especially for me! We got to see a 1275 copy of the Magna Carta (this was a major reference point in our History of Us spine), and the Declaration of Independence, and the Articles of Confederation, AND the Constitution!!!

Some takeaways:

  1. You would not believe how faded the Declaration of Independence is. Much of it is completely illegible to the naked eye by now. This website explains why, and in fact, we have that entire NOVA episode on hold for us at the library to watch next week.
  2. Americans cannot handle not standing in line. To get into the Charters of Freedom gallery, we did have to stand in line, and the guard would let in 30 or so of us at a time. As the guard verbally instructed, AND as the display of rules clearly stated, we were not to stand in line in front of the various documents; instead, we were to simply pick our way through the gaps in an organized scrum. So what do 90% of the people do, then, as soon as we're let in? They form a long line wrapping around the gallery, blocking the exit and keeping other people from being able to enter the gallery while these particular people stood in line in front of nothing rather than simply looking at what they wanted to look at and then leaving. Will and I pick our way through the gaps to see the various documents, ignoring the stink-eye that we get from tourists who've been standing in line for 20 minutes for no reason. Those tourists then continue to stand behind us, leaving the document displays on our other side completely empty, until a guard takes pity on them and says to them, "There is no line. You don't have to wait."
  3. Nothing beats primary resources! Over a week later at our tour of Independence Hall, the tour guide asked which colony didn't show up to the Constitutional Convention. Both of my kids knew that it was Rhode Island, because I'd stood each of them in front of the signatures on the Constitution and had them recite the colonies while finding them on the document. Rhode Island was missing! Alexander Hamilton was there, though, and we knew where to look for him thanks to my obsessive listening to the Hamilton soundtrack.

We didn't get the White House tour that I super wanted (it's my hazy understanding that it was too close to Election Day?), but we DID score a private tour of the US Capitol through the office of one of our senators. It was especially cool because we didn't meet at the Capitol itself (although we did walk right past it)--

--but at our senator's office building. Side note: the office building had a giant sculpture that was bafflingly by Calder, and Matt I were both like, "Since when does Calder do big-ass sculptures that aren't mobiles?" I just looked it up, and there was totally supposed to be a mobile there above that giant floor piece

The cool thing about meeting at the office, though, isn't the installation art: it's the secret underground senator train!

Friends, there is an honest-to-gawd secret underground senator train:

There are even celebrity senator sightings--we saw Richard Lugar!

The train takes you right to the basement of the US Capitol building--

--and I was even more excited about our tour group of six when I saw the giant public tour groups milling around, so large that everyone had to wear headphones so they could still hear their guide.

Here we are in the Crypt, standing by the origin point of Washington, DC's street numbering system.

This is the old Supreme Court chamber. I'll show you the new one in a little bit!

Senate Rotunda--my color is off, but it was dim.

This is the ceiling of the Rotunda, with the most insane painting of George Washington
George Washington would NOT have approved of this depiction of himself.

Sister suffragists! See the unsculpted marble at the back left? There's also room for you!
Look whose office we found! These offices are right in the middle of public spaces, I was surprised to note. Our tour guide said that while they do have extra security at times, the Speaker of the House does, indeed, need to walk through throngs of tourists to get to and from his office.

Here's the view from the front door of the Capitol--the Supreme Court is on the left and the Library of Congress is on the right.
 We couldn't take photos of the Senate or House chambers, although we did get to go sit in the galleries and look around as much as we wanted. The gallery tickets that we were given are good for the entire season, though, so maybe the kids and I will travel back to DC and sit in sometime when they're actually in session.

After the Capitol, we zipped across the street and raced over to see the Supreme Court right before the building closed for the day.
Up the stairs...

---and to the gallery!
 Bizarrely, a wedding party passed us as we were hanging out in front of this room. Seriously, someone was getting married in the Supreme Court! I even tried to look it up when we got home, but I can find no page for reserving a room in the Supreme Court in which to get married.

Yes, I still make the kids imitate sculptures.
 We did get to see everything that we wanted to see in (and outside of) the Supreme Court--

--but that left no time for actually going into the Library of Congress, alas: 

Good thing it's not going anywhere, then! We'll see it some other time.

Not on the next day, though. On the next day, we went to see the pandas!!!

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Did you make it to the Archives learning center? Their online resources are wonderful-- check out pre-made and lessons and activity building tools at and the "trails" (digital scavenger hunts) and video-making tools on are fun, too.