This diary post is a part of a 30 day trip that I am taking this month which it also happens to be my first ever International trip. So for the next 30 days I will be posting here all my weird thoughts and commentary.
Day 17, – In my hotel room, Washington DC, Late updating
The day had started off with a continuation of our time with Cathy Hawks, Conservator for National Museum of Natural History. The discussion again touched the various topics like Conservation Management, Storage and Pest Control and similar such topics. It has to be said that any time with her is just not enough. She has so much that she knows and that she shares with everyone. I was however, late for my class, and the reason for that was the most simple one ever – I overslept…. I think DC life is taking its toll on me.
For lunch that day we decided to hop off to this refreshment kiosk outside of the museum. I have to say that it wasn’t one of the best thing I have had in DC… in fact, let me say It was the most expensive and bad food that I have had in DC! Actually, it was so bad that I didn’t even take a picture of it.
Moving on, we had our session with Carol Butler after lunch in which we talked about Collections Management and what it means to work with a vast collection. We talked about their care and the problems that NMNH faces with regards to such a strong collection. We talked about how a collection is only worth something when it is coming in the use of researchers and other scholars and what it means to keep collections relevant.
The second part of this session was taken up by Bill Billeck who is working in the Repatriation Office and is taking care of returning the artifacts of Native American back to them. He talked about how this process is becoming an important step in opening up a dialogue between the Native Americans and the Museum and how such a dialouge has been important in changing the image that many people have had of Archaeologists and Museums as looters who took the stuff of their lands without the permission of the local communities.
The afternoon session with Bill had to be cut short though since it was time for our meeting with Richard Kurin – The Undersecretary for Culture and Arts at the Smithsonian. The man has so much knowledge and he surprised us with his knowledge of Urdu and his amazing address to us in Urdu. He is a very knowledgeable man who shared with us many of his stories, including his time in Haiti after the devastating Earthquake hit it. He shared this remarkable story of human spirit in which the people of Haiti after losing everything, their shelter, their musical instruments, their belongings, came out on the street and they SANG! I thought it was a remarkable story which demonstrated the power of culture and of the human resolve that we have.
The man is so nice that he even gave us free copies of his book “Saving Haiti’s Heritage”!
Oh let me share some pictures of his office – located in the “Smithsonian Castle”, the interior of this place is simply amazing. His conference room has these amazing Greek tiles (replicas) all around and there are so many books that cover his table that it is insane.
For a more informal type of a conversation, we headed to a shaded place near the back of the Castle and found ourselves some benches, where we continued our discussion on Culture and its evolution and Repatriation and all other aspects of it. Carol Butler has such an amazing point of view about things and the world and it comes with an association with the Smithsonian that has continued on for almost 25 years. The informal session ended with an agreement on when and where we are suppose to meet for our night walk at the National Mall. Time decided- 8:30 pm.
So at 8:30 pm we were waiting outside the Smithsonian Metro Station and as soon as all of us had gathered, we headed straight to our first destination – The Washington Monument. Now we had been seeing it since our first day in DC, but we haven’t had the chance to come and see it up close. So today was an opportunity – however taking pictures at this time was definitely becoming a big issue.
The second stop being the Second World War Memoiral..
And then ofcourse to the Lincoln Memorial…
We even made a stop at Vietnam Memorial but since the light were so low it was impossible to take any photographs. But I plan to go there again and take some more photographs.
By the time the trip was over and we finally made our way back, it was almost 12:30 am and therefore there was nothing open or anything except for a Bar plus Restaurant. And since we were hungry like hell, we decided to just go in there and have whatever we could find. The menu was amazing looking, and I chose for myself Grilled Cheese Sandwich, while my friends ordered Chili and Kidney Bean Omlette and Bacon Burger. I have to say that the place was so amazing, it was rustic with all these amazing pictures and posters on the walls. It was really nice! So you can enjoy the pictures, while I enjoy my sleep for the night.