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Very Important Tweeter: A Visit to the National Museum of American History 

August 31, 2015

20150831 Fantastic Objects Tweet-upOkay, so I self-designated as a Very Important Tweeter, but for 2 hours, I felt like just that. Twenty new Twitter friends and I won a spot in the Fantastic Objects tweet-up at the National Museum of American History. #FantasticObjects called to us.

2015083 Scary Uncle Sam on BikeFirst, we stopped at the Object Project. I spent too long looking at a 7-gallon toilet and scary bicycle bling from the early 1900s. The Object Project is designed to show how people innovated in response to social change. I’m guessing someone in Museum leadership gave the thumbs up to just go wild with the bicycle displays. Uncle Sam pedals that bike. Don’t look in his eyes. Don’t say “Candyman” three times. But do visit the Object Project. Try on virtual historic clothing. Learn about the birth of the alarm clock and the toaster. Marvel at refrigerators and Nike Waffle Trainers.

20150831 Mary Shelley and Voltaic PileAfter the Object Project gauntlet came the part I like to call “Oh-my-gosh-is-that-Mary-Shelley’s-Frankenstein-near-a-voltaic-pile?!?” The National Museum of American History calls this part the Fantastic Worlds exhibit, designed to display the intersection of science and fiction from 1780-1910. Fantastic Worlds, with its somewhat steampunky feel, covered aeronauts, electricity, and the exploration of space and the sea.

Googly-eyed, I spent the better part of thirty minutes darting in front of my fellow tweeters and taking pictures of old books and other Fantastic Worlds objects. Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was on display, but so was Five Weeks in a Balloon! The former is the better-known work nowadays, but Five Weeks was Verne’s early novel that made him financially independent and was an instant success.

20150831 Undersea Cable 1858The Fantastic Worlds exhibit also fed my unhealthy obsession with undersea cables. Undersea cables are crazy. But the fact they were being laid in the 1800s is crazier. The National Museum of American History has a piece of one of the earliest cables laid in 1858. And I have a picture of that cable!

It used to seem like the only thing to see at the National Museum of American History was the Star-Spangled Banner. That time is long passed. The Museum is renovating and opening new exhibits several times a year for the next few years. I find something new and interesting every time I visit. I still can’t resist the Star-Spangled Banner, but there are lots of compelling distractions along the way to visiting that magnificent flag.

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