I finally visited the new Capitol Visitors Center. The center just opened in December, and I figured this was a good time as any to go - a slow weekday with gorgeous weather. The underground aspect was pretty cool, but I think the Exhibition Hall tried too hard. There was just too much to try to condense into one large room meant to entertain tourists while waiting for their tours to start. The displays were on the history of Congress as an institution, the purpose of the House and Senate, the history of the Capitol as a physical presence, and, to top it all off, how this all fits into the Constitution and U.S. History in general. I felt that the exhibits organized by historical periods were the most successful, which showed important events with a model of the Capitol campus at the time.
Then I meandered over to the Sewall-Belmont House. A very different museum experience, since it's the actual house. (The only other "house" museum I can think of is the Anne Frank House.) There were only two of us with the docent, and she was very enthusiastic and knowledgable. I consider myself a feminist historian (historian feminist?) but I was sadly ignorant of a lot of early U.S. women's history. The house exhibits focused on the suffrage movement and the Equal Rights Amendment. I didn't know, for example, that the ERA was first proposed in 1923. The author of the ERA text died in 1977 thinking that the ERA was going to pass. There was one room featuring art by women in developing countries, and another room on the international women's movement, such as the history of suffrage in Puerto Rico. I enjoyed my visit, and definitely recommend Sewall-Belmont House to anyone interested in American history.
Underground in a $600 million complex.
Another postcard shot.