Last week on Inauguration Day, the Smithsonian, thankfully, was open. So we had a nice spot to get warm and to use the facilities. [As a side, I did not know that the Smithsonian was not one museum but nineteen. We told ourselves that we’ll definitely come back to DC for a weekend visit in an effort to up our identification of buildings other than the White House.] We stopped in the Air & Space Museum and then later walked across the Mall to the National Museum of American History. I overheard two women mention the Julia Child kitchen had just closed, darn, I really would have liked to see that. But a nice woman in early American dress, either Jamestownian or Williamsburgian, I’m not certain, told me that Lincoln’s top hat was on display upstairs. We got a bit side tracked with Stephen Colbert’s portrait, then ended up in an alcove with Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers, the original Kermit and Oscar the Grouch, a beaded gown and super high heeled wedges worn by Celia Cruz. Further in was a case of objects once owned by the Founding Fathers and Mothers of Hip-Hop: Grandmaster Flash‘s turntable resting on top of Fab 5 Freddy‘s Boom Box, Crazy Legs‘s jean jacket, (The Big Guy recognized graffiti artist Shy 147′s tag painted in the background, maybe he painted the entire jacket? No mention on the placard)*, Afrika Bambaataa‘s Zulu nation pendant and MC Lyte‘s suspiciously brand new looking journal. A few years ago, The Smithsonian launched a multi-year collecting initiative to begin documenting the impact and importance of Hip Hop in American culture. Ahhh, the Bronx representing in our Nation’s capital.
Here is Lincoln’s top hat, the last one he wore on the evening he went to the Ford Theatre. I had a spooky feeling looking at his hat, half expecting to see a round bullet hole. I didn’t see one. I didn’t want to see one.
A wall of Lincoln portraits from the age of 37 to 56 showed how much he’d aged and so quickly. What a transformation! Upon seeing his face at 37 — clean shaven, bright eyes and dimpled chin, I gasped. Loudly. Others nearby laughed knowingly. His face at 56, with dark shadows around the eyes, the full beard, looked haggard but the more familiar Lincoln image. (Oddly, though, his hair had not turned white, unlike most recent presidents at the end of their tenure, ie Clinton and Bush Jr.)
The man standing next to me said, “Hey if you it was your job to free the slaves, let’s see how good you’d look.”
*UPDATE 4/6/09: Legendary break dancer Crazy Legs, sent a comment regarding the artist who painted his jacket — West Coast dancer, Easy Roc did the artwork. See his full comment below.