This trip was the second time that I have visited the National Museum of American History. The first time was when I was much younger, so this second time was much more interesting. For example, when I was younger, I visited the “American Presidency” exhibit and the “First Ladies” exhibit; I did not think anything of the two very different exhibits. This trip, I immediately noticed a stark difference. To begin, when one enters the room where both exhibits are located, one’s back is turned to the “First Ladies” sign. The first thing one sees is the President section. In addition, the content of the exhibits is drastically different. In the “American President,” the men’s achievements, roles, and policies are on display. There are detailed explanations of their accomplishments and successes. On the other hand, in the “First Ladies,” the prominent displays are of the women’s clothing. The second most displayed items are dishes or decorations. The descriptions of the First Ladies are extremely vague, relate back to their husbands’ accomplishments, and trivialize the First Ladies’ efforts. Furthermore, not only is the content in the exhibits different but also the presentation and decorations. The “American Presidency” was decorated and presented in a very masculine and heroic way. In contrast, the “First Ladies” was very feminine and looked as if lacked the same effort or thought. I recognize that the President serves as the Chief Executive and Commander In Chief of the United States, however, I think the exhibit of the First Ladies should not be so stereotypical or sexist. The First Ladies have played very vital roles in our nation’s history and have had many of their own successes and accomplishments; they should be recognized for this. They should not solely be remembered for what they wore, how they decorated the White House, or what parties they hosted. The exhibit trivialized the role women play in our country. Next to the “American Presidency” and the “First Ladies” was the exhibit called “Price of Freedom.” This exhibit displayed American history throughout our country’s different wars. This exhibit was much more decorative and interactive than both the “American Presidency” and “First Ladies.” I think this can relate to the “knowing your audience” aspect of rhetoric. Although there were many adults in the exhibit, there were many more school children. This exhibit was a good way to instruct children about America’s military history. In comparison to the “American Presidency” and the “First Ladies,” the “Price of Freedom” was much more hands-on and “kid friendly.”
I greatly enjoyed the visit to the National Portrait Gallery; this was my first time at this museum. I found the “America’s Presidents” portrait to be extremely interesting. The biggest take away I had from this exhibit was the evolution from early portraits to more contemporary portraits. The older portraits, in the first room, all looked relatively similar. The presidents were portrayed as stoic and together. In addition, the background was a solid, dark color. However, once one enters the second room, where the more contemporary portraits are located, one immediately recognizes a stark difference. The contemporary portraits have much more detail. For example, the background of Jimmy Carter’s portrait was the oval office fully decorated. In addition, the more contemporary pieces reveal individual characteristics of the presidents; these paintings are more personal. This change shows the change in how American’s have come to view their presidents and what they look for in a leader. Again, the portraits reflect the audience.