I had a great time on the trip to DC even though it was raining. I enjoyed thinking about the different rhetoric the exhibits and monuments were waiting to convey.
In the American History museum, I visited the “American Presidents” and the “First Ladies” exhibits. The contrast between the two was surprising. The president exhibit was full of light and artifacts, detailing each role of the president. When the topic of the exhibit changed to presidential assassination, the walls changed from yellow to grey and somber and the music changed to a slower, minor key ambient noise. In the First Ladies exhibit, the walls were consistently dark blue and the lighting was very dim and often did not highlight the features of the displays. Although there were not many artifacts, the dresses of the ladies and time periods were beautiful. A few sets of white house china were included, only it and the dresses were in the room. Even the timelines in each exhibit greatly favored the president. The presidents each had their term, a few sentences describing their presidency and plenty of pictures highlighted on a curved wall. The first ladies, in contrast, had their father and husbands names as their only descriptors
What I really enjoyed in the national portrait gallery was the quotes placed above some of the central portraits. I believe that all these quotes give insight into each president’s character. Above the portrait of Andrew Jackson is “The people are the government” ~ Andrew Jackson to AJ Donelson. As a president from father back in time, this dignified quote illustrates part of “Old Hickory’s” unique presidency as the first non-politician, outsider to be elected. The quote reminded me of Jackson’s reputation as a county party animal. Above Lincoln is ““The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation” – Abraham Lincoln, annual message to Congress, December 1st, 1862”. This piece adds to Lincoln’s famous “thinking” portrait. The fiery trial described reminds the viewer of the hardship of the civil war that Lincoln dealt with as president of “a house divided”. Theodore Roosevelt’s quote is as follows: “No other president ever enjoyed the presidency as I did” – Theodore Roosevelt, Sept 10th. This Roosevelt was known for his wild hobbies and bombastic attitude. Teddy Roosevelt did seem to enjoy his term the most. And lastly the quote above a study for a painting of the Yalta conferences is a quote from Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932: “I pledge to you – I pledge myself to the American people”. I really liked his portrait. The painting is unfinished, a practice for a larger, historical piece. But his expression is a contemplative half-smile that gives a happy quality; even though the quote implies his duty as the president who leads the US through WWII.
Lastly I visited the monuments of the mall, especially the Washington Monument and the World War II Memorial. In my opinion, the WWII memorial has more rhetoric attached to it that the Washington. The memorial teaches the viewer about the war, showing the two fronts as well as commemorating the millions who died. In contrast, the Washington Monument is a tall spike. When looking at the tall building, the viewer could not guess it was attributed to George Washington. Its rhetoric focuses on the power of the US symbolized in its height rather than teaching the viewer about whom or what it is commemorating.