Inspiration at the Smithsonian

Over the winter break we had an adventure. Winter started early here and we wanted to escape for a bit. Airfare was daunting so we pulled out the map and asked ourselves, how far south could we drive in one day? And that is how we ended up in Washington D.C.

D.C. is the perfect vacation place for my family. Pedestrian friendly, warmer weather than home, and no snow made for long days spent outside exploring. We were 15 minutes from the National Zoo and enjoyed their Zoo Lights program. The Friends of the National Zoo volunteers were fantastic and wonderfully patient answering all of our questions. It took us three visits to the zoo see everything we wanted to see.  In the Invertebrate House I was fascinated by these comb jellies. They reminded me of some of my favourite LED projects but they don't light up. The changing colour you see is light refracted from tiny hairs that are moving. So graceful and elegant.

At the National Air and Space Museum, we all touched a piece of the moon.

As we toured through the National Air and Space Museum and the Museum of American History I was inspired by the stories of three different makers. The first makers that caught my attention were brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright. The exhibit did a great job of describing Wilbur and Orville's different characters and unconventional educational paths. Orville took things apart as a child and loved to create. Wilbur was more interested in books and academics. Both were continually learning. They were bicycle mechanics. Looking at the restored Wright Flyer that anchored the exhibit, I could see the chain and spoke mechanics that came out of their bike shop.

The second maker was the famous inventor Thomas Edison, who was quoted by his private secretary, A. O. Tate as saying "Well, I'm not a scientist, I'm an inventor." I liked the way the exhibit was organized. Starting with the preconditions for invention, it then walked you through the inventive process, the importance of promotion, how success brings competition and the consequences of an important invention. I love any glimpses I can get into how someone works and I was excited to see Edison's quote from his 1880 testimony "In 1877 ... I commenced the practice of placing notebooks all over my laboratory." I have always been an obsessive note taker, I wonder what happened to convince Edison to leave them in multiple places?

But my favourite exhibit, by far, took me completely by surprise. In the Museum of American History they had completely recreated the workshop of a famous televised maker. I was taken away by the functionality and practicality of the space. Tools were lovingly displayed on pegboard and larger appliances were given dedicated counter space. It was Julia Child's kitchen! I had never thought of my kitchen as a workshop, even though I spend a lot of time each day making food for my family. But Julia Child's kitchen was so obviously a workshop I was inspired. I love workshops, now I just have to figure out how to love my kitchen.



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