Smithsonian Part 1: American History, Stories on Money and War

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This weekend, the interns took another trip to the Smithsonian! This time, we hit up the American History Museum and the Natural History Museum.  I always take way too many photos (I literally took 150 in 4 hours). I realized,this blog lets me share them, rather than just having them take up space on my computer. Yippee!

Because I took so many pictures and we went to so many exhibits, I am going to spread out my recap over a few different posts.

One of the featured exhibits was Food: Transforming the American Table, which I had already been to with Melissa.  You can read about it here.  While everyone else checked it out, I wandered over to another exhibit, Stories of Money, which had some neat artifacts including historic coins and bills.  Below are some examples of old coins.  My favorite was the knife money used in BC China.

Coin Collage

Aside from coins, they had a variety of old bills.  These were produced all over the country.  I am convinced that Benjamin Franklin had his hands in absolutely everything, as he developed special designs that would prevent counterfeiting (middle bottom photo shoes 13 concentric circles which represent the colonies, his design.  To the far right is the evolution of the 5 dollar bill from 1899 to 2006.Paper Money Collage

Growing up in Connecticut, I have been to the Mashantucket Pequot Museum, so I had heard of wampum (different types of shells) being used as payment.  This exhibit expanded upon other ‘alternative’ forms of currency used around the world.  Below are samples from Germany, California, Russia and China.Alternative Money Collage

The exhibit was pretty small, only a single room.  If your planning on going, pop by.  They had a lot of rare coins, most of which have 5 or less in existence worldwide.  They also discussed the controversy over the penny and had a voting station.  You could put a penny in one bucket to support the penny and into the other if you think we should ditch it.  I personally don’t care for the penny and think it’s a waste of resources. 

In high school, I visited my sister in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where they did away with the penny.  When shopping, everything was just rounded to the nearest nickel and it seemed to work fine.   When I went to grab a penny to vote, I didn’t have one.  I thought it was fitting somehow. 

Another exhibit we visited was all about American wars.  It took you through from the revolutionary war to modern day.  Some things that stood out to me were in the WWII section, the propaganda of the time period.  They had a ton of old posters to encourage rationing including food, fuel, and limiting your wardrobe.  They even limited the number of colors used by fashion designers to conserve materials for the war.  In high school I did a research paper on WWI propaganda and since then I always get intrigued when I see that style of art. 

Rationing Collage

That concludes part 1 of this weekends ventures into DC.  Stay tuned for more!

What is your favorite type of museum to visit?

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3 thoughts on “Smithsonian Part 1: American History, Stories on Money and War

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