Last year I looked at sculpture and asian art; this year it was natural and American history.
I started out with the natural history museum, and because I'm a contrary sort, instead of looking at dinosaur bones and stuffed critters on the first floor, I meandered upstairs to the gem & mineral section.
Where I discovered something interesting: mineral exhibits make me feel nostalgic and content. See, my mom worked at and eventually ran the geology museum at the Colorado School of Mines all through my childhood and early adult years. After school, I would go and poke around in the storage drawers, looking at pretty rocks and boxes full of gemstones. I can identify lots of minerals -- as long as they're neat to look at. They had the world's largest topaz on display, and I recognized it. I've seen it before. I touched it, in fact, when I was about ten and my mom was putting it on temporary display at a show here in Denver. So that was pretty cool.
I also had a look at the "non-mammals" section -- lots of reptile and fish skeletons and then bunches of bugs on display. The manta ray skeleton was just arresting; I had to take pictures. The thing that's impressive about the Smithsonian collection is that all of the things they have on display are BIG. I tried to take pictures of the beehive interior on display, without too much success.
After that, I went next door to the American History museum. I was feeling highly uninterested in exhibits about warfare and presidents, but I wandered into the display about Celia Cruz, who's this afro-cuban salsa music superstar that passed away recently after a VERY long and vibrant career. Dang, she was cool. There's this weird... power that certain female singers have, especially the ones with long careers and unpriveleged roots. She had it. Kinda makes me understand drag queens, a little bit, if that's what they're aiming for.
On the way back to the Metro, I was taking some assorted pictures, and I noticed that all the flags were at half-mast. I realized that it was for Rosa Parks, to honor a woman who said, basically, "your rules are not just, and the system isn't right, and I am [literally!] not going to stand for it" at a time when she and her fellows were not regarded as full human beings.
And I thought that was pretty cool, too.