Trivia Trip to Washington DC
January 18, 2005 6:57 AM   Subscribe

MuseumGeeksinDCFilter: Looking for offbeat, trivia-intensive experiences in Washington, DC for a group of maritime history museum geeks. Special Exhibit inside.

Every year, I travel with a group of museum professionals on a research trip. Most of us work for a maritime history museum, although there is some crossover into general history, academia, and music. We try to pick a destination where we can learn things that are applicable to our interpretation of American maritime history, general American history, and/or current marine science issues and policy.

Some things we've done in the past: Visited new vessels under construction; crawled around the USS Constitution; visited a fish processing plant; spent 2 days on Nantucket looking at the sperm whale skeleton and learning whaling history and geology; gone to commercial fishing docks and taken tours of scalloping gear; poked around the old Whaling Church in New Bedford.

So we're headed to DC in March, and we have some itinerary items already - an insider tour at Smithsonian Natural History, probably some time at American history as well. We have 3 days, and will no doubt make the rounds of the usual suspects - monuments and the Mall. But then, what? If you know of any locations / businesses/ nonprofits that a bunch of boat geeks and history geeks would find exceptionally cool, I'd love to start suggesting some more off-the-beaten-path ideas. Extra points if it involves boats, fish, Mark Twain, or Moby-Dick.

And especially if any MeFites are, or know of, museum people or others who might be able to give us a special access type of experience -- we would be forever in your debt, and happy to return the favor. Thanks.
posted by Miko to Travel & Transportation around Washington, DC (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Consider going up to Annapolis. The Naval Academy has a museum that could be right up your alley.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:24 AM on January 18, 2005

National Aquarium in DC (small, but nice)

National Aquarium in Baltimore(45 minute drive from DC - but well worth it)

USS Constellation in Baltimore

And if you are willing to do some driving, about 3 hours to the south in the Newport News/Williamsburg, VA area you have Jamestown and The Mariner's Museum (sounds right up your alley)
posted by mhaw at 7:28 AM on January 18, 2005

You've already mentioned American History as a "probably," but for maritime stuff, you'll want to make that a certainty: there's a large section devoted to maritime labor and enterprise, the history of American transportation, and I think they still have that restored gunship on display upstairs. (Can't find the corresponding page on Help?)

On preview: skip the DC Aquarium in favor of Baltimore's. DC's left me rather disappointed. The Zoo is nice, though.
posted by brownpau at 7:30 AM on January 18, 2005

Naval Historical Center - Washington Naval Yard might interest you – I have no contacts, unfortunately.
posted by mlis at 7:36 AM on January 18, 2005

DC Aquarium is about five minutes worth of looking at half-dead fish in nasty tanks..not worth it at all (no offense mhaw). The Baltimore aquarium is impressive, and you can go into the old diesel sub they have docked there, forgot the name. The Navy yard is small, but there's a little museum as well as a museum ship, not sure about how much access you can get to it, or if you even can get in the Navy Yard itself. If I'm back in March I'd gladly bring you in, but I'm not sure if that's going to happen. I'd also recommend one of the Potomac River cruises, not too expensive, good food, and they go by all the main areas from the water. I've been on both the Odyssey III and Nina's Dandy with friends in from out of town, and they're maybe a bit touristy, but relaxing and a good way to spend a Sunday brunch. Finally, you may also want to check out the DC Ducks, they're neat, but I'm not sure if they'll be running in March.
posted by tetsuo at 9:12 AM on January 18, 2005

Best answer: Nothing maritime (aside from a boat used to save Jews in Denmark), but if you're interested in visiting the Holocaust Museum drop me a line. I can't offer much in the way of "behind the scenes" things (there's not much to see behind the scenes here), but I can put you in touch with a curator if you want to see what decisions went into making a "narrative" history museum vs. a "random artifact" museum (such as the American History museum).
posted by arco at 9:39 AM on January 18, 2005

Also, Washington DC Maritime Museums. Some of these are only links to online resources, but you mind find something here you hadn't seen before.
posted by arco at 10:23 AM on January 18, 2005

I've been meaning to check out the Udvar Hazy Center (National Air and Space Museum), but haven't had a chance yet. And.. I'd 2nd (or 3rd) the Aquarium in Baltimore.
posted by paulychamp at 10:33 AM on January 18, 2005

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