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Washington, DC’s, New Experiences

Washington, DC’s, New Experiences
By Candyce H. Stapen

Washington, D.C. intrigues visitors with several new experiences. Foil an espionage plot at the International Spy Museum, figure out our Neanderthal connections at the National Museum of Natural History and find out what ordinary foot soldiers felt while fighting the Civil War. Even if you’ve visited Washington, D.C. before, it’s time to explore the city again.

Okay, you’re smart and savvy. But just how good a secret agent would you be? Discover what it takes to foil the bad guys by signing-up for the Patterson Mission. On this new –available June 2010--simulated sleuthing assignment, part of the International Spy Museum’s Spy in the City program, use a GPS based device to locate clues hidden on the streets near the museum. For more sleuthing skills, try the similar, GPS based Mission Catbird as well as the indoor, non-GPS Operation Spy.

The spy museum’s exhibits tell real-life cloak and dagger tales. Look at audio bugs so tiny they are disguised as strands of hair on a jacket and see if you can figure out the “ drops,”” in plain sight places where agents stashed information or money for others to find.

At the National Museum of Natural History’s newest, permanent exhibit, piece together the puzzle of human origins. The David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins takes an innovative look at our earliest ancestors. Never connected with those vaguely ape-like drawings of early “man” depicted in high school text books? After viewing sculptor John Gurche’s lifelike, latex heads of “early model” humans, you’ll be ready to claim them as cousins.

You can welcome the ancient family members with hugs. Dotting the hall are life-size, please touch, sculptures of these long-ago relatives, suitable for hanging around with. Additional highlights include the only Neanderthal skeleton in America, a morphing station that digitally alters your face to that of a Neanderthal as well as videos that detail the daily lives of these fossil forefathers and mothers. Being stuck in traffic may not seem so bad when compared with being eaten by a leopard.

At the natural history museum, also view the comprehensive Sant Ocean Hall, as well as the facility’s dramatic dinosaurs and glitzy gems, the most dazzling of which is the mammoth, 45.5 carat Hope diamond.

The National Archives, starting at the end of April 2010, presents a less discussed, but most interesting aspect of the Civil War: the personal side. Instead of battlefield dioramas and must memorize timelines, the facility employs documents to tell personal stories. By combining letters, photos, and official medical records and government telegrams with interactive, high tech computers, the exhibit reveals the personal, and often emotional aspects of this brutal war. The two-part exhibition starts with “Beginnings,” which ends September 6, 2010. “Consequences,” the second exhibit, runs November 10, 2010 through April 17, 2011.

Allow time to see the permanent stars of the National Archives: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. In the Public Vaults, through digital technology, you can search for ancestors’ records and see such important documents as the check used to buy Alaska.

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