Trip Start Feb 15, 2010
77Trip End Feb 14, 2011
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The rain wouldn't really be so bad if it weren't for the fact that my right shoe has the unique ability to actually suck water up off the sidewalk and into the shoe. So, I squooshed my way over to the National Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian, but it turned out they don't open until 10:00am, so I had an hour to kill because all of the museums opened at the same time
The museum was very interesting. It was not quite what I expected because they broadened the museum to include Central and South America. The result of that being that they had less room to focus on each tribe. The exhibits were still informative and described the belief system and basic lifestyle of each tribe. On the other floors the museum concentrated on what the arrival of Europeans did to change the ways of the native tribes. They also had exhibits that took a closer look at native groups that are attempting to live according to their traditional beliefs and customs.
My next stop was to the U.S. Botanical Garden. I have visited Washington a number of times at this point, and the Botanical Gardens was one of the only sites around the National Mall that I had yet to see. I've certainly been to much larger and more diverse botanical gardens before, but it was a nice change of scenery from the rain outside. I noticed a few specimens that I recognized from Japan and Africa, but they also had a number of very unique plants that I hadn't encountered before.
I worked my way back to the other end of the mall to visit the Smithsonian Museum of American History. The last time I was in D.C. they had only opened a small portion of the museum because many of the exhibits are still being finished. On my last visit I only made it to the main floor, and during this visit I covered the lower level. The museum is quite large, but definitely not very spectacular on the exterior. I visited one exhibit covering American inventions, mostly focusing on the work of Edison. Then I went through a section covering the history and development of ground transportation
My next stop took me back to the Bureau of Printing and Engraving where they print and package the money we use every day. For security reasons, photography was not permitted inside of the facility, so I don't have much to show you from this particular portion of the trip. It was a very informative tour and we were shown each step of the process. To begin with, they receive the paper which is a blend of cotton and linen. Depending on the intended bill, the paper will already have the watermarked portraits and security ribbons in it. The next step is to run the paper through a color printer that applies all of the new colored patterns to the bills. After drying, the sheets are sent through the blank ink press. This will apply the outer patterns and faces to the backs and fronts of the bills using nickel plates that are pressed against the paper with somewhere between 10-15 tons of pressure! I later learned that the master copies of the plates are still engraved by hand. The Bureau has eight master engravers, as well as one apprentice engraver, who perform the delicate and precise artwork into special steel plates. Those master plates are used to create the many plates that are used in the printing presses. I was told that each printing plate will last for approximately one and a half months before needing to be replaced. After the black ink has dried, the sheets are next sent through the green ink printer that will apply the serial numbers and seals to the bills before they are dried once more and sent through high speed scanners. The scanners are used to ensure quality control, and if any sheet has the slightest flaw it will be pulled
I spent the rest of my time in D.C. wandering over to say hello to Abe and walking along the Potomac River taking some photos of the Jefferson Memorial through the cherry blossoms.