Getting Down to Business

I officially started my research for my big thesis today.  I’ve been working on brainstorming and stuff, but today was my first day in the archives researching and digging through the files.  Man, it’s so much fun!  I’m letting out my inner nerd…it’s making me a little self conscious.  🙂  Anyway, it wasn’t a bad start.  I went with a list, some gems, some total busts.  It’s what I expected because any seasoned researcher can tell you that you never know what you’ll find when you open up files.  There weren’t quite as many useful things as I hoped for, but I’m not disappointed.  You’ve always gotta hope for the best, right?

It really made me miss my old job.  Remember…way before all this moving, training, reassigning, and separation happened?  You remember.  I worked in an archive and a museum.  This is what I did for people.  I helped them do research and did smaller research projects for people who called or wrote to me.  Man, I could have done that job forever.  It was in a little archive, only room for about four researchers comfortably, but up to eight if they didn’t mind sacrificing elbow room.  It was on a university’s campus, so I did a lot of teaching too.  I taught classes to undergrads about how to research and how to work with primary sources.  I also worked with faculty, grad students, book writers, genealogists, and even the History Channel once.  I did lots of other stuff too, and that was only half my day.  I worked in a museum too, cleaning objects, designing exhibits, giving tours…the works.  It was a wonderful experience, but I don’t miss it as much.  I’ll save that for another day, laddies.  The archives, though, that was a cool job.  I had a lot of fun, and I got to do what I really enjoy.  It was good to get back into my groove.  Ah, nostalgia…

While I was doing my business, I also stopped by the Smithsonian National Postal Museum.  (And since a group of rather loud, semi-crude employees were there lamenting the lack of traffic to their online presence while I was trying to quietly research, I’ll link to their site.)  I’ve always wanted to go visit because I’ve heard lots of things about it.  First, it’s in an absolutely beautiful building right next to Union Station.  It used to be the post office for the Capitol, so there are tons of marble and old, bronze mailboxes inside.  The exhibits don’t even come close to overpowering the architecture.  The exhibits themselves were fairly brief in my opinion.  Having worked in museums, I know all the stress that goes into writing exhibit labels and designing something interesting and educational for all age groups at once, but the overall feel of the museum was rather young.  That being said, I did learn something and parts were really cool.  The stamps were by far the coolest aspect of the museum (and clearly the central focus as well), and little nuggets of stamp exhibits dotted the museum outside of the larger philatelic exhibit.  The interactive postcard station was pretty cool too.  I got two to send to Super Rad and DH!  If you don’t mind getting past the rather trivial exhibits like those on mail cars and corner post office boxes, it’s a cute little museum.  I don’t know if I’d make a special trip for it, but if you’re looking for a change of pace away from the central National Mall area attractions, it’s a good alternative.

If you’re going all the way up to the Postal Museum, I highly recommend checking out Union Station right next door.  It’s a metro stop and the Amtrak station all in one, but don’t overlook it.  It’s three floors of gorgeous marble, vaulted ceilings, and massive staircases.  It has tons of shopping, touristy to high end.  There are sit down, nice restaurants and cafés and bistros on the top two floors with the shopping.  For being an active train station, it’s actually a very quiet, serene place.  It’s kind of a long, skinny building and there is tons to take in if you walk from end to end.  A ginormous food court that actually has super good food is in the basement with the bathrooms (always good to know) and a movie theater.  The food court is the way to go, in my opinion.  You can get UNO’s pizza anytime, but eating with D.C.’s masses is way better.  You come down this curved, reddish marble staircase, and the fancy quiet of upstairs fades away.  You’d never know it was up there.  Downstairs is all white tile with these bright, kind of tropical looking flowers on the walls.  The food court is the whole length of the building, and you’ll have multiple choices of whatever you’re hungry for.  But then you’re sitting with Federal employees in suits on the their lunch break, and sunscreen smelling tourists, luggage toting travelers in transit, kids on a school trip, and a few hobos all down there looking for good food.  It just kills me that this is all underneath such a beautiful and orderly life that’s going on above you.  I didn’t intend to just brag about the food because Union Station is so much more than that, but that’s my shtick for today.

As a side note, while I was at the Postal Museum, Smithsonian interns were having their annual ice cream social there.  Ha!  I laughed.  I was one of those interns two summers ago.  My social was at the National Portrait Gallery next to Chinatown (both good spots to check out), but it did make me smile.

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