As a program producer and member of the department that manages visitor services, I’m making my list for inauguration weekend: Cell phone. Contact list. Schedule. Shampoo. Pajamas. Sleeping bag . . .
We’re reviewing stanchion layouts for various lines to popular exhibitions: the new Lincoln show will be especially popular, we know, and the First Ladies exhibition will be packed. The roster of Renewing America’s Promise inaugural events for Saturday through Monday promises to be lively and thoughtful. President George Washington and his friends, Thomas and Abe, will address our visitors several times (well, costumed actors playing the presidents). The authentically-dressed mid-19th century Federal City Brass Band will provide all the proper ruffles and flourishes. I’m especially delighted that the a cappella group, In Process… will perform Civil Rights-era songs.
For the 20th, our speechwriter is weaving together enlightening and entertaining anecdotes from historical inaugurations, memorable excerpts from inaugural speeches, and inaugural poetry by past poet laureates. One of our favorite museum actors will present our “Inaugural Moments” spoken-word program four times that day.
This year’s inauguration—with its anticipated crowds, heightened security, traffic restrictions, iffy weather, and an inaugural ball in the evening—has upped (way upped!) the ante for all of us at the museum. Bands and A/V techs and florists are dropping off equipment and displays days in advance; caterers will park refrigerated trucks throughout the weekend on our loading dock. Back hallways and freight elevators, unfinished exhibition spaces, and offices on public floors are being commandeered for kitchens, green rooms, and supply centers. Building maintenance crews, visitor services staff, actors, security officers, photographers, and volunteers who live in the District are planning to walk to the museum, and those of us who commute from beyond the Beltway will be camping out in our offices on the 19th, so we all can be ready at 8 a.m. on January 20 when the doors open to the public.
Once-in-a-lifetime opportunity? Of course! Being able to tell our grandkids about our connection to this historic event—and that we got to spend “a night at the museum?” . . . Priceless!
Back to my list: ID badge. “Ask me” button. Coffee pot. Toothbrush. Extra pair of shoes . . .
Sue Walther is a programs coordinator at the National Museum of American History. She normally works Monday–Friday, 8 a.m.–5 p.m.