While the museum isn’t expecting all of the projected millions of inaugural attendees to visit us, we are expecting enormous crowds. As a Visitor Services Coordinator, I work on the museum floors with visitors quite a bit. If you’re coming to the National Mall for the festivities in honor of the inauguration of Barack Obama, I have some suggestions to make your visit go a little smoother.
First, try to come earlier in the day; while we’re busy all day, we’re at our busiest in the afternoon. There may be lines to enter the building. Our north door, on Constitution Avenue, won’t be open on Inauguration Day (Jan. 20), so plan accordingly.
Next, please don’t expect to see everything in one visit! On very busy days we have predictable lines at some of our most popular exhibitions like The First Ladies at the Smithsonian, Dorothy’s ruby slippers and other artifacts in Thanks for the Memories, and the Star-Spangled Banner, so it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to see all of these on one visit.
Check out our Web site for information about what will be going on at the museum and what will be different over the weekend so that you can better plan. For example, Spark!Lab won’t be open on Tuesday, Jan. 20 but a special spoken-word program “Inaugural Moments,” featuring historical inauguration speeches will be available several times that day. And keep your eyes out for special programs with famous Americans like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Thomas Jefferson! If you’re looking for real-time updates over the long weekend, be sure to follow us on Twitter.
The best thing you can do to ensure you have a wonderful visit is to bring good-natured patience. You will be in a historic city at a historic time with millions of other people just as excited to be here as you are. If you are in line to see something, strike up a conversation with those around you. You never know who you might be standing next to or what you might learn! There will be a lot of special energy in Washington, D.C.
And, above all, enjoy your trip to the museum!
Jane Fandrey is a Visitor Services Coordinator at the National Museum of American History.