My alarm woke me up early on Inauguration Day, and like many others in Washington I padded down the hall and made my way downstairs for that first blessed cup of coffee. It looked cold outside and news reports were focusing on the temperature and long lines at Metro stations. This made me doubly glad (I won’t say smug) that I chose to spend the night at the National Museum of American History. After obtaining special permission, about 20 of us who needed to be here when our doors opened at 8:00 am had our own "night at the museum" on Monday night.
I had the good fortune to spend the night with our dedicated public programs and events staff who not only care deeply about visitor experience in our museum—they know how to throw a party! Our conference table was strewn with snacks, and our movie for the evening was—you guessed it— Night at the Museum. Clad in sweatpants and pajamas we laughed at the caricature of a museum director, and other aspects of the movie museum that were far from our reality. We all left at the end of the movie to retire to our office floors, but I couldn’t resist stopping by the window that overlooks the public portion of the museum to see if any of our objects had come to life.
The sleepover was a great adventure, but it was overshadowed by the experience of spending Inauguration Day on the Mall. It was a pleasure and a privilege to welcome the first of our 40,000 plus visitors who had shivered outside waiting for our doors to open, and the day just got better as it went along.
Judy Gradwohl is Associate Director for Public Programs at the National Museum of American History.