History the ultimate storytelling experience; it is not conclusive and it is constantly being re-told in different ways. I am definitely intimidated when I open a history book that is chronological because I cannot organize so many events on a linear scale. Walking through the National Mall and Pennsylvania Avenue is like jumping inside different sections of a history textbook only at random points.
There is something about walking through a museum where stories are brought to life.
Recreations of historical catastrophes such as the Holocaust provide an eye-opening experience, not only with sites and sounds but also with ambiance. The video footage of the cruelties prisoners experienced in the concentration camps are unthinkable. The exhibit that affected me the most emotionally was the video showing German’s experimenting on humans for quote “scientific research.” The dehumanization of the Jewish race and everyone else who were deemed enemies of the Third Reich provided Hitler’s followers the ultimate justification to do whatever they pleased, no matter how unthinkable, torture of children and adults alike. The photos are enough to make anyone’s stomach turn. There are also exhibits with train cars and wooden sheds to show how hundreds of human beings were herded together like cattle. I was not brave enough to walk through the “Children of the Holocaust” portion of the museum. The whole experience made my heart hurt. Reading about WWII in a history book is one thing however there is an enriching understanding that happens when you literally walk through what happened.
Washington D.C. is full of living history. The memorials highlight important figures who helped shape our country’s ideals and protected our rights. The National Mall is gorgeous during sunset. I had the opportunity to visit the World War II Memorial, Jefferson, Lincoln and my favorite Martin Luther King Jr. The MLK memorial is fairly new it was completed in 2011. The stonework is incredible. My classmates and I walked the back way to the site and stood between a giant mountain of stone cracked in half; emerging from the larger rock is a stone with Martin Luther King Jr.’s silhouette. “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope,” is etched on the side of the memorial.
Martin Luther King Jr.’s story is a powerful voice in history, as are many others displayed in the museums, the National Mall and the Smithsonian. I recommend students visit each of these places and set aside several days to soak it all in.