Roosevelt, Muir, Clio and Me: A Novel of Loss and Discovery by David Matthew Wilcox
Excerpt from Chapter Fifteen – “You were my teacher!”:
Clio and Winston Dash emerged from the stillness of the Madison
Building into the effervescent brightness of the mid-Wednesday
afternoon sunlight. All of Washington seemed alive before them. Streets
teamed with traffic. Tourists mixed with locals as they pounded the sidewalks
and packed into and emerged out of the South Capitol Metro stop. It was
their sixth day together, and both were in need of a major distraction. Once
outside, they determined to take in as much of the Smithsonian Institution
and Mall as time would allow. They scanned the scene before them.
Of the sixteen museums and galleries that made up the Smithsonian
complex, nine buildings spread out before them in the Mall area between the
Washington Monument and the Capitol. Seven lined the south side of the
Mall along Jefferson Drive; two on the north side along Madison Drive.
Begun by an act of Congress in 1846 and signed by President James K. Polk
at the height of American expansion toward the Pacific, the museum’s initial
collection came to be housed in a single building known as the “Castle.” Over
the next one hundred years, the Smithsonian added only three more buildings.
But in the last third of the twentieth century, it virtually exploded with
ten new museums on or near the Mall, mirroring its country’s equally expanding
population and cultural interests. The number of museum buildings
along the Mall surprised Clio, prompting a comment about the growing problem
of the nation’s “junk.” Winston responded with something about the
need for a massive national garage sale.