One of my favorite things about living in the Washington, D.C. area is that it never gets old to play tourist. Whenever someone comes to visit, it’s a great excuse to get out and explore. My parents were coming down for a visit recently and since they’ve been here many times, we wanted to come up with something we hadn’t done yet.
Amazingly in all the years they’ve been coming down, we’d never gone to the National Archives. I haven’t been in years either, so we decided to make an afternoon of it. The highlight of the Archives of course is that it houses the Declaration, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Seeing these documents in person as opposed to them just being some abstract thing you learn about in history class is unbelievably cool. Yes, I’m a total nerd!
Our main reason for visiting the Archives on this trip, however, was to see a new temporary exhibit called To The Brink: JFK and the Cuban Missile Crisis. The exhibit looks back at the crisis and features real-time White House recordings from Kennedy’s meetings in October of 1962. Also at the exhibit are chairs used by President Kennedy and Soviet Premier Khrushchev during the June 1961 Vienna Summit. It has personality studies of Khrushchev and Fidel Castro, satellite photos of missile sites under construction in Cuba, a map of Cuba used and annotated by President Kennedy, secret correspondence between Kennedy and Khrushchev and a synopsis of a speech that never had to be delivered that President Kennedy drafted if he had to announce an attack to “destroy the nuclear build-up in Cuba.”
The exhibit was great – full of information and cool pieces of history. I could’ve spent hours more there listening to all of the recordings from Kennedy’s meetings and hope to get back before the exhibit closes. If you’re planning on being in D.C. between now and February, this is a can’t miss museum.