Trump’s Museum Visits?


Remember that moment in Chapter 29 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in which Neville is talking to Harry, Hermione, and Ron, filling them in on what they have missed at Hogwarts during their adventures searching for hallows and horcruxes? Neville says, “…he teaches what used to be Defense Against the Dark Arts, except now it’s just the Dark Arts.”

This scene is how I have felt for the past three weeks.

Meanwhile, my city, Washington, DC, is trying as hard as anyone else to prepare for the next four years. This evening on the bus, I overheard a conversation between two people who work either for or with HUD and the EPA, respectively. They were discussing which agency would have a harder time fulfilling its mission under its newly appointed secretary. Both agencies are in the midst of the transition process, like so many other federal agencies and buildings, including some that also serve as living museums or visitor destinations.

The White House is getting ready for its new First Family, and a treasure trove of memes show imagined conversations in which Vice President Biden describes, to a chagrined President Obama, the pranks he has planned. At the Capitol, offices will be prepared for newly elected legislators. Conspicuously absent from the frenzy of getting ready for new occupants is the Supreme Court, where the ninth seat sits empty, seven months after Justice Scalia’s death and six months after President Obama nominated Merrick Garland for the vacancy.

Trump International Hotel (which I last visited on the Fourth of July in 2013, when I knew it as the Old Post Office Pavilion) is required to keep the historical tower part open to the public, though it is currently closed for renovation until “late 2016.”

Other museums will reflect the change in administration as well. At the National Museum of American History, we will have to wait at least four years to find out how the First Ladies Exhibit might change when a woman is elected president. Melania Trump will be added to the exhibit, and Donald Trump will be added to the exhibits of presidents at NMAH as well as the National Portrait Gallery.

While Trump is living (at least part-time) in DC, he will have the opportunity not just to be a museum subject, but also a museum visitor. I recently asked, on Facebook, Twitter, and this blog, what DC-area museum Trump should be sure to visit and learn from during his presidency.

The answers I received included:

  • United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM)
  • National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC)
  • A science or natural history museum
  • All the Smithsonian museums
  • All the museums

Although Barack Obama is not my Facebook friend, he answered my question too! In fact, he answered it back in September, before anyone actually expected Trump to be elected. Like a couple of my Facebook friends, Obama recommends that Trump visit the new NMAAHC, calling on Trump and all of us to “use our history to propel us to make even more progress in the future.”

May our history propel us toward more progress, indeed. Many of us are afraid right now. It’s up to all of us to work toward building a reality in which these fears do not come true.

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About Laura

Paralegal with Master of Arts in Teaching in Museum Education, frequent museum visitor, based in Washington, DC. I care about what museums can do, both in terms of public offerings and internal practices, to make the world a better place. I blog about museum education ("informed"), the social work of museums ("humane"), and visitor experience ("citizenry").
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