Tag Archives: Washington DC


endI am writing this just a few hours before liftoff (hopefully), the very last day of my two months in Washington. I haven’t yet counted up the numbers of pages of notes and scanned documents that I have gathered in the five libraries and archives that have been the sites of my research, but I’m sure they number in the thousands.  And then there are a lot of photos too, and general memories, of the great extracurricular events that I’ve enjoyed here.  Given a hasty scan of my pictures and files, I know I amassed and ingested a load of information on mid-nineteenth century architectural practice, especially as it relates to the construction of the Capitol dome, as well as wringing Washington dry of my favored recreational activities.  With some certainty I am willing to name the two greatest revelations of these two months as: the Benjamin Brown French papers (Manuscripts Division, Library of Congress) and the crème brûlée donut (Astro Doughnuts, 13th & G).  Thanks, Washington: although it’s been, almost daily, wicked cold with a chance of bureaucratic cloudiness, it’s also been illuminating, and delicious.

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The Almost-End of Month Two

pc dibner bookThis second month in Washington has been focused on the collection at the Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology.  It’s one of the smallest libraries in the Smithsonian system.  (I am guessing, but now I would like to know: what is the smallest one in this massive institution?)  As such, it has a staff of two, and during my month I have seen maybe a half-dozen other readers come and go.  The two people who run the joint happen to be super excellent specimens of humanity, which only embellishes what is already a great experience getting my hands on great little books (like the one you see above) as well as some pretty big folios and long runs of journals, all about building, engineering and that kind of stuff from the mid-nineteenth century.  Very cool stuff.

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boticelli abyss

Botticelli, The Abyss of Hell. Pen and brush on vellum (32 x 47 cm), dated c. 1485; Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana

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