WASHINGTON -- One way to find out how Washington works is to touch it -- or virtually do so -- and this capital has a variety of "petting zoos," both actual and still in the works, to promote people's knowledge.
The 10-year-old display, called "Washington -- City and Symbol" at the National Building Museum, will be refurbished to make facilities available to as many people as possible.
Chief Curator Howard Dekker plans to close the show in September and reopen it in the fall of 2002 with some new gadgets. One possible piece of virtual reality: multiple models of the city over its history.
Dekker said models would help visitors interested in history to compare the capital as it now looks with the 1791 plan that George Washington commissioned. Town planners could study how the shape of the capital has changed: for instance, the site of the National Gallery of Art on the Mall used to be occupied by a railroad station.
In the new show, Dekker plans to keep the models of five important buildings and monuments. Unlike many models in museums, where bells ring and sirens howl if people get too close to the exhibits, these models are meant to be handled.
One original purpose was to help blind children learn about the Capitol by feeling shapes and proportions. There's a four-foot model of the Washington Monument and a stone post that helped hold up a railing in the original White House.
"Imagine trying to explain to a small blind boy what goes on in the Capitol," said Paula Terry. "Then give him a chance to run his fingers all over a model of the building you're describing."
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.