Tag Archives: history

Mob Museum

The second post for this month almost didn’t make it due to variety of factors, but mainly due to my desire to procrastinate. Nevertheless, it’s here. Without further fanfare, I end my West Coast trip of 2016 with…

The Mob Museum, located in Las Vegas, Nevada

The Mob Museum is officially the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement (which sounds long and not quite as exciting as the Mob Museum.) The Mob Museum is open daily from 9am to 9pm. Admission to the museum is $23.95 when you buy in person at the museum and $19.95 when you buy online in advance. (Check for other types of discounts online, I was able to get my ticket for $17.) When you buy online, the site tells you to select a day and time for entry, but according to the Mob Museum website, you may enter any time as long as the museum is open regardless of what time you selected. The museum is accessible via walking, driving and public transportation. Should you choose walking as your mode of transportation, remember that the streets of Las Vegas are long, so something 2 blocks away could mean a 30 minute walk. If you choose to drive, there is a parking lot next to the Museum, which costs $6 for 3 hours and then additional after that. Public transportation is pretty convenient in Las Vegas, take the Deuce from the closest bus stop on the Strip and get off at Stewart Ave and 4th Street and walk a short block to reach the museum. Apparently there is a free Downtown Loop shuttle that one can take to reach the museum; unfortunately you’ll have to be in downtown Las Vegas for it to be useful as the shuttle doesn’t quite reach the more populated areas of the Strip. If you’re in the Downtown Las Vegas, check out the Freemont Street Experience or the Neon Museum to make a fun day trip of it.

The Mob Museum contains three floors of exhibits with a set route to explore the museum, starting on the third floor. Immediately getting out of the elevator, there is a photo-op for those interested to get a picture of themselves in a police lineupAs the photo-op is optional, those not interested can bypass the line and head to the first exhibit, “The Birth of the Mob”, to learn about the origins of the mob and how it came about in the early 1900s. There’s a short movie in this exhibit about Lucky Luciano, who is considered to be the father of modern organized crime in the United States.

In “A Tough Little Town”, visitors can learn how Las Vegas began as a frontier town and evolved to become a global capital of gambling and entertainment due to the construction of the Hoover Dam and the legalization of gambling and prostitution in Nevada. Next up is an exhibit documenting the Prohibition Era from 1920-1933, entitled “Prohibition”. The 1920s was a time of great economic and social change, where it was easy to defy Prohibition with bootleggers and speakeasies. The Prohibition Era saw a rise in crime due to the diversion of law enforcement to regulating alcohol distribution and to the establishment of black markets dominated by organized crime syndicates, which led to a stronghold for the Mob. The Great Depression brought about the repeal of Prohibition and ended the need for bootleggers and speakeasies, but the Mob had already laid deep roots and continued to thrive.

“The Feds Fight Back” focuses on law enforcement’s response to the growing Mob influence and rising crime sprees post-Prohibition. The exhibit highlights J. Edgar Hoover and his group of G-Men, known initially as the Bureau of Investigation, later as FBI. Originally, the agents weren’t allowed to carry guns or make arrests, but because of two sensational crimes of the era that led to murders in both cases, the G-Men were permitted to carry guns, make arrests and cross state lines to chase down suspects, as it isn’t within local police’s authority to do so. When the G-Men couldn’t get a Mob member through a serious criminal offense, the government brought in the T-Men, agents of the U.S. Treasury, who took down Mob members for tax evasion. (I find that quite funny and interesting.) Finishing out the third floor is “The Tentacle Spreads”, which focuses on the Mob’s endeavors after the Prohibition. With the end of Prohibition, people no longer needed to obtain alcohol illegally, so the Mob found other ways, such as gambling  and dealing drugs, to make a profit.

First up on the second floor is “The Kefauver Hearings”, which includes a short 10 minute video in the actual courtroom used for the hearings in Las Vegas. The Kefauver Hearings provided many Americans with their first glimpse of organized crime’s influence in the US as the hearings were televised live on national television. The hearings concluded that the Mob existed, which was denied by some, including J. Edgar Hoover.  “Open City” is another Las Vegas centered exhibit. Due to gambling being illegal in many states, mobsters focused on Las Vegas as the place for their ventures since Nevada legalized gambling. See a variety of items on display, including showgirl outfits and a small display of cheating methods, and learn how casino owners skimmed money to avoid taxes.

“Spinning A Deadly Web” explains how the Mob has a hand in everything, from politics to world affairs. Last exhibit on the second floor is “We Only Kill Each Other”, which focuses on how the Mob lifestyle affected the individuals, their families and innocent bystanders. Visitors can view a variety of weapons used for hits, and images of some of the Mob’s most notorious hits.

The first exhibit encountered on the first floor is “Bringing Down the Mob”, which focuses on the joint efforts of law enforcement to convict the mob. The exhibit highlights some of the newer technologies in the 1970s, such as wire taps and listening devices, to get incriminating evidence on criminals. Also, there is a small section on undercover work. “Weapons Training” is an interactive exhibit that allows visitors to test their skills and judgement in the virtual world. (It’s quite fun, you get to shoot bad guys, but also weird cause other people are just watching you act silly.) Right next to the this exhibit is “International Organized Crime” that explains about crime in the 21st century; modern crime transcends traditional boundaries and is a more global affair.

Next is “Memories of the Mob”, which contains a room full of pictures relating to the Mob members and their families. “100 Years of Made Men” highlights the most notorious figures from 100 years of Mob history; a brief story for each figure is included. Last, but not least is “Hollywood and the Mob”, which details how Hollywood has merged fact and fiction pertaining to the Mob to create fascinating stories for public entertainment.

My travel buddy and I spent about 3 hours exploring the Mob Museum, but as usual others may take more or less time depending on interest level. The museum contains lots of reading material, but it was pretty crowded when we went, so it might take some more time if you want to read everything. (I skipped some of the more crowded sections as there was just too much people.) The price of admission at the door is slightly steep in my opinion, so try to look for deals, or at least buy online in advance to save some money. Anyone interested in Mob or organized crime history, or just history in general, will have great time at the museum. The museum has several videos and plenty of interactive exhibits, but is much better suited for adults and older children as there is a lot of reading involved. Las Vegas is known as Sin City, so it’s only befitting that its history is deeply entwined with the Mob’s, and where better to learn about both then at the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, or better known as The Mob Museum.

Independence National Historical Park

I took a trip this past Memorial Day weekend, so I’m loaded with more material, so I may switch back to posting twice a month in the coming months. But before I get ahead of myself, let’s finish with my last stop during my Philadelphia day trip from last August…

Independence National Historical Park, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Independence National Historical Park encompasses several street blocks, thus various buildings and facilities are considered as part of the park. The historical park is open daily from 9am to 5pm, but hours may vary for some of the buildings and facilities, thus it’s best to check the park’s website for hours of operation. Independence National Historical Park is easily accessible via car and public transportation. If you choose to drive, there are various parking lots nearby, but note that fees do apply. If you choose to take public transportation, take the SEPTA Market-Frankford Subway, the blue line, to 5th Street/Independence Hall Station, and walk about one block west to reach the Visitor Center or one block south to reach Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. The historical park can be a short half day visit if you want to visit the must see sites only, but if you want to see everything, it can take several days, so there’s plenty to do. Should you wish to switch things up a bit, stop by the Museum at the Chemical Heritage Foundation to take a break from history and learn some chemistry.

As mentioned above, Independence National Historical Park includes a lot of sites, but I only managed the must sees during my visit, thus this post will cover only the following: Independence Square, Liberty Bell Center and Independence Visitor Center. Independence Square is comprised of Independence Hall, Congress Hall, Philosophical Hall and Old City Hall. To get into Independence Square, visitors are required to go through a security screening, but the line moves relatively quick. Independence Hall is open daily from 9am to 5pm, and to 7pm in the summer. Admission to Independence Hall is by tour only. Timed-entry tickets are required between March to November. Tickets are free and can be obtained at the Visitor Center on the day of the visit, or for a small fee tickets can be reserved in advance either online or by telephone. ( I didn’t want to pay a fee, so I just headed to the Visitor Center first thing and obtained tickets. Don’t get there too late, since they do have a limited amount of tickets per day.)  The tour starts in the East Wing of Independence Hall, where the ranger guide gives a 10 minute overview on the drafting and signing of the Declaration of Independence, followed by a 20 minute tour of the first floor of the Independence Hall, bringing the total tour time to 30 minutes.

The West Wing of Independence Hall contains the Great Essentials exhibit. Visitors can view original printed copies of the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation and the U.S. Constitution. There is also an inkstand on display. (Please excuse the poor photos, my hands aren’t still enough for longer exposure times needed to take pictures in low light.)

Congress Hall is open from 9am to 5pm daily. Congress Hall is accessible only by tour, but there is no need to obtain tickets, as it’s on a first come first served basis, so just show up around the scheduled tour times. Tours last about 15 minutes and are scheduled for every 30 minutes. Congress Hall was home to the U.S. Congress from 1790 to 1800, when Philadelphia served as the temporary capital of the U.S. The building is two floors, the open space ground floor was where the House of Representatives met, and the U.S. Senate congregated on the second floor, which is comprised of several rooms.

Philosophical Hall houses the American Philosophical Society (APS) and its museum. The APS was founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1743 to promote useful knowledge.  The APS museum is open between April to December, from Thursday to Sunday, 10am to 4pm. (Check their website for current hours and exhibits.)  The museum contains one exhibit that rotates on an annual basis that features the society’s collection of historical items and materials. The museum is on one floor of the building, spanning several rooms. When I visited, the exhibit on display was “Gathering Voices: Thomas Jefferson and Native America”, which lasted from April 15, 2016 to December 30, 2016. The exhibit highlighted Jefferson’s collection of Native American languages. I didn’t get a chance to visit the Old City Hall as I was running low on time and also I couldn’t find the entrance, so I decided to skip it and move onto the next destination.

The Liberty Bell is one of the most famous sites in Philadelphia. The bell can be seen in the Liberty Bell Center, which is very close to Independence Hall. The center is open from 9am to 5pm year round, to 7pm during the summer months. Admission is free.  Asides from viewing the Liberty Bell (which is a lot smaller than I expected), there are various exhibits highlighting the history of the Liberty Bell.

Last, but not least, is the Independence Visitor Center. I started here to get tickets for Independence Hall, but didn’t see the exhibits inside until the end. The visitor’s center contains a theater where visitors can enjoy films about the founding of the United States and the Revolutionary War. In addition, there’s an exhibit inside showcasing some prominent historical events and figures related to Philadelphia, such as the Underground Railroad and Benjamin Franklin.

Seeing all of the above took me about 2.5 hours total, including travel time to each place, and waiting for tours to begin and in lines . The majority of the time was spent with the guided tours as the time was predetermined; in the self-guided areas, I spent significantly less time, not more than 20 minutes in each area, and looking back now I don’t feel it was an adequate amount of time for some of the sites. Thus other visitors will most likely need more time to see all of the above, but the minimum time to spend is 2.5 hours (however, you may spend less time too, if you read and move faster). Everything at Independence National Historical Park is free, thus it’s a good place to bring your friends and family as there’s enough to do that everyone will find something interesting. People who enjoy history will definitely have a field day as every where they turn, a piece of history is staring back. So put on your good walking shoes and learn about the founding of the United States at Independence National Historical Park.

Benjamin Franklin Museum

The weather is getting warmer and the summer is coming soon, I hope to see more places this year, but we’ll see how that goes. Any who, continuing on with my previous adventures in Philly…

Benjamin Franklin Museum, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The Benjamin Franklin Museum is open 7 days a week, from 9am to 5pm. Admission to the museum is $5. The museum is part of Franklin Court, which was Benjamin Franklin’s Philadelphia residence from 1763 until his death. Franklin Court contains the “Fragments of Franklin Court” exhibit, a Printing Office and the courtyard, which all are accessible to visitors. (My one-tracked mind latched onto to the museum as the main event, so I was unaware about the additional exhibit and the printing office. I suppose they are also part of the reason as to the small crowds when I visited.) The museum is accessible by car and public transportation. There is no onsite parking for those who intend to drive, but there are various parking lots within a mile of the museum. For those who wish to use public transportation, take the SEPTA Market-Frankford Subway, the blue line, to the 2nd Street station or 5th Street Station (they’re about equidistant from the museum) and then walk a few blocks to reach the museum. Visitors can see the other attractions at Franklin Court if they have time, or walk a little further to visit Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. If it’s too much history for one day, then stroll around the corner to the museum at Chemical Heritage Foundation (which I highly enjoyed).

The Benjamin Franklin Museum is located underground, beneath Franklin Court. The museum is one floor and contains five exhibits exploring the different aspects of Franklin’s life. Right at the start of the museum, visitors can find Skugg the squirrel, who is a sort of scavenger type-like guide for visitors; he can be found sporadically throughout the museum, pointing out fun tidbits. The first exhibit is “Ardent and Dutiful”, which focuses on Franklin’s personal life. Visitors can learn about his family, his friends, his hobbies and even his household expenses. Franklin suffered from gout, due to excessive eating of red meat and drinking wine, hence he wrote a story about a conversation he would have with his personified gout; visitors can view a clip of the story at this exhibit.

The next exhibit is “Ambitious and Rebellious”, which focuses on Franklin’s life as a printer. Franklin bought the Pennsylvania Gazette, oftentimes contributing pieces to the newspaper under various alias, and made it one of the most successful newspapers during his time. The exhibit contains some of the tools that are needed for printing. Following is “Motivated to Improve”. This exhibit highlights various inventions and ideas that came about because of Franklin, such as bifocals, the “Franklin Stove”, universities, lending libraries and home deliveries by the postal system.

Most people have heard the story of Franklin flying a kite with a key during a thunderstorm, thereby discovering electricity. “Curious and Full of Wonder” focuses  on his other experiments with electricity and science, in general. The last exhibit is “Strategic and Persuasive”, which showcases Franklin’s time as a diplomat. Included in the exhibit is the “Join or Die” cartoon used to encourage the American colonies to unite against British rule. The museum ends with a small segment on Franklin’s efforts to write an autobiography that he never finished.

My travel buddy and I spent about 45 minutes at the museum, but the timing will vary from person to person. Admission to the museum is reasonable for the amount of material that is on display. Adults and children will both enjoy a visit as there is enough information to keep the adults busy and equally as much for children to touch and interact with, thus it’s a good place to bring the whole family for a visit. If you’re visiting Philadelphia, it is only appropriate to take some time to learn about Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States and “The First American”, and a great place to start is at the Benjamin Franklin Museum.

Salem Witch Museum

Last Massachusetts post from May, met my own expectations of posting within half a year of visiting. Yay! This post would’ve been much more relevant  if it was posted around Halloween, but still a fun visit…

Salem Witch Museum, located in Salem, Massachusetts

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The Salem Witch Museum is open seven days a week from 10am to 5pm; with extended hours during the summer and the month of October. Admission to the museum is $11. The museum doesn’t have its own parking lot, but there are several parking garages with nominal fees that are within walking distance should you desire or need to drive. If you are already in Salem, walking to the museum is the best option. The Salem Witch museum is a bit out of the way from the main tourist area, but it is right next to Salem Common, a wonderful outdoor space with monuments and a gazebo where one can just sit and enjoy some sun and grass.

The Salem Witch museum is divided into two sections, and both are guided: the first section is a presentation where visitors take a seat and watch for an allotted time, and the second section is with a live museum guide.  (I’m not exactly sure about their photography policy, but I don’t think they allow it, so there’s no other photos in this post.) The first section is a presentation of the Salem witch trials where visitors get to experience the trials through a combination of narration, lighting and 13 dioramas. The trials lasted a little over a year, but they resulted in the death of 20 innocents: 19 people were hanged and 1 was pressed to death by rocks, and even 2 dogs were hanged by association. If you’ve read The Crucible by Arthur Miller, you will realize that the characters in the play are actually real people who had a part in the trials, such as Abigail Williams, Tituba and John Proctor. The second section is an exhibit called Witches: Evolving Perceptions, where a live guide explains how witches evolved from pagan midwives who used healing herbs to the modern day witch with the green skin. A bit of pagan history and Wiccan Religion is also covered. Lastly, the guide explains about the phenomenon that is “witch hunting”, which is brought on by widespread fear and a trigger that leads to a scapegoat deemed as the “witches” of society. Through this explanation, one understands that the Salem witch trials isn’t an isolated event, this phenomenon has happened again and continues to happen in society, e.g. McCarthyism.

My buddies and I spent about 1 hour at the museum; the presentation section is about 30 minutes long and the live guide section is about 10 minutes long. One should allocate an additional 10 minutes to waiting on line to get a good seat for the first section as the ticket is timed, and the doors don’t open till then, but if you don’t particularly care, you can just head in when the doors open. For the second section, the group is split into two groups (your ticket will have either A or B) as the exhibit area is smaller and can’t accommodate the large group, so while one group is in the second section, the other group can hang out in the gift shop. (Their gift shop easily fitted the second group of people. Also, what a good way to entice visitors to buy something at the gift shop.) The museum is a fairly good family trip idea, but younger children may not respond so well to the dark setting and lighting.  As Salem is most famous for the witch trials in 1692, a good place to learn about it and more about Salem is at the Salem Witch Museum.

Salem Maritime National Historic Site

I went on vacation recently, and having been slacking a lot, hence not that many posts. I had every intention to get this post out around the U.S. National Park Service’s (NPS) Centennial back in August, however I’m about 2 months behind, but better late then never…

Salem Maritime National Historic Site, located in Salem, Massachusetts

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The Salem Maritime National Historic Site encompasses a variety of indoor and outdoor areas. The indoor exhibits are located in several different locations and the hours vary from place to place (visit the NPS website for operating hours); some locations are open to the public, whereas others require a guided tour. Outdoor exhibits are open 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. The best way to get to the historic site is by foot if you are already in the area; or by car if you are traveling from outside of Salem. The historic site doesn’t have onsite parking, but there are several parking lots nearby with a minimal fee (very minimal, some costs as little as $0.25 per hr). The Salem Maritime National Historic Site is a bit further away from the tourist area, but there are  other places to visit nearby, and if you visit all the places within the historic site, it could take a whole day.

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First stop at the historic site is the Custom House, which is open Monday to Friday from 1pm to 4pm and Saturday to Sunday from 10am to 4pm. This Salem Custom House was built in 1819 (there were others prior), and housed the offices for representatives of the U.S. Custom Services. The house is two stories and has a cupola (the cupola is off-limits to the public).  On the first floor, visitors can see an exhibit on the tools used by the Custom Services, which include a variety of measuring devices such as scales and measuring sticks, and the  Collector’s Public Office, where records were kept and where merchants and ship captains paid their duties. Also on the first floor is Nathaniel Hawthorne’s office; his time working at the Custom Service inspired his famous novel, The Scarlet Letter. On the second floor is the Collector’s Private Room and Office. There is an eagle sculpture, known as the Custom House eagle, on the roof of the building. The current eagle is a replica.  The original was carved by Joseph True and place on the roof in 1820s, but weather and time has aged the sculpture, and thus was replaced by the replica in 2004 in order to preserve the original, which is now on display in an exhibit on the second floor.

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Next stop is the Friendship of Salem and Derby Wharf. The Friendship of Salem is a replica of a cargo vessel built in Salem in 1797. (The ship is currently undergoing maintenance, check the NPS website for the latest updates on the Friendship.) The day I visited, the sails and masts weren’t there, so it’s not quite as majestic, but google images of the Friendship and see the ship at its full glory. Visitors are free to walk about the both the main deck and the lower deck. Visitors can pose by the ship’s wheel and pretend to be captain of the ship on the main deck. The lower deck contains the living quarters of the captain and the ship’s crew. Derby Wharf is the longest of the three wharves that are part of the historic site. Derby Wharf was started in 1762 by the Derby family, and as their trading increased, they kept extending the wharf until its current 1/2 mile length in the early 1800s. The Derby Wharf Light Station, situated at the end of Derby Wharf, was built in 1871 and has since helped with navigation in Salem harbor.

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The Derby House and the Narbonne House are two areas of the Salem Maritime National Historic Site that can be viewed only by park ranger-led tours. The Derby House and Narbonne House tour is about 1 hr long, and typically is available once a day at 2:30pm (check the website for tour times). Reservation is required, and the tour can only accommodate 8 people at a time, so interested visitors should visit the Salem Visitor’s Center early to sign up for a spot. First on the tour was the Narbonne House, which was originally a butcher’s house, but has been home to various middle class families throughout the years. The house was built in sections and held together by dowels. The interior of the house is unfurnished, but contains an exhibit highlighting the items found in the house’s backyard. The Derby house was home to one of America’s wealthiest families, the Derbys. The house has many luxuries of the time period, such as a big front door, wallpaper, canopy beds, banisters, and high ceilings. The interior of the house is furnished, but they aren’t original to the house, just imaginings of how the house may have been decorated back when the Derbys resided there. Also worth a visit is the Salem Visitor Center, where there are special exhibits and movie presentations in regards to Salem’s maritime history.

I took about 2.5 hours for both self-guided explorations and the ranger guided-tour of the Salem Maritime National Historic Site. As always, other visitors may take more or less time depending on how much they want to see and their interest. (I only covered the highlights of the historic site, there more places to see and tours to take for more in-depth views of the site.) The historic site is a great place for a family outing, as there’s plenty to see and do, and an ample amount of space for children to just run around outside. History lovers will enjoy a visit and the general population should definitely visit too, as it’s free and offers much to see, and even if history isn’t your thing, you’ll enjoy being outside and near the water. Salem is most notable in history for the witch trials of 1692, but it also has an important spot in maritime history and where better to learn about it then at the Salem Maritime National Historic Site.

National September 11 Memorial & Museum

My summer plans remain summer plans, I haven’t done anything this summer yet. I still have about two months though, and I really do hope to do something, so when I think back, I’ll be able to say “Ah, I went (fill in blank) during the summer of 2016”.  For now, let’s go back to sometime in May when I took an after work adventure, and went to the…

National September 11 Memorial & Museum, located in New York, New York

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The National September 11 Memorial and Museum consist of two separate entities, the 9/11 Memorial and the 9/11 Memorial Museum. The memorial is open daily from 7:30am to 9pm and admission is free. The museum is open Sunday to Thursday from 9am to 8pm and Friday to Saturday from 9am to 9pm. Admission to the museum is $24. The 9/11 Memorial Museum offers free admission every Tuesday after 5pm till closing. The free tickets are distributed at a first come first serve basis at the museum starting at 4pm or tickets can be reserved online one day prior. (Reserve the ticket online and print the ticket at home to avoid any unnecessary lines and for the best use of your time.) The National September 11 Memorial and Museum is accessible by various forms of public transportation and by car. There is no onsite parking and on the street parking is extremely limited, so public transportation is the best option.

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The National September 11 Memorial and Museum commemorate the September 11, 2001 attacks and the World Trade Center bombing of 1993. (A word about the 9/11 Memorial before delving into the museum.) The 9/11 Memorial is located at the site of the former World Trade Center complex, and features two reflecting pools situated where the original Twins Towers stood. The 9/11 Memorial Museum is pretty punctual with their timed tickets system, they open the door at the hour specified, but don’t expect to get in immediately, especially if there is a long line, as the security is pretty strict (Very similar to airport security; I waited about 25 minutes, which isn’t too bad.) The museum is located in the lower level of the building. Visitors start at “the Ramp/Introductory Exhibit”, which gives an overview of what happened on 9/11 and includes a variety of multi-media installations detailing the days following 9/11.

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Connecting the “The Ramp” to the other exhibitions is the “Survivor’s Staircase”, the last remaining above ground structure from the World Trade Center site. The staircase served as a route for many to escape during the September 11 attacks.  Adjacent to the staircase is the “Memorial Hall”, which features an art installation, “Trying to Remember the Color of the Sky on That September Morning” and a quote made by steel from the World Trade Center. Immediately in front of the staircase is the “Tribute Walk” that contains a variety of artwork created in response to 9/11. Following is the”South Tower Excavation” where visitors can see the remnants of the steel box column of the Twin Towers. Finishing out on the original footprint of the South Tower are two exhibits, “South Tower Gallery” and “In Memoriam”; both exhibits have a no photography policy. The “South Tower Gallery” features a media installation, “Rebirth at Ground Zero” that uses time-lapsed images and recorded interviews to capture the transformation of the World Trade Center site. (I skipped this exhibit as there was a long line to get in, and the run time is about 15 minutes.) Also in the gallery is “Hope at Ground Zero” a series of photographs capturing the changing landscape of Ground Zero. “In Memoriam” is the memorial exhibition, one of the two core exhibits, that commemorates the lives of those who died in September 11, 2001 and February 26, 1993 attacks.

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Starting on the footprint of the North Tower is the “Center Passage”, where a variety of large artifacts illustrate the scale of the 9/11 attacks. The “Foundation Hall” contains remnants of the original World Trade Center, such as the Last Column, which was the final steel beam removed from Ground Zero. Next up is the “North Tower Excavation”, where visitors can see the original North Tower box column footings. Also on display is “Witness at Ground Zero”, a series of photographs captured on the days immediately after the attacks at Ground Zero. Rounding out the North Tower exhibits are “Reflecting on 9/11” and the other main exhibit, “September 11, 2001”. “Reflecting on 9/11” allows visitors to explore others’ personal reflections about 9/11 in addition to recording their own experiences regarding the attacks. “September 11, 2001” is the main historical exhibit that is separated into three parts: the Events of the Day, Before 9/11, and After 9/11, which discuss the day of 9/11, what led to the attacks, and the immediate aftermath, respectively. (This exhibit also has a no photography policy.)

I planned to take as long as necessary at the museum as needed, but due to time constraints, I only spent a little over an hour at the museum. (I didn’t want to be the last to leave, so I sped up a bit towards the end to make sure I saw everything before the museum closed.) The museum estimates that visitors will need about 2 hours to explore the museum, and I wholeheartedly agree with that estimation, as there is plenty to see. (Also allow for an additional half hour of waiting time, so if you plan to visit, allow at least 2.5 hrs.) The 9/11 Museum is more suitable for older children and adults as it’s a place for remembrance and contemplation. Anyone interested in  history should take a visit as anyone interested in learning more about the attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001. The museum offers a lot of information, but I’m not quite in agreement with the steep admission price, thus if you are unsure about museum, take advantage of the free Tuesday admissions after 5pm and visit then. (You can always make a donation to the museum after or go back again and pay the full admission price.) The National September 11 Memorial and Museum is a place to reflect, to remember, and to recover, so take a visit, regardless of whether it affected you personally or not, and think about the tragedy that occurred on September 11, 2001.

Museo del Hombre Dominicano

 It seems that I really do struggle when I have to post more than every 2 weeks cause I have all these other ambitions and things I need to do. Thus I’m probably going to stick with my current posting schedule and have sporadic bonus posts here and there when I have time. Anyways, onto this post…

Museo del Hombre Dominicano, located in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
(Museum of the Dominican Man)

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The Museum of the Dominican Man is open Tuesday thru Sunday from 10 am to 5pm. Admission to the museum is 100RD, which roughly translates to 2-4USD depending on exchange rates, and includes an audio guide in several languages. (Be sure to ask for the audio guide if you don’t get one, as they don’t appear to give it out automatically; perhaps they don’t get as many foreign tourists as they do school groups. Also ask for the audio if you can’t read Spanish since all the written descriptions are in Spanish.) The museum is located outside of the Zona Colonial, so it’s accessible by taxi and on foot. A taxi ride from the Zona Colonial to the museum costs 300RD, which is about 7-8USD.  (Get the hotel to call you a taxi as the ones found on the streets are unsafe, and make sure to arrange for a return or you’ll end up having to walk back, like we did. If you don’t want to go through the hotel, a taxi service that we used and found pleasant is JC Taxi. They have an hourly rate of 12 USD, so if you plan to go to more than one place per day, it’s pretty decent. Not sure if they charge for just one way trips, but check them out if you need a good taxi service in the Dominican Republic.)  If you decide to walk, it takes approximately 40 minutes to reach the museum from the Zona Colonial. Make sure not to walk by yourself as there aren’t many people walking on the streets (and seems a bit sketchy at times), so it’s better to get lost with someone then by yourself. The museum is located in the Plaza de la Cultura, which contains other museums, the national theater and the national library, so visitors can make it a day trip idea.

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The museum building has four floors, but the exhibits are on the first, third and fourth floors (not really sure what’s on the second floor). There is a general route to follow to make the most sense of all the exhibits as indicated by the audio guide, but being me, I still managed to see the museum backwards. (I actually started with the last audio segment, which reminds me to return the audio guide.) Starting on the fourth floor, the first exhibit I saw was on Carnival, which is a Christian festive season that occurs before Lent. The exhibit covers the Dominican Carnival, which is celebrated throughout February, culminating around February 27th, due to it being the Dominican National Independence day. A variety of Dominican Carnival costumes and masks, which tend to be flashy and elaborate, are on display. There is also a small exhibit about Gagá, which is a religious ritual that has roots in the Haitian Vodou religion. In the same room, visitors can take a gander of a Dominican farmer’s house.

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Continuing on the fourth floor in the following room, there is an exhibit on the Christian religion in the Dominican Republic. In the same room, there is a brief overview of the Dominican life style in the 20th century. Following this, there is an exhibit on the African influence in the Dominican Republic with artifacts and information relating to religion, punishment, and the slave trade and routes. Rounding out the fourth floor are exhibits on Spanish and Taino influence on the island. (The whole floor would’ve made a lot more sense if I went order instead of going backwards, but I got the gist of it,I think.)

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The third floor is connected to the fourth floor via a ramp (so for those who don’t like stairs, start on the third floor and use the ramp.) The third floor exhibits are also organized chronologically, and makes the most sense if you go in order (which I managed.) The first room covers the pre-Columbian era of the island, which is the period of time before the appearance of Europeans in the Americas. Visitors can learn about paleo-indians, meso-indians and neo-indians, and their ways of life. In addition, one can view a variety of stone tools and other artifacts belonging to these early peoples. Following, there is small section on ceramics. There are a variety of artifacts on display, even one on the evolution of ceramics.

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The next exhibit focuses on the Taino, who were the indigenous people of the island prior to the arrival of Columbus. There are a variety of artifacts and dioramas highlighting their lifestyle. One particular focus of the exhibit was on Cohoba, which is a Taino ritual in which participants inhaled the grounded seeds of the cojóbana tree through their noses, which  produces a psychedelic effect, in order to communicate with their gods.

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In the final room of the third floor, there are a variety of objects from the native peoples on display. Starting near the entrance of the room, visitors can see a variety of jewelry made from coral, tooth, stone and conch shells. Further inside are a collection of flints, hatchets, stone spearheads, and ceremonial daggers. Finishing the third floor are various stone idols that were used during rituals as representations of their deities.

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The first floor of the museum contains several stone obelisks and some examples of rock art. There was an area behind the admission desk that I failed to check out, so I’m not sure what is there. The museum has an elevator for those who don’t want to take the stairs.

My travel buddy and I spent about 1 hour at the museum, which is about how long the audio guide lasted. Other visitors can spend more or less time depending on their interest levels and/or ability to read Spanish. Considering that the museum contains three floors of exhibits, I feel that the audio guide could be a bit more detailed so that visitors will have a better understanding of the displays, but others might feel its too lengthy if it goes any longer. Any one interested in history will enjoy this museum; the museum is not really suitable for younger kids, more appropriate for middle school-aged children and beyond as I did notice several groups of school kids at the museum. The Museum of the Dominican Man is a little further from the Colonial Zone and other sites, but it’s a good place to go and learn about the Dominican Republic culture and lifestyle, so venture outside and check it out.