Apparently, in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death, visits to the National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum in Florida are up. You have to think the Smithsonian kind of kicks itself on occasions like this that it doesn’t have a military museum on the Mall: can you imagine the cafeteria and gift shop revenue from this? Maybe it’s worth considering converting the Air and Space Museum on the mall while keeping the annex near Dulles, given the space program’s diminishing role in American culture and public policy? Since I can’t imagine heading to Florida given how hot it’s been in Washington this week, maybe I’ll use this as an excuse to finally hit up the National Museum of American Jewish Military History, one of the charming oddities of the city I’ve been meaning to visit since I moved here five years ago.
Not to say that there shouldn’t be a National Museum of Jewish Military History, or a Navy SEALs museum, but it sure puts the quibbles over a National Museum of the American Latino in perspective, doesn’t it? I think there’s something to be said for a curatorial argument that organizing museums along ethnic lines would limit exhibitions—though there’s an equally strong argument to be made that without that racial or ethnic framework, it would be hard to put stories like the Civil Rights movement in their most important context. But it all goes to show that you never know when there’s going to be a sudden spike of interest in a museum or historical site for minor topics. Surely there’s a case to be made for museums on broader subjects, even after the Mall’s filled up.