- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 15, 2003

Call it history in action.

Abraham Lincoln extols the history of Washington, D.C. — just before John Wilkes Booth fires the fatal shot at the president and leaps to the stage.

This is no live performance but a holographic presentation — one of many eye-catching features at the City Museum, which opens today across from the new Washington Convention Center.

The museum’s exhibits guide visitors through more than 200 years of D.C. history. It is the only museum dedicated to the history and people of the nation’s capital, which is best known for monuments and lawmakers.

The museum’s central — and oft-repeated — theme is, “Real people live here.”

“You don’t know your destiny unless you know your starting point, and that is why we need this museum,” said Mayor Anthony A. Williams, who participated yesterday in a ribbon-cutting ceremony to dedicate the museum.

Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, archbishop of Washington, and former Washington Redskins running back Darrell Green also attended the dedication yesterday.

The 60,000-square-foot City Museum is in the Carnegie Library building, which the Historical Society of Washington, D.C. is renovating.

Funds for the museum are still being collected, and the Historical Society has raised $19 million for the $30 million renovation.

The Historical Society chose the Carnegie Library because of its rich history. Located in the heart of the city at Mount Vernon Square, the building was the city’s central public library from 1903 until 1970, and its only nonsegregated one.

In addition to its 148-seat theater, which features the Lincoln-and-Booth holographic show, the museum displays a 20-square-foot map of the District on the floor of its west gallery. The highly detailed map, which is lighted from underneath, comprises a series of aerial photographs of the city that visitors can walk and even crawl on.

An upstairs room contains drawings, sketches and maps of the city dating to the 1700s. The maps are on loan from the private collection of Albert Small, president of Southern Engineering Corp.

The “Sandlots to Stadiums” exhibit takes visitors on a tour of the capital’s sports history — from Civil War-era baseball on the White House lawn to the glory days of Griffith Stadium in the 1940s and ‘50s. The exhibit also features Mr. Green’s helmet and cleats in a Plexiglas box.

During the ceremony, speakers were briefly interrupted when the air-conditioning malfunctioned and sprayed guests with drywall dust trapped in the ducts.

City Museum Chairman Shireen L. Dobson, who had been speaking at the time, however, did not miss a beat as the audience cleared the air with programs. But Cardinal McCarrick said that if this happened again, his benediction was going to be short.

By year-end, an exhibit that will include an education center and archaeology lab for children will open in the museum’s basement.

The museum will use displays that can be changed as the city changes.

First lady Laura Bush, an honorary chairman for the inaugural celebration, did not attend the ribbon cutting.

The City Museum is one block south of the Mount Vernon Square/Convention Center Metro stop (Yellow and Green Lines) and three blocks north of the Gallery Place Metro stop (Red, Yellow and Green Lines) at 801 K St. NW.

The public may view exhibits from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and until 9 p.m. the third Thursday every month. The museum is closed Mondays.

The building and upstairs library are open to the public, but there is an admission fee for the exhibits — $3 for adults and $2 for students.

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