Touring D.C.

I’m in Washington D.C. this week, spending time with a few good friends. Since everyone is still working, today is my opportunity to tour around independently and see some sights. I haven’t been here since my eighth grade class trip, so I’m looking forward to a quick whirlwind tour of our nation’s capital. To take maximum advantage of one short day, we decided the best approach would be to focus my time around the National Mall, allowing me to pop in and out of the many Smithsonian museums.

While we were poking around the web last night, seeking visitor information, I came across a very interesting experimental categorization mapping project showcasing the vast collection of the National Museum of American History. HistoryWired: A Few of Our Favorite Things, [Java applet, large] (it originally got my attention because of the possible Wired trademark infringement). The map is divided into regions of object categories, then subdivided into hundreds of smaller squares which represent individual items from the museum collection. Mousing over every square reveals the name of the item and lines which connect to pertinent categories. The map can be customized to highlight categories of interest, and a timeline can be adjusted to gray out items before or after a certain date. Clicking anywhere on the map allows you to zoom in up to 32x. Beautiful exploration and a fun way to poke around the museum’s collection. There’s also a text version linked at the bottom of the page for non-visual or non-Java users, but it’s obviously not as fun to play with.