Exploring SW Waterfront

This week was very busy, as this was our last week to get ready before Investigating Where We Live officially starts. Monday we had a big meeting with the interns, Jamee, and the three staff members who will be leading each group. Lauren Wilson will be leading Southwest Waterfront, so I will be working with her. Lauren got her M.A. in Museum Education from George Washington. She is only a few years older than me so I think she will be fun to work with. She is very into photography. Lauren did IWWL last year, so I am glad that I will be with an experienced team leader. During our meeting Jamee went over the whole program schedule with us. We talked about our expectations and responsibilities. Monday afternoon and Tuesday I helped Jamee with prep work for the program.

Wednesday I visited Southwest Waterfront with Lauren. I had been once before but she had not. It was extremely hot, which was a bit challenging to endure. During our trip we focused on the waterfront area, along the Potomac. We visited the Maine Street Fish Market. Lauren asked if we could interview some of the workers with the kids, and they agreed. We walked down the river and took lots of photographs of the river. Southwest has a big marina, with lots of houseboats where people actually live. We stopped at the office of the Marina to see if there was someone the kids could interview. We spoke to the dock master who was not very friendly. However, he gave Lauren his contact information. Lauren later emailed him and he put us into contact with someone else who is willing to talk to the kids about working at the marina. We also went to the Titanic memorial. On our way back to the metro stop we walked through the neighborhood, up fourth street. This was the commercial corridor of the neighborhood, before it was all torn out in the fifties for redevelopment. Now only apartment buildings line Fourth Street. However, luckily the redevelopers saved one example of federal architecture, Wheat Row, which was built in 1794, and incorporated it into a new set of townhouses.

Thursday morning Lauren and I returned to Southwest. We walked in the northern portion of the neighborhood, where there are many very impressive examples of modern style architecture. These buildings were all constructed after the urban development of the fifties and sixties. We found both modern rowhouses and large modern apartment buildings. When we were taking pictures of one of the apartment buildings we ran into a man who is working on repainting the building. Lauren explained our project to him and he took a few minutes to talk to us. It was great to run into him because he was very knowledgeable about the building. He had done a great deal of research in preparation for his job. He explained that these apartment buildings were seen as luxury housing in the fifties and sixties. Many high level government officials lived in them, since they are so close to downtown Washington. The area was extremely fashionable. He also talked to us about how the buildings were constructed. He said that they are very well made, primarily with concrete. Residents are not bothered by sound because the walls and floors are so thick. He said a building would never be constructed like that today, because it would be too expensive. Now drywall is used more than concrete because it is much cheaper. Lauren and I also walked through a lower income area of Southwest, where many projects are located. I was a bit nervous at first, but I did not feel unsafe at all. Everyone we talked to was very friendly, and someone doing construction work on a rowhouse even asked us if we were ok and had enough water. This experience reminded me that I should not judge people because of their income or background. Lauren and I came across a vacant school, called Randall Jr. High. We talked to a security guard outside, and he told us that a nearby hotel wants to buy the building and turn it into another hotel and an art gallery. I hope the plans go through because it will really help the local community and support the arts.

Friday I helped Jamee all day. I called of the parents of the students participating in IWWL to remind them that the program is starting next Tuesday. I had to call thirty five people. I mostly got answering machines. However, sadly two different parents told me that their sons cannot participate. One got a summer job and the other is going to summer school. It was disappointing that the parents waited until we called them to tell us. However, Jamee is going to call people on the waiting list and offer spots to them. I also got the SW Waterfront bulletin board ready in the classroom, decorating it with pictures.

For our intern enrichment activity we got to have lunch with the executive director of the museum, Chase Rynd. This was a very interesting opportunity. He explained to us that he had worked on Wall Street for awhile but decided that the financial world was not for him. He became interested in art and started his own gallery. The gallery was a success and he was offered a job starting a museum in Nashville. After Chase established that museum he was offered an executive director job at the National Building Museum. Chase said fundraising is a big challenge for him, because the NBM does not have an endowment. However, Chase likes that his job is different every day, and that he gets to make a difference in the lives of kids by supporting the museum’s education department. Hearing Chase talk was a wonderful insight into what museum leadership positions are like.