Wilson’s Collection Spans the Globe
The new exhibit gracing the Woodrow Wilson House showcases an electrifying display of hidden treasures discovered in the attic of the home of the 28th U.S. president.
Just steps from the front entrance, “101 Wonders at Woodrow Wilson House— features capes, javelins, samurai armor, ceremonial daggers and Japanese swords known as katana chosen from an 8,000-piece presidential collection that sets this showcase apart.
The museum offers visitors a step back in time into the nuances of Wilson’s presidency and the novelty of his private life. John Powell, curator of the Wilson house, describes the museum as a “living textbook of modern life in the 1920s.—
Wilson was one of the most progressive presidents of the 20th century in terms of policy, pioneering a woman’s right to vote in the 19th Amendment of 1920, implementing a national observance of Mother’s Day and establishing the Internal Revenue Service, the League of Nations and the Federal Reserve Act.
Beyond that, the museum reveals a man who was a fan of the latest gadgetry. Modern technology of Wilson’s era — including an intercom system, buzzers, an electric alarm clock and a toaster oven — decorates every corner of the house.
“President Wilson really understood the importance of technology and the power of America’s innovators and inventors to improve the lives of the people,— Powell said.
Powell points out other Wilson gadgets on display in the museum, including a “graphoscope film projector the Wilsons used to watch silent films in their library, the radio microphone Wilson used when giving his Armistice Day speech live on radio in 1923 — the first remote radio broadcast made by a national figure, even the elevator he used to get up and down the stairs.—
Equally fascinating is an adjacent exhibition of presidential gifts from countries in Europe and Africa.
The French faience platter is one of the most intriguing items in the exhibit. The platter measures more than 3 feet long and 2 feet wide and weighs 32 pounds. Alfred Beau created the platter for the Paris exposition of 1878, as a part of his “Botanique— series. This gift from the combined chambers of commerce of Finistère in Brittany comes with its own story.
“According to legend, Edith (Wilson) once had the platter sent to Wilson’s sickroom with two tiny lamb chops in the center to cheer Wilson out of the low spirits which affected him during his illness,— Powell writes in an exhibit description.
The Woodrow Wilson House is at 2340 S St. NW. This exhibit is open until Nov. 15.