Choose your own ex­hibit ad­ven­ture

Mu­seum asks pub­lic to choose among clas­sic cars ready for ex­hi­bi­tion

The Washington Post Sunday - - ARTS&STYLE - BY LONNAE O’NEAL PARKER oneall@wash­post.com

Smith­so­nian asks pub­lic to vote on which clas­sic Amer­i­can cars to put on dis­play.

Ever pic­ture your­self as cu­ra­tor to the nation’s most fa­mous repos­i­tory of Amer­i­can his­tory? Here’s your chance, sort of. The Smith­so­nian’s Na­tional Mu­seum of Amer­i­can His­tory is invit­ing peo­ple to

make a quick-click vo­teon­which two cars from Amer­ica past that they most want to see on dis­play in Jan­uary and Fe­bru­ary.

The “Race to the­Mu­seum” vote started as an at­tempt to at­tract lo­cal vis­i­tors dur­ing win­ter months, when tourism is usu­ally down. Four­teen cars are on dis­play in the “ Amer­ica on the­Move” ex­hibit, which fea­tures a chrono­log­i­cal look at trans­porta­tion in Amer­ica from the 1800s to 1999. But 73 cars are in stor­age. Cu­ra­tor Roger White se­lected eight of those for vis­i­tors to vote on, with write­ups of each on the Race to the Mu­seum

blog.

The cars are stand-ins for Amer­i­can striv­ing; gleam­ing or chromed out or white­walled pro­jec­tions of our most pow­er­ful, cre­ative or whim­si­cal selves. They’re about all the places that we hoped new tech­nolo­gies would carry us.

Maybe you’d like the Long steam tri­cy­cle from the 1880s; it weighs 350 pounds, and was built by a car­pen­ter in North­field, Mass., as a take­off on the high­wheel bi­cy­cle craze of the times, ac­cord­ing to the blog.

Or per­haps the 1953 Glass­par sports car — con­vert­ible, red and James Bond cool— strikes your fancy. The 1894 Balzer au­to­mo­bile (which re­sem­bles a bug­gy­type wheel­chair) needs only a gen­tle­man driver tip­ping his hat to awestruck neigh­bors as he shows off his new­fan­gled ver­sion of a Sun­day stroll.

The 1997 EV1 elec­tric car is a nod to eco-friendly be­fore eco-friendly was cool (or cute!). The 1987 GM Sun­raycer so­lar car is “about as close to a Fris­bee as a car can look,” says Melinda Machado, di­rec­tor of pub­lic af­fairs for the mu­seum.

The gleam­ing Tucker sedan, the 39th of only 51 made, was heavy on safety, fea­tur­ing a padded dash­board. This 1948 car was seized in a drug ar­rest and given to the Smith­so­nian by the U.S. Mar­shals Ser­vice.

With more than 16,000 votes so far — the con­test started in mid-De­cem­ber — the Tucker sedan has been in the lead, along with a bur­gundy and gold 1929 Miller race­car, whose shape closely re­sem­bles a Dober­man pin­scher’s nose.

“ The Miller race­car is most rem­i­nis­cent of the ‘ Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ car,” Machado says. “I don’t know what it is about this lit­tle race car, but it’s cer­tainly touch­ing the hearts of peo­ple.”

Vot­ing for the “Race to the Mu­seum” cars closes Jan. 11.

PHO­TOS FROM SMITH­SO­NIAN’S NA­TIONAL MU­SEUM OF AMER­I­CAN HIS­TORY

1997: EV1 elec­tric car.

1880S: Long steam tri­cy­cle.

1894: Balzer au­to­mo­bile.

1903: Oldsmo­bile curved-dash run­about.

1987: GMSun­raycer so­lar car.

1953: Glass­par sports car.

1929: Miller race­car.

1948: Tucker sedan.

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