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Boiled Paupers

"If this is not the body of the man who was killed in your vat, pray, Sir, how many paupers have you boiled?" ~Thomas Wakely, 1839

That was one of the quotes on the wall of the Visible Proofs: Forensic Views of the Body exhibit I went to see at the National Library of Medicine inside the National Institute of Health this morning. The exhibit went through most of the history of forensic pathology, including entemology, radiology, chemistry, and the politics behind the differences in coroners and medical examiners (amongst other things). I learned about Bertillion cards (mug shots) and saw some pretty cool "nutshell" case replicas (a woman made dollhouse size EXACT replicas of crime scenes that were used as teaching models for the Maryland police force - some are still in use today).

Some of the best parts of the exhibit however were fingerprinting my own thmbs electronically (I don't match anything in their system, phew (wiping sweat from brow)), watching a virtual autopsy on a computer imaging table, and guessing what I was looking at in a microscope. The most interesting thing I got to use though was the Faces program. This is the program that authorities use to create those digitized mugshots. I got to create my own (it is surprisingly difficult to describe your own face) and did an observation exercise where I had 4 seconds to memorize a face and then choose the features that had been on it. It was very cool.

I was alone for most of the time in the exhibit because I don't think that this library gets alot of tourist traffic. This is exactly how I like museums. Not alot of people pushing around you while you are trying to read everything, you can just take your time. It helps that the NIH is in Bethesda and not in DC. Moreover, I don't think there are alot of people who would consider the Institute of Health a tourist attraction. Well, as you know, I am a pretty big nerd.

For more information about the exhibit, check out their website. The following quote is one of my favorites from the exhibit and really pertinent (considering sections of the exhibit emphasize the stories of idenitfying the Unknown Soldier, the bodies in mass graves after the "Dirty War" in Argentina, and of course, helping release prisoners from Death Row (and convict the true criminals)).

"Science is armed with a microscope, while justice is blind. ~Theodore H. Tyndale, 1877

In other exciting news of the day ... obviously I got out of the apartment for awhile. Dana and I had lunch when I got back and then headed down MacArthur to hit up the DC Public Library. It is farther away than either of us remembered it being, but we got cards and checked out some stuff. I got two guide books for DC, Frank Capra's classic with Cary Grant Arsenic and Old Lace on DVD, and The Librarian. Like I said, I want to read as much as I can before school starts!

I've already learned all sorts of interesting things about the area of DC where we live, and can't wait to get out exploring a little this week. Here are some interesting facts you might not be aware of:

DC is 6o-something square miles.

The original shape was a parallelogram, but the District gave the land on the south side of the Potomac River back to Virginia (I'll be looking up why soon enough!).

The lettered streets run east to west and the numbered streets run north to south. There are no X, Y, or Z streets. This is understandable because it is the end of the alphabet. So why isn't there a J street either? (More things to discover!)

There are gargoyles of a dog named Kiddo and Darth Vader on the National Cathedral. The National Cathedral is so large that you could lie the Washington Monument down inside of it. And although you can see the Monument from a greater area away, the Cathedral is actually the highest pointed construction in DC. It was started in 1907 and not completed until 1990! It also has about 800,000 visitors per year. I will definitely be contributing to that number!

A woman named Toni Cherry is a history cop in DC. I should say THE history cop. The sole person in her job, she is responsible for noting whether or not the historical buildings are being maintained in the appropriate historical fashion in all of DC. There are 23,500 designated historical buildings in DC. So this is pretty much the busiest woman in all of the District of Columbia I think.

And this is just a random fact I know ... no buildings in DC are taller than 10 stories (or the equivalent in feet. It isn't just to keep the city pretty or the monuments visible either. Back in the day (I don't know the year), the District government was trying to save a little money and had a law passed for no buildings to be built higher than ten stories because they didn't want to have to buy new fire trucks and ladders since the ones they had topped out at nine stories.

So there you have your history lesson of the day. I know it is nerdy, but I just can't help myself!

Oh, and finally the funniest thing to happen today: when we got home from the library Dana was unlocking the door to get in the apartment. There was something about rabbit sized moving along the wall near the door and I screamed. Dana turned around to see what I was yelling about and in the process created a barrier that the field rat (not rabbit) then ran into, i.e. her leg. It got all confused in its attempt to escape, ran across the patio, tripped on something, flipped over on its back, righted itself and then ran off under the fence and probably fell down, as the other side of the fence is a little cliff before the neighbor's yard. Neither of us could stop laughing for almost five minutes.

Okay, off to get reading one of the now 5 books I have started. Talk to you soon. Love always, ~Heather