On the ground floor, near the gift shop, is the mechanical wing, with sections for vehicles, factories, heavy equipment, and office machinery. A rare recording of fdr’s typist is the prize of the Light Work Collection, but Vehicles are the bigger draw, with everything from a Model T to the Apollo 11 lunar module to a Sopwith Camel with a bullet still pinging in the crankcase as it plummets toward the ground.
On the other side are the birdsong cubicles, organized by continent, with a special room for the extinct. The collection here is, regrettably, incomplete.
In the Talking Wing, there are areas for Great Speeches (William Jennings Bryan, Hitler, mlk), Lisps, Accents, Languages. Again, the prize pieces are the epics of the extinct.
Of course, it’s the Music Wing that everyone comes for. The chance to hear Gershwin played by Gershwin, Beethoven played by Beethoven, Beethoven played by Gershwin, Gershwin played by Beethoven.
There are rumours about a Passion Collection, donated by a notorious Hollywood madam, but of course whatever exists has been safely stored in the archives.
Somewhere around here is a booth where you can test your aural spectrum. One woman swore she heard the keening of mating mosquitoes, but the Curators thought it unlikely. The human ear is ultimately a narrow instrument, like a bottle opener.
Come, let’s explore the Hall of Winds. We can listen to a gale playing a 16th century pipe organ in a bombed-out Croatian church. I will rub your neck in the storm.
Or let’s go hear the howling on the moon.