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History, in Pieces

History, in Pieces

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Robert F. Kennedy: March, 1968. Source: Hulton Archive/Getty Images hide caption

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Source: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

One of my favorite places to visit in the vast Smithsonian complex here in Washington is Julia Child's kitchen. I mean, what a cultural treasure! It's set up in the Museum of American History, and I can feast my eyes for ages on its multitude of gadgets and Julia-ness. Even though you don't get to touch anything, or walk through it, the power of the place permeates the glass, and you feel like any minute now Julia herself will pop around the corner with a fresh chicken and a fistful of herbs for tonight's dinner. That's why I have such sympathy for Patt Morrison. She's all fired up about the dismantling of the Ambassador Hotel, and specifically the pantry where Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated. The hotel's been razed, and what of the pantry? I'll let Patt tell you...

So the pantry exists today not even as a kit to be eventually reassembled but in sample pieces — 2-foot-diameter cores of floor, walls and ceiling, along with doors, electrical panels and the biggest piece, the ice machine behind which Sirhan Sirhan stood, waiting to open fire. It's all on 30 pallets, shrink-wrapped and stored in a secure, undisclosed location, waiting for a special commission and the school board to decide what historical institution might deserve them.
Except for some recycled steel, the rest of the pantry, along with most of the Ambassador Hotel, went to a landfill.
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So now this pantry can only ever again exist as fragments... And it'll be tough to conjure that feeling of place like Julia's kitchen does. What do you think? Will visiting pieces of the pantry be enough for you?