After a seven-month hiatus, Julia Child's Kitchen reopens tomorrow at the National Museum of American History, just in time to celebrate the much-loved chef's 100th birthday on August 15. The kitchen has now migrated to a new location in the museum, where it will be the centerpiece of an upcoming exhibition, "Food: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000," opening on November 20. But while the kitchen itself is almost exactly as it was in Child's Cambridge, Mass. home, there are some changes in store. Here's what you should know:
1) Julia's kitchen will only be open for a two-week special display for her centennial birthday. After September 3, the exhibit will close again to allow for completion of the "Food" exhibition's display cases behind Julia's kitchen. But curators are hoping to leave the kitchen's front window open so visitors can peek in during construction.
2) Even if you've seen the kitchen before, the new location allows for new vantage points and better light, thanks to a new window open above the kitchen sink. Back in the old space, the window faced a wall and was closed with blinds.
3) The kitchen's new position in the museum was agonized in one-degree increments of rotation, according to "Food" exhibit designer Clare Brown.
4) With more than 1,200 items in the kitchen itself, it took a small army of Smithsonian staff, students and volunteers to dust, vacuum, and pack all of the books, baking sheets, cat artwork and other contents of the kitchen in preparation for the move, as seen in this video:
Video: Caring For Julia Child's Kitchen
5) The graphics and explanatory text about Julia Child in the panels surrounding the kitchen are all new, placing Child in context with the "Food" exhibit and framing her contributions to the change in the way Americans ate and viewed food in the later half of the 20th century.
6) In addition to Julia's kitchen, the "Food: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000" exhibit will have 350 objects, ranging from TV dinner trays and a 1970s Weber kettle grill to 50 disposable coffee cup lids.
7) The 3,800-square-foot exhibit will have three main spaces in addition to the Julia Child kitchen. Visitors will learn about food production, distribution, and preparation in the "New and Improved" display, contributions from immigrants to the culinary landscape in "Resetting the Table," and the growth of wine production in the US in "Wine for the Table."
8) The ever-trendy communal table concept is now immortalized at the Smithsonian. The "Food" exhibit will be anchored by a large, 20-seat table where guests can engage in conversation about food-related topics and listen to guest lecturers.
9) The museum plans to bring in outside opinions through an advisory group of food and wine experts as part of the "Food" exhibit, and may host more food-related events in the future.
10) If you are planning to check out the National Museum of American History's Julia Child birthday extravaganza tomorrow, be there at 1 p.m. for a special surprise involving 50 pounds of butter, Julia's favorite ingredient.