The National Park Service Museum Resource Center (MRCE), a unit of National Capital Region (NCR), serves as the central curatorial facility for museum collections not currently on exhibit at the various historic homes and properties administered by NCR. The center and the staff serve as the stewards for the care and preservation of well over 5 million museum objects from NCR parks. Though stored and cared for at the center, the parks still manage their collections. In addition to the park collections housed at MRCE, the center is responsible for a significant archive of photographs that document the history of the National Capital Region. The primary focus of this fascinating image archive is to document significant events in Washington (such as the 1964 March on Washington, Vietnam War Protests, the Cherry Blossom Festival, and the lighting of the National Christmas Tree). In addition, the archive traces the many landscape and architectural changes to the monumental core of Washington, DC from the 1920s to the present. Many photographers contributed to this archive, including the famous NPS and Presidential photographer Abbie Rowe.
We selected this image by NPS photographer Abbie Rowe taken in 1963 from the top of the Washington Monument looking westward towards the Lincoln Memorial. The historic landscape of 1963 bears little resemblance to the wide-open space that visitors and locals experience today. The federal government built the array of buildings on what we now know as the National Mall during WWI and WWII to provide office space for the thousands of military and civilian employees assisting America's war efforts. These buildings were part of the Washington landscape until President Nixon ordered the last of them demolished in 1969.