all words and photos: Ben Droz
The Columbia Heights Plaza on 14th Street now has it’s newest edition, right in between the Pollo Campero and all-you-can-top FroZEN Yogurt. No, it’s not a Coffee shop nor a Burger King. It’s a museum- the Museum of UnNatural History.
Inside, you can find rare artifacts from around the world: “Future Amber”, a liquid that does not appear edible, a “Koala Containment Unit”, a mainstay for any crocodile hunter, and “Dung Beetle Bait”, part of the popular line of bug baits that includes “Bed Bug Bait”"Stink Bug Bait”. But really, what is this stuff?
The Museum of Unnatural History is actually the facade to a youth writing center, non-profit organization called 826 Valencia. Founded in San Francisco by novelist Dave Eggers, the center is a place for students from 8-18 to attend free after-school tutoring and writing workshops. DC’s chapter comes after a growing line of centers in other major cities: Ann Arbor, Seattle, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Brooklyn. Like our novelty store, San Francisco has a Pirate Supply store and Brooklyn has “Brooklyn Superhero Supply”.
The novelties, which were designed and handmade by a group of dedicated volunteers, help to fund the center. They also provide an inviting and playful environment for children, that sparks creativity and critical thinking.
You have to take a short walk through the store to enter the actual writing center, which has ample space for students to work, lounge, and learn. With WiFi on the way, it might even become a place for the volunteer tutors to get their work done. Columbia Heights, which has a vibrant mix of young professionals and a struggling youth, provides an opportunity for locals to work together. And what better place than a Museum of Unnatural History ?