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  • 10.04.13

An Alien’s Guide to Post-Apocalyptic Washington, D.C., Looks Eerily Like Today

An artist imagines a deserted D.C.

If aliens landed in the nation’s capital this week and attempted to visit the Lincoln Memorial, they’d find the place deserted. The reason isn’t some apocalyptic event; it’s simply because certain elements of Congress have decided that actually governing comes second to fighting other elements. Even so, artist Ellen Harvey had no idea that her latest exhibit, “The Alien’s Guide to the Ruins of Washington, D.C.,” on display at the Corcoran would correspond with … the ruins of Washington, D.C.

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“Shutting down the government was not part of my English plan,” says Harvey, who is originally from the U.K. Moreover, her renderings of Washington through the eyes of future alien tourists aren’t intended to critique America. “The aliens look back on us as an ideal civilization,” she says. “They would have been horrified and extremely disappointed and surprised by how we really are.”

Part of the exhibit features an alien-constructed souvenir stand, modeled after the many hotdog stands around downtown D.C. According to their tour pamphlets, the alien anthropologists have deduced that similarities in D.C.’s architecture–like all those “frilly” and “very frilly” classical columns–demonstrate how egalitarian our culture was. They believe that the White House was a home for pets and that the Library of Congress was jam packed with snacks.


Harvey likes the idea that an alien species would discover the ruins of our world and come away thinking of us as quirky and kind-hearted. “Not that we’re not sweet and lovely sometimes,” she says. Though in times like these, this isn’t easy to remember.

About the author

Jennifer Miller is the author of The Year of the Gadfly (Harcourt, 2012) and Inheriting The Holy Land (Ballantine, 2005). She's a regular contributor to Co.Create.

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