Blue Line Orange Line
Fragile Beauty: The Art & Science of Sea Butterflies
Research Case, Sant Ocean Hall, 1st Floor, Center
Artist Cornelia Kubler Kavanagh and biological oceanographer Gareth Lawson bring the plight of tiny ocean pteropods—or “sea butterflies” —to light with larger-than-life sculptures. Kavanagh’s sculptures are based on tiny sea snails no bigger than a grain of sand. They honor the floating beauty of these animals, while evoking their struggle to survive in the face of ocean acidification. Gareth Lawson, from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, studies ocean acidification and provided research that inspired Kavanagh’s creative work.
Portraits of Planet Ocean: The Photography of Brian Skerry
Sant Ocean Hall's Ocean Focus Gallery, 1st Floor, Center
Award-winning photojournalist Brian Skerry takes us on an underwater journey to explore the mystery and beauty of marine life and environments. Twenty captivating photographs celebrate the vitality and diversity of our resilient, though imperiled, ocean. Brian's work has been featured in such magazines as Smithsonian, National Geographic, and Audubon.
Living on an Ocean Planet
Ocean Hall, 1st Floor, North Center
Explore our connections to the ocean and discover ideas and tools for each of us to help keep those connections healthy and sustainable. Objects, images, interactives, and videos tell the story of human use of and effects on the ocean—from the earliest documented use of marine resources in South Africa some 160,000 years ago to current climate change, pollution, overfishing, and habitat destruction.
Mud Masons of Mali
African Voices Focus Gallery, 1st Floor, Northeast Wing
Djenne, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Mali, is famous for its spectacular architecture. The city owes its unique character to its masons, inheritors of a craft tradition handed down from one generation of the Boso people to the next since the city arose in the 14th century. Discover—through archival and contemporary photographs and early engravings—how the masons continue their age-old craft and meet the challenges of a modern world.
Genome: Unlocking Life's Code
Now - September 1, 2014
Special Exhibit Gallery, 2nd Floor, Northeast Wing (Hall 23)
The year 2013 marks the 60th anniversary of Watson and Crick’s discovery of the double-helical structure of DNA and the 10th anniversary of the completion of the Human Genome Project (and the generation of the first human genome sequence). In the last 10 years, genomic sequencing has become quicker and more efficient, allowing diverse scientific fields to take advantage of the technology. Genomic science is changing how we understand ourselves, our health, and the world around us. Explore the future of genomics through large media interactives, hands-on activities, and personal videos of scientists and patients.
Presented in collaboration with the National Human Genome Research Institute of the National Institutes of Health.
Nature's Best 2012 Photography Awards: Windland Smith Rice International Awards
Special Exhibit Gallery, 1st Floor, West Wing (near Mammals)
On view are winners in various categories from the 2012 Nature's Best Photography Windland Smith Rice International Awards, including the Grand Prize, Conservation Photographer of the Year, Youth Photographer of the Year, and selected Highly Honored images. The annual awards honor the best amateur and professional nature photographers from around the world.
Whales: From Bone to Book
Now - June 15, 2014
Ground Floor, Evans Gallery
Natural History is more than just bones, feathers, and fossils in a museum drawer; it is a process of discovering and recovering objects in the natural world and then translating what they mean into scientific knowledge. This exhibition traces the path of knowledge from discovery on the beach or sea cliff to museum drawer to scientific publication. It features scientific illustrations by Sydney Prentice, the fossils that were used to make the illustrations, the printing blocks and resulting books, tools used in collecting specimens, and current research to illustrate the collaborative process that results in these beautiful images.
Census of Marine Life/A Decade of Discovery
Case in Sant Ocean Hall, 1st Floor, North Center
The Census of Marine Life project, a decade-long project culminating in 2010, produced the most comprehensive inventory of known marine life ever compiled and cataloged. The project, which will be the basis for future research, involved several curators from the museum and from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Systematics Lab at the museum. This case features the prestigious International COSMOS prize received by the project, graphics, and a squid specimen.
Eternal Life in Ancient Egypt
2nd Floor, West Wing, near entrance to Written in Bone
Learn about Egyptian burial ritual; its place with ancient Egyptian cosmology; and the insights that mummies, burial rites, and cosmology provide about life in ancient Egypt. The exhibition focuses on Smithsonian science and what museum experts have learned about burial practices, health, disease, and demographics from studying mummies.
The following cases are on view:
- In the Mummy's Tomb is a re-creation of a tomb with a mummy and its coffin (ca. 150 BC to AD 50 ) and a variety of grave goods from various periods (ca. 3500 BC to AD 50). Such grave goods were intended to provide the deceased with the spiritual and physical support needed for smooth passage to eternity.
- Making a Mummy reveals the step-by-step process of mummification. Scientific studies indicate that the 2,200-year-old mummy on view ate little meat and that his lungs contain soot, which he probably inhaled while tending fires.
- What’s in a Face displays 6 mummy masks dating from ca. 1388 BC to AD 200 to trace the changing style of coffin decoration and to bring visitors face-to-face with the living people behind the mummies.
- Mummy Science reveals insights into burial practices, health, disease, and demography that can be gained from the study of mummies.
- Animal Mummies explains the link between animal mummification and the Egyptian belief system and features the museum’s two Apis bull mummies and mummies of cats, ibises, hawks, crocodiles, dogs, and a baboon.
- Tentkhonsu’s Coffin showcases the richly decorated inner coffin of Tentkhonsu, a member of a group of noble women who participated in temple services and festivals.
- Preparing for Eternal Life explores how living Egyptians tried to assure they and their families would have eternal life after death.
- The Gods and Eternal Life explores the roles of two prominent gods, Osiris and Re, in helping the dead achieve eternal life and in keeping the natural order of the world of the living.
- Insects in Ancient Egypt reveals that insects were an important part of preparing for the afterlife and became symbolic of the transition.
The David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins: What Does It Mean To Be Human?
1st Floor, Northwest Wing (Halls 11 & 12)
This major exhibition hall focuses on the story of human origins and probes the ecological and genetic connections that human beings have had with the natural world over time. It examines the shared framework of humankind—the biological and cultural history we all share—as well as the differences that exist and preoccupy us today.
- An amphitheater show featuring One Species Living Worldwide
- "Changing the World," a special gallery where visitors can address pressing questions and issues surrounding climate change and humans' impact on the Earth
- Interactive snapshots in time using the actual field site where research is being conducted
- An interactive human family tree showcasing 6 million years of evolutionary evidence from around the world
- A time tunnel depicting life and environments over the past 6 million years
Related catalogue: What Does It Mean To Be Human, by Rick Potts: $24.95 (paper)
Related mobile app for iPhone and Android: MEanderthal
The museum marked its 100th anniversary on the National Mall with the opening of this new exhibition hall on the same date when the museum opened to the public: March 17, 1910.
Written in Bone: Forensic Files of the 17th-Century Chesapeake
Now - January 6, 2014
2nd Floor, Northwest
This exhibition features archaeological discoveries that reveal the historic importance of Jamestown and its contribution to the American way of life. The exhibition addresses such subjects as life and death in the colonies, activity and physical labor, health and disease, dietary resources, internal strife, and inter-population relationships and includes the stories of all peoples affected by the colonization of North America—Europeans, Native Americans, and Africans—and their role in the formation and function of the first permanent settlements and capitals of Maryland and Virginia.
Catalogue: $34.95 (paper)
Children's book: $22.95
The Sant Ocean Hall
1st Floor, North Center
Covering 71% of the Earth's surface and containing 97% of the planet's water, the ocean is a vast and complex ecosystem; it is intrinsically connected to other global ecosystems and is essential to all life, including our own. In this new hall, the importance and complexity of the ocean is revealed through a cross-disciplinary perspective—biological, geological, and anthropological. Information on understanding and predicting changes to the Earth's environment and on how to conserve and manage coastal and marine resources to meet our nation's economic, social, and environmental needs is also highlighted.
Highlights include a life-size model of a 45-foot North Atlantic right whale, based on the real female whale named Phoenix, the centerpiece of the exhibition; two giant squids; a set of 7-foot-tall jaws of the extinct great white shark (Carcharodon megalodon), the biggest shark that ever lived; and a 26-foot long Northwest Coast canoe, carved especially for the exhibition by a Tlingit master carver.
The other 9 sections are as follows:
- Shores to Shallows highlights different kinds of coastal ecosystems around the world and how they are affected by humans.
- The Coral Reef, a 1,000-gallon aquarium featuring a living model of an Indo-Pacific coral reef ecosystem with some 50 live, colorful specimens.
- The Poles demonstrates the differences between the North and South poles and how life thrives at both through extreme adaptations.
- Ocean Systems, featuring "Science on a Sphere," a large rotating 360-degree global display suspended from the ceiling with images and narration that explains many of the complex aspects of the ocean, including what the ocean produces, how it changes, and how it interacts with the atmosphere.
- Journey Through Time gives visitors the opportunity to compare fossils of a large number of ancient animals; some are more than 500 million years old.
- Deep Ocean Exploration, a 13-minute video shown continuously in the exhibit theater, takes visitors on a dive to the very bottom of the ocean's floor in a submersible with scientists as they uncover some of the her deepest mysteries.
- Collections, featuring a special showcase, displays the world's largest and most diverse collection of marine specimens and explains how this collection helps scientists make sense of ocean life.
- Ocean in the News: An "Ocean Today" kiosk provides interactive ocean news—giving regular updates on ocean-related topics around the world.
- Focus Gallery featuring changing exhibitions (see separate listing).
Also, the exhibition uses modern technology to create the following:
- High Bay Media Experience: The main hall's upper walls are transformed into windows into the ocean through high-definition underwater footage.
- The Ocean as a Laboratory The work of marine scientists around the world is revealed through 7 audio-visual stories, a large map, and photo essays.
Related Smithsonian publication Smithsonian Ocean: Our Water, Our World: $39.95
Butterflies + Plants: Partners in Evolution
2nd Floor, Southwest Wing, near Insect Zoo
This exhibition shows how butterflies have evolved, adapted, and diversified with their plant partners over millions of years. Housed within this exhibition is a special Butterfly Pavilion, which looks like a cocoon, where visitors can walk among hundreds of live butterflies and pesticide-free plants to observe butterfly behaviors ranging from flying and sipping nectar at flowers to roosting and emerging from chrysalides. These butterflies hatch from pupae raised on farms in Africa, Asia, and North and South America.
- To maintain an environment conducive for butterflies, the temperature inside the Pavilion is 80-85 degrees with high humidity.
- For operating hours, visit the Web
- For ticketing information, visit the Web
- Photography permitted
- Wheelchairs permitted in Pavilion, but no strollers allowed.
2nd Floor, Center, North Corridor
To celebrate the country's distinctive art, culture, and 2,600-year history, on view are some 85 objects, including Korean ceramics, wooden furniture, stone and wooden sculptures, paintings, and textiles.
The exhibition is divided into the following thematic sections:
- Korean Ceramics: A Tradition of Excellence
- Honoring Family
- The Korean Wedding
- Hangeul: Symbol of Pride, exploring Korean calligraphy and the Korean writing system
- Landscapes of Korea, exploring the country's natural history and built landscape
- Korea Beyond Borders, exploring the cultural identity of Koreans and their descendants living around the world
- Contemporary Korean Art, illustrating that modern Korea finds inspiration in the rich traditions of its past
Mammals, Kenneth E. Behring Family Hall of
1st Floor, West Wing
This hall showcases some 274 mammals and explores their diversity and how they originated and adapted to changing landscapes and environments over the last 225 million years—from polar to desert regions and from dry to humid environments. The exhibition addresses such questions as: What is a mammal? Why do some mammals live in groups while others live alone? How many kinds of mammals are there and what are their habitat preferences? How are mammals related? How and why do scientists study mammals? The exhibition also shares information about the unusual—the oddest specimens (including egg-laying mammals), the rarest specimens (an okapi from Africa), and the oldest known mammal (Morganucadon) from 210 million years ago.
- various habitats: Africa, North America, South America, and Australia
- an Evolution Theater with an 8-minute film. Seated on a bench in the theater is a bronze sculpture of a chimpanzee named Harriet.
- Discovery areas that include computer interactives, touchable objects, and educational question-and-answer stations for families
- A small area in the South America section highlights the work of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) and the history and background of Barro Colorado Island, Panama, where STRI scientists do research.
Related book: $75 (cloth)
Satellite Museum Store
African Cultures Hall, 1st Floor, Northeast Wing
This exhibition examines the diversity, dynamism, and global influence of Africa's peoples and cultures over time in the realms of family, work, community, and the natural environment. Included are historical and contemporary objects from the museum's collections, as well as commissioned sculptures, textiles, and pottery. Video interactives and sound stations provide selections from contemporary interviews, literature, proverbs, prayers, folk tales, songs, and oral epics.
- Wealth in Africa demonstrates how exchanges of objects build relationships between people; objects include an iron blade, a king's carved staff, a bridal veil, and a modern designer coffin (airplane).
- Market Crossroads re-creates the hustle and bustle of the downtown market in Accra, Ghana, and features a yam vendor, a kola-nut vendor, a cloth vendor, and a vendor of house wares.
- Working in Africa explores different types of work and how work is valued through ceremony and art.
- Living in Africa features an aqal (a portable Somali home) and a carved wood door from Zanzibar.
- Kongo Crossroads displays objects of reverence and remembrance used to honor ancestors, including Kongo power figures, Christian crosses, and grave memorials.
- Global Africa addresses the forced versus voluntary migrations of African peoples and includes the diaspora in America and Freedom Theater.
- History Pathway features displays of historical moments to create a walk through the millennia, including the pharaohs of ancient Nubia and the election of Nelson Mandela as President of South Africa in 1994.
- Focus Gallery houses the temporary exhibitions (see separate listings).
Freedom Theater (two 15-minute videos run continuously)
Geology, Gems, and Minerals, Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of
2nd Floor, East Wing
This hall features 2,500 minerals and gems, including the Hope Diamond, Hooker Emerald Brooch, and Star of Asia sapphire. It also explores the birth and evolution of the solar system and the earth's changing surface through computer interactives and video presentations and is divided into the following sections:
The Harry Winston Gallery houses the Hope Diamond, in a specially designed case. On January 13, 2012, the Hope Diamond was returned to its historic setting.
The National Gem Collection features:
- the Dom Pedro aquamarine, the world's largest faceted aquamarine, cut into an obelisk standing 13.75 inches tall and weighing 10,363 carats (4.6 pounds)
- the Cindy Chao Black Label Masterpiece Royal Butterfly Brooch (2009), composed of 2,328 gems, including sapphires, diamonds, rubies, and tsavorite (green) garnets, for a total weight of 77 carats; many of the gems fluoresce under ultraviolet light (to be added March 6, 2013)
- the Marie Antoinette diamond earrings
- a 263-carat diamond necklace and a diadem (tiara) given by Napoleon to Empress Marie-Louise
- the Janet Annenberg Hooker fancy yellow diamonds
- 2 topaz crystals from Brazil, weighing 111 and 70 pounds respectively, and a 23,000-carat cut-and-polished topaz
- a 423-carat sapphire set in diamonds
- the DeYoung red and pink diamonds
- the 127-carat Portuguese diamond, the largest cut diamond in the collection
- the Rosser Reeves ruby
- the Carmen Lucia Ruby, weighing 23.1-carats, is one of the largest faceted Burmese rubies known to exist. The stone is set in platinum and flanked by 2 triangular colorless diamonds measuring 1.1 and 1.27 carats.
The Minerals and Gems Gallery features some 2,000 specimens grouped by shape, color, growth, and other characteristics.
The Mine Gallery features a re-creation of 4 mines showing crystal pockets and ore veins in created dioramas.
The Plate Tectonics Gallery illustrates how earthquakes, mountain chains, and volcanoes result from the constantly shifting plates of the Earth's surface and features the "Plate Tectonics Theater" and interactive computer stations.
The Moon, Meteorites, and Solar System Gallery explores the birth and evolution of our solar system through films, computer interactives, and specimens and features moon rocks, a touchable Mars rock, meteorites, and stardust.
The Rocks Gallery focuses on how rocks record and verify the geological processes that have shaped our planet—erosion and deposition, which destroy and create rocks on Earth's surface and heat and pressure, which transform and melt rocks within the Earth.
• The National Gem Collection, $39.95 (cloth), $24.95 (paper)
• Blue Mystery: The Story of the Hope Diamond, $9.95 (paper)
Insect Zoo, O. Orkin
2nd Floor, West Wing
The Insect Zoo focuses on insects and their relationships with plants, animals, and humans. The exhibition contains a section about the evolution of insects and showcases live insects and their environments, including:
• The Termites' Turf
• Water-loving Bugs
• Familiar Insects
• The Bee Hive
• Desert Dwellers
• Rain Forests—Home to Millions
Welcome to the National Museum of Natural History
Ground Floor, Constitution Ave. Lobby
The museum welcomes visitors with display of the following objects from its collection:
- Easter Island Head: Also called a Moai, this ancestor sculpture is from Easter Island in the South Pacific (located on the southeast wall).
- Totem Poles, Northwest Coast: The three Northwest Coast totem poles are from the Haida and Tsimshian tribes of British Columbia. The display includes an ongoing video about these tribes (located near the east stairwell of the lobby).
Early Life: Earliest Traces of Life
1st Floor, East Wing, near Dinosaurs Hall
An overview of the origin and early evolution of life is presented. Included is the oldest fossil, a cabbage-sized, 3.5-billion-year-old fossil algal mat, as well as the earliest animal fossils, to relate a large portion of the earth's history known as the Precambrian.
Fossil Mammals: Mammals in the Limelight
1st Floor, East Wing, behind Dinosaurs Hall
This exhibition focuses on the spectacular evolution of mammals as the dominant class of vertebrates following the extinction of the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago. Four huge murals —painted by Jay Matternes, Robert Hynes, and John Gurche—re-create scenes of animal and plant life in successive epochs of the Age of Mammals. In the foreground are various ;mounted skeletons of giant mammals depicted in these murals; many of the mounted skeletons were assembled from fossils unearthed in the American West by Smithsonian scientists.
Dinosaurs: Reptiles—Masters of Land
1st Floor, East Wing
All of the old favorites are on view in the exhibition hall:
- Diplodocus longus: The gigantic 90-foot-long Diplodocus longus is the centerpiece of the hall and was found in Utah in 1923.
- Tyrannosaurus rex (T. rex): The "King of the Tyrant Lizards" is 40 feet long and still fearsome after 65 million years. This full-size cast is on loan indefinitely from Voyage Expanded Learning, Inc. The original specimen was 65% complete and was discovered in South Dakota.
- Triceratops: The museum's 65-million-year-old Triceratops is named "Hatcher" in honor of John Bell Hatcher, who discovered the original fossil in Wyoming in 1891. It is positioned in a face-off with its rival T. rex and placed with related species to reveal the evolution and diversity of the ceratopsian dinosaur group.
Other attractions include Quetzalcoatlus, a huge toothless pterosaur with a 40-foot wingspan, posed in flight; a nest of dinosaur eggs; and the meat-eatingAllosaurus challenging the vegetable-eating Stegosaurus.
Local Discoveries: Case: Dinosaurs in Our Backyard (opened April 28, 2010): From 225 to 65 million years ago, dinosaurs lived everywhere on Earth—including around Washington, D.C. This case explores how scientists piece together information about dinosaur biology, ecology, and evolution from fossil specimens and reveals the important contributions amateur collectors make to the museum's collections and knowledge. It features a unique skeleton impression of a baby dinosaur of a species new to science.
Fossil Plants and Animals: The Conquest of Land
1st Floor, East Wing, near Dinosaurs Hall
This exhibition focuses on the earliest plants and animals that evolved the complex adaptations needed to live on land. In an animated video, evoking television coverage of the first lunar landing, characters Frank Anchorfish and Arthur Pod explain the characteristics plants and animals needed to pioneer the harsh, dry terrestrial environment. Just beyond an arbor formed by a diorama of the first forests are still more fossils: specimens of a 16-foot fossil of an early tree, Callixyon; other fossil trees and smaller plants from the ancient coal forests of North America.
Also included are the skeletons of many early amphibians and reptiles. Completing the section are displays on the seed and the amniotic egg—the two evolutionary innovations that secured the conquest of land for plants and animals. A fossilized dinosaur egg is on view.
Osteology: Hall of Bones
2nd Floor, West Wing
Hundreds of skeletons of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fishes—ranging from the gigantic extinct Steller sea cow to the tiny pocket mouse—are shown in characteristic poses and grouped by order to illustrate their relationships. The groupings of these skeletons show how bone structures evolved in adaptation to environment.
Compare, bone for bone, one skeleton against another and observe unique skeletal features in any animals.
Kenneth E. Behring Family Rotunda, 1st Floor & Balcony, 2nd Floor
The museum's 8-ton, 14-foot-tall African elephant is in a setting that re-creates the Angolan bush. The diorama also introduces important ideas in botany, entomology, mineral sciences, and zoology, as well as information on the ancestors of modern-day elephants and the elephants' importance in African cultures.
The Elephant's World—located on the Rotunda Balcony, second floor—includes interactive Elephant Discovery Stations that provide additional information on elephants and their habitat and is made up of the following two sections: Fossil Elephants and Elephants in Art.
Videos (run continuously; in Rotunda and on Balcony)
Interactive Learning Stations (Balcony)
Outdoor Sculptures, including Sculptures from Nature
Near Constitution Ave. and Madison Dr. entrances
Near Constitution Avenue entrance:
• Colossal Head: This replica of Olmec Colossal Head No.4 from San Lorenzo Tenochtitlan in Veracruz, Mexico, was sculpted by Ignacio Perez Solano of Veracruz (installed Oct. 19, 2001).
Near Madison Drive entrance:
• Sculpture from Nature: Banded Iron Ore Boulder: On one plinth is a banded iron ore boulder, 7 x 5 feet in size and approximately 2.25 billion years old. One side is cut and polished. The boulder is from Ishpeming, Michigan (installed March 16, 1985).
• Sculptures from Nature: Petrified Logs: On the other plinth are two petrified logs, each 8 feet long x 3 feet in diameter and over 180 million years old. One end of each log is cut and polished. The logs are from Holbrook, Arizona (installed March 16, 1985).
• Triceratops Head: This bronze statue is a replica of the head of the Triceratops on view in Dinosaurs Hall (installed July 19, 2001).
Fossils Galore: A Grand Opening
1st Floor, East Wing, Entrance to Dinosaurs Hall
Soft-bodied and hard-shelled animals, tall sponges, and algae offer a rare glimpse into the earliest explosion of animal life more than 500 million years ago. This plethora of weird wonders was reconstructed based on fossils preserved in the rocks of the Burgess Shale. In 1909, Charles Wolcott, fourth Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, discovered the Burgess Shale fossil deposit in British Columbia, Canada. The museum houses more than 65,000 Burgess Shale fossils, many of which are still intensively studied by scientists around the world. Dozens are on display.
Birds of the District of Columbia
Ground Floor, East Ambulatory
Year-round and seasonal residents, migrants and vagrants—hundreds of bird species—are displayed. They all live in the region extending from the Atlantic Ocean to the Allegheny Mountains. Learn where and when to look for a snowy owl or ruffed grouse, warbling vireo or orange-crowned warbler, chickadee or indigo bunting.