National Museum of Natural History

Coordinates: 38°53′29″N 77°01′33″W / 38.8913°N 77.0259°W / 38.8913; -77.0259

National Museum of Natural History
National Museum of Natural History is located in Washington, D.C.
Location in Washington, D.C.
Established 1910
Location National Mall in Washington, D.C., United States
Type Natural History
Visitor figures About 5.5 million visits annually
Ford Model T parked in front of the National Museum in 1926

The National Museum of Natural History is a natural history museum administered by the Smithsonian Institution, located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., United States. Admission is free and the museum is open 364 days a year.

The museum's collections total over 500 million specimens of plants, animals, fossils, minerals, rocks, meteorites, and human cultural artifacts. With 7.4 million visitors in 2009, it is the most visited of all of the Smithsonian museums[1] and is also home to about 185 professional natural history scientists — the largest group of scientists dedicated to the study of natural and cultural history in the world.



The museum, then known as the United States National Museum, opened its doors to the public on March 17, 1910 in order to provide the growing Smithsonian Institution with more space for collections and research.[2] The building, which was not fully completed until 1911, was designed by Hornblower & Marshall.[3] The building, designed in the neoclassical architectural style, was the first constructed on the north side of the National Mall, along Constitution Avenue, as part of the 1901 McMillan Commission plan. In 2000, Kenneth E. Behring donated $80 million to the museum and in 1997 donated $20 million to modernize it.[4]

In addition to exhibits, the museum maintains vast reference collections and research facilities.

In 2005, The "Butterfly of Peace" gem was first displayed in the U.S.[5] In 2008, an exhibit opened with 5,000 square feet (460 m2) dedicated to soil and its life-sustaining properties.[6]


Hall of Geology, Gems, and Minerals

The National Gem and Mineral Collection is one of the most significant collections of its kind in the world. The collection includes some of the most famous pieces of gems and minerals including the Hope Diamond and the Star of Asia Sapphire, one of the largest sapphires in the world. There are currently over 15,000 individual gems in the collection, as well as 350,000 minerals and 300,000 samples of rock and ore specimens.[7] Additionally, the Smithsonian's National Gem and Mineral Collection houses approximately 35,000 meteorites, which is considered to be one of the most comprehensive collections of its kind in the world.[7]

The museum as seen from the National Mall, the Old Post Office Building visible in the distance

The collection is displayed in the Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems and Minerals, one of the many galleries in the Museum of Natural History. Some of the most important donors are Washington A. Roebling, the man who built the Brooklyn Bridge, who gave 16,000 specimens to the collection, Frederick A. Canfield, who donated 9,000 specimens to the collection, and Dr. Isaac Lea, who donated the base of the museum’s collection of 1312 gems and minerals.

Hall of Human Origins

The David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins opened on March 17, 2010, marking the museum's 100th anniversary. The hall is named for David H. Koch, who contributed $15 million to the $20.7 million exhibit.

The Hall is "dedicated to the discovery and understanding of human origins," and occupies 15,000 square feet (1,400 m2) of exhibit space. Specimens include 75 replica skulls, an interactive human family tree that follows six million years of evolution, and a Changing the World gallery that focuses on issues surrounding climate change and humans' impact on the world. The exhibit has been criticized for downplaying the significance of human-caused global warming.

The exhibit also provides a complementary web site, which provides diaries and podcasts directly from related fields of research. The exhibit was designed by Reich + Petch.[8]

Dinosaurs/Hall of Paleobiology

The museum has over 570,000 catalogued reptiles from around the world. The National Collection of Amphibians and Reptiles has increased 300% over the past 40 years (190,000 specimen records in 1970 to over 570,000 specimen records in 2008).[9] The Hall of Dinosaurs has fossilized skeletons and cast models, including Tyrannosaurus rex facing off with Triceratops, and the "Triceratops exhibit shows the first accurate dinosaur skeleton in virtual motion, achieved through the use of scanning and digital technology."[10][11] The collection consists of 46 "complete and important specimens" of dinosaurs.[12] The website has a "virtual tour" of the collection.[13]

Hall of Mammals

The Behring Hall of Mammals designed by Reich + Petch is a multi-award winning gallery. The design is innovative and welcoming. The mammal specimens are presented as works of modern art within strikingly minimal environmentals. Visitors discover mammal's evolutionary adaptions to hugely diverse contexts, and ultimately discover that they too are mammals.

The museum has the largest collection of vertebrate specimens in the world, nearly twice the size of the next largest mammal collections, including historically important collections from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.[14] Its collection was initiated by C. Hart Merriam and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (later the Department of Interior), which expanded it in the 1890s-1930s.[15]

Insect Zoo

The O. Orkin Insect Zoo features live insects and exhibits about insects and entomologists. Different habitats have been created to show the type of insects that live in different environments and how they have adapted to a freshwater pond, house, mangrove swamp, desert, and rain forest. The zoo is sponsored by Orkin, a pest control company.

Ocean Hall

The Sant Ocean Hall opened on September 27, 2008, and is the largest renovation of the museum since it opened in 1910. The hall includes 674 marine specimens and models drawn from the over 80 million specimens in the museum's total collection, the largest in the world. The hall is named for the Roger Sant family, who donated $15 million to endow the new hall and other related programs.

The hall consists of 23,000 square feet (2,100 m2) of exhibition space and features a replica of a 45-foot (14 m)-long North Atlantic Right Whale, a 1,500-gallon aquarium, one female giant squid displayed in the center of the hall and a male displayed off to the side, an adult coelacanth, and a Basilosaurus.[16]

The museum also provides the Smithsonian Ocean Portal, a complementary web site which provides regularly updated, original content from the museum’s research, collections, and Sant Ocean Hall as well as content provided by more than 20 collaborating organizations, including ARKive, Census of Marine Life, Consortium for Ocean Leadership, Encyclopedia of Life, IUCN, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, National Geographic, NOAA, New England Aquarium, Ocean Conservancy, Oceana, Pew Charitable Trusts, SeaWeb, Save Our Seas, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, World Heritage Marine Programme.

African Voices

This exhibit and associated website "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."[17]

Butterflies + Plants: Partners In Evolution

Featuring a live butterfly pavilion allows "visitors to observe the many ways in which butterflies and other animals have evolved, adapted, and diversified together with their plant partners over tens of millions of years."[17] The exhibit was designed by Reich + Petch.

Western Cultures Hall

"This hall explores some examples from various cultures in the western world including northern Iraq, ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome and the recent discovery of the Iceman, a Copper Age mummy found in an Italian glacier."[17] This exhibit closed September 26, 2010.

Korea Gallery The Korea Gallery is a special showcase to celebrate Korean traditions and examine its unique influence and complex role in the world today.

The exhibit expresses the continuity of the past by highlighting enduring features of Korean culture that have influence and resonance today. The exhibit uses the Smithsonian ceramics collection as well as a rich selection of photographs, ritual objects and traditional Korean carpentry to communicate and connect to both the local Korean community and an international audience. Traditional art forms, such as ceramics and calligraphy, along with mythological figures, language, large feature photographs and illustrations speak to a fascinating range of shared historical memories that connect Koreans at home and abroad.

Personal stories of modern Koreans, as told in their own voices, provide a context to discuss some of the many issues that face the divided country today. Korea's incredible transformation from 'The Hermit Kingdom' to a world power is traced through its impact on the arts, the economy and popular culture. The exhibit was designed by Reich + Petch.

Osteology: Hall of Bones

This exhibit displays a "variety of vertebrate skeletons grouped by their evolutionary relationships."[17]

Temporary Exhibits

Discovering Rastafari!

November 2, 2007 - Indefinite

Using artifacts, rare photographs, and ephemera to explore the origins and religious practices of the movement in Jamaica, this exhibition takes viewers beyond the popular Jamaican music known as reggae to the deeper roots of the Rastafari culture. Video footage featuring first-person testimony from male and female Rastafari of different ages, nationalities, and racial and class backgrounds speak to Rastafari of unity and to the spread of the movement across the Caribbean and beyond over the past three decades.[17]

Dig It! The Secrets of the Soil

July 19, 2008-January 3, 2010 Featuring the world of fungi, bacteria, worms, and other organisms, this exhibition draws connections between soils and everyday life.[17]

Written in Bone: Forensic Files of the 17th-Century Chesapeake

February 7, 2009- February 6, 2013

This exhibition and associated website examines history through 17th-century bone biographies, including those of colonists teetering on the edge of survival at Jamestown, Virginia, and those of wealthy and well-established individuals of St. Mary’s City, Maryland.[17]

Farmers, Warriors, Builders: The Hidden Life of Ants

May 30, 2009- October 10, 2009 This exhibition features large-format photographs of ants going about their daily business, a cast of an underground ant city, and a live ant colony.[17]


The museum has an IMAX Theater for feature-length films, and the Discovery Room, a family- and student-friendly hands-on activity room on the first floor.[18]

In the lower level there is a bird exhibit with all the migratory and native birds to Washington D.C.


In popular culture

  • The South Park episode "About Last Night..." concerns a plot to steal the Hope Diamond.
  • In Fallout 3, one of the museum's sections is home to the ghouls' (humans mutated to resemble corpses by nuclear war) city named Underworld.
  • In 2008's Get Smart, the fictional spy organization CONTROL is located underneath the National Museum of Natural History
  • The giant squid from the National Museum of Natural History inspired the one that comes to life in the film Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian[19]
  • The book Lost Hope (ISBN978-1461003854) follows the adventure of the museum's gem curator after the Hope Diamond is stolen. Several galleries and non-public laboratories are prominently featured.


  1. ^ Zongker, Brett (January 5, 2010). "Smithsonian Reports 20% Jump in Museum Visitors". USAToday. Retrieved 2010-07-05. 
  2. ^ "This Day in Smithsonian History - March". Retrieved 2010-04-18. 
  3. ^ "Museum History". National Museum of Natural History. 2008. Retrieved 2009-11-15. 
  4. ^ Marquis, Christopher (September 19, 2000). "Smithsonian Receives Gift Of $80 Million". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-09-17. 
  5. ^ "NYC exhibit of diamonds arranged as butterfly". Staten Island Advance. September 3, 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-17. 
  6. ^ "Smithsonian's 'Dig It' exhibit opens with help from UD soil scientists". University of Delaware. September 7, 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-17. 
  7. ^ a b Hevesi, Dennis (2008-04-06). "George Switzer, 92, Dies; Started a Gem Treasury". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-04-09. 
  8. ^ "New Exhibition Hall Devoted to Human Origins Opens at National Museum of Natural History". National Museum of Natural History. March 2010. Retrieved 2010-03-16. [dead link]
  9. ^ "Vertebrate Zoology: Division of Amphibians & Reptiles". National Museum of Natural History. 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-17. 
  10. ^ "New and Improved". National Geographic. December 1, 2000. Retrieved 2008-09-17. [dead link]
  11. ^ "Dinosaur Hall". National Museum of Natural History. 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-17. 
  12. ^ "Dinosaur Collections". National Museum of Natural History. 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-17. 
  13. ^ "Virtual Tour of the Dinosaur Collections". National Museum of Natural History. 2008. Archived from the original on 2008-08-22. Retrieved 2008-09-17. 
  14. ^ "Department of Vertebrate Zoology". National Museum of Natural History. 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-17. 
  15. ^ "Vertebrate Zoology: Division of Mammals". National Museum of Natural History. 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-17. 
  16. ^ "The New Sant Ocean Hall Opens Sept 27. at the Smithonian's National Museum of Natural History". National Museum of Natural History. September 24, 2008. Retrieved 2009-07-28. 
  17. ^ a b c d e f g h "Current Exhibitions". National Museum of Natural History. 
  18. ^ "National Museum of Natural History - Smithsonian Institution". Washington Post. 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-17. 
  19. ^ ""Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian" Treasure Map". Smithsonian Institution. 

External links

Coordinates: 38°53′29″N 77°01′33″W / 38.8913°N 77.0259°W / 38.8913; -77.0259

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • National Museum of Natural History — Das National Museum of Natural History (dt.: Nationales Museum für Naturgeschichte) ist ein Museum für Naturgeschichte an der National Mall in Washington, D.C., Vereinigte Staaten. Es ist eines der 19 Museen der …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • National Museum Of Natural History — Vue du Musée depuis le Mall Le National Museum of Natural History (ou Muséum national d’histoire naturelle) est un musée administré par la Smithsonian Institution et situé dans le Mall de Washington, DC aux États Unis d Amérique …   Wikipédia en Français

  • National Museum of Natural History — 38° 53′ 29″ N 77° 01′ 33″ W / 38.8913, 77.0259 …   Wikipédia en Français

  • National Museum of Natural History — ▪ museum, Washington, District of Coumbia, United States       American museum of natural history, part of the Smithsonian Institution, located on the National Mall (Mall, the) in Washington, D.C. (Washington)       The Smithsonian Institution… …   Universalium

  • National Museum of Natural History (disambiguation) — National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., United States National Museum of Natural History may refer to: National Museum of Natural History, New Delhi, in New Delhi, India National Museum of Natural History (Bulgaria), in Sofia,… …   Wikipedia

  • National Museum of Natural History (Luxembourg) — View from the Corniche (upper city): the museum consists of the white buildings in the center of the image. The left L shaped white building hosts the research facilities …   Wikipedia

  • National Museum of Natural History (Bulgaria) — Coordinates: 42°41′44.46″N 23°19′42.47″E / 42.6956833°N 23.3284639°E / 42.6956833; 23.3284639 …   Wikipedia

  • National Museum of Natural History, New Delhi — The National Museum of Natural History in New Delhi is one of two museums focusing on nature in India. Established in 1972 , the museum functions under the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India and is situated on Barakhamba… …   Wikipedia

  • National Museum of Natural History in Chile — The National Museum of Natural History in Chile is one of three national museums in Chile, along with the Museum of Fine Arts and the Museum of History. It is located in downtown Santiago.HistoryThe museum is one of the oldest natural history… …   Wikipedia

  • National Museum of Natural History (Malta) — The National Museum of Natural History is located in a building full of history,[1] within the medieval walled city of Mdina, Malta. It exists from the mid 1960s and has been open to the public since 1973. It is now run by Heritage Malta. The… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.