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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
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Losing Paradise exhibit illustration by Kim Silene


Outside Museum Grounds:

Solder collectors sitting at a table

Museum Grounds - Urban Bird Habitat

Location: Museum grounds around the outside of the museum.
August, 2012 - Indefinite

Even downtown, birds bring color and song to the heart of the city. The Smithsonian Gardens and the National Museum of Natural History have created habitats around the Museum to attract the many bird species who are either year-round residents or seasonal visitors to the District of Columbia. The Urban Bird Habitat provides birds with their basic needs – food, water, shelter, and a place to raise their young, while signs highlight bird ecology, life histories, and tips for creating backyard bird habitats. Open 24/7.


Ground Floor:

Book covers and an illustration of a whale skeleton

Exhibit Cases - Whales: Bone to Book

Location: Ground Floor, Evans Gallery
May 25, 2013 - May 2014 (TBA)

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 case 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.

Yellow Warbler

Birds of D.C.

Exhibit: Permanent

Brandishing their fine plumage, the birds in these cases have helped generations of visitors identify local species. Year-round and seasonal residents, migrants and vagrants--hundreds of species in all--are displayed here. Yellow Warbler

Iggy the Iguana, Mascot for the Evolution Trail (c) Smithsonian Institution

The Evolution Trail

Location: Throughout the Museum
Exhibit: December 2008 - Permanent

Why are dinosaurs extinct? Why do giraffes have long necks? Why do flowers come in many colors? Follow Iggy the Iguana on the Evolution Trail throughout the Museum and find the answers to these and other questions. Explore the exhibits to discover how environmental changes, natural selection, extinction, and other factors play a part in the ongoing process of evolution. Iggy the Iguana marks stops on the Evolution Trail

First Floor:

X-ray image of a seahorse

Portraits of Planet Ocean: The Photography of Brian Skerry

Location: Sant Ocean Hall, Focus Gallery
September 17, 2013 - 2015 (TBA)

Portraits of Planet Ocean Award-winning photojournalist Brian Skerry takes us on an underwater journey to explore the mystery and beauty of marine life and environments. His work has been featured in magazines such as Smithsonian, National Geographic, Audubon, People, and Sports Illustrated. Twenty captivating photographs celebrate the vitality and diversity of our resilient, though imperiled, ocean. Visitors are invited to submit their own ocean images. Select photos will be selected regularly for displayed in a section of the exhibit.

Malian mud mason applying mudwork atop structure

Mud Masons of Mali

Location: African Voices Hall Focus Gallery, 1st Floor
August 31, 2013 - Indefinite

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.

A close-up of a green frog with blue and orange eyes staring directly at the viewer

2012 Nature's Best Photography
Windland Smith Rice International Awards

Location: First Floor, Special Exhibits Gallery
Opens June 7, 2013

Celebrate nature through the art of photography that brings wildlife up close and personal! More than 20,000 images from photographers around the globe were judged in the annual competition to select these stunning portraits of animals, plants, ocean life, and landscapes. The collection of 48 award-winning, large-format prints combines art with science and technology to take you on a photographic journey from the wild to the walls of the Smithsonian.



Exhibit: Permanent

This glass enclosed lab allows visitors to watch museum paleontologists and trained volunteers extract fossils from rock and construct fossil casts and molds.

Mural of ancient sea creatures and fossil

Life in the Ancient Seas

Exhibit: May 18, 1990 - October 21, 2013
Location: First Floor, Hall of Paleobiology

This twenty-three-year-old exhibit will be closing in preparation for the extensive, multi-year renovation of the Fossil Halls. Now is your last chance to see fantastic marine fossils telling the story of evolution and extinction in the seas. Among the approximately 2,000 fossils on exhibit are the Zygorhiza (early whale) and the ichthyosaur (early swimming reptile). To bring these creatures to life, the exhibition features a series of murals showing the fleshed-out animals these fossils once were and a full-scale diorama of a 250-million-year-old reef made of more than 100,000 models.


The new exhibition is currently scheduled to open in 2019.

African elephant

African Elephant

Exhibit: Permanent

His trunk raised in alert, this male African elephant seems to sense your presence. Like humans, elephants have complex social systems. They live in extended family groups led by mature females, who teach and nurture the young. So, if you meet your family "by the elephant," remember that they also meet, grow, learn, and cooperate in groups.

Transparent Sea Cucumber

Exhibit Case - The Census of Marine Life: A Decade of Discovery

Location: First Floor, Sant Ocean Hall
One Exhibit Case: September 13, 2012 - Indefinite

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.

African child

African Voices

Exhibit: Permanent

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.

Panda bear

The Kenneth E. Behring Family Hall of Mammals

Exhibit: Permanent

Invites visitors to explore the incredible diversity of mammals, including humans, and the processes by which they arose and continue to adapt. Features 274 exciting mammals and dozens of fossils in a variety of environments.

Dr. Rick Potts, Director of the Human Origins Program, examining stone tools and other prehistoric artifacts along with casts of early human fossils  from the collections at NMNH,  Smithsonian Institution. Photo by Chip Clark, Smithsonian Institution

The David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins

Location: First Floor
Exhibit: March 17, 2010 - Permanent

Based on decades of cutting-edge research by Smithsonian scientists, the David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins will tell the epic story of human evolution and how humans evolved over six million years in response to a changing world. Following the process of scientific discovery, visitors will explore the evidence for human evolution, come face-to-face with unforgettable representations of early humans, and arrive at a deeper understanding of what it means to be human.

Dinosaurs/Hall of Paleobiology

Dinosaurs/Hall of Paleobiology

Exhibit: Permanent

How did life and all its wondrous forms come about? The story begins almost 3.5 billion years ago and unfolds in this exhibit. Exhibit includes Dinosaurs, Life in the Ancient Seas, Fossil Mammals and Fossil Plants

Dinosaurs in Our Backyard Graphic (c) Smithsonian Institution

Exhibit Case: Dinosaurs in Our Backyard

Location: First Floor, Fossil Halls
One Exhibit Case: April 28, 2010 - Indefinite

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 the important contributions amateur collectors make to the Museum’s collections and knowledge. Visitors can see a unique skeleton impression of a baby dinosaur of a species new to science.

Discovery Room

Discovery Room

Educational Facility: Permanent

The Discovery Room is a unique educational facility for families and students. The room features activities using real Museum objects and interactive, hands-on experiences that allow visitors to explore the natural world at their own pace, guided by their own interests and sense of wonder.

The Sant Ocean Hall – Opens Sept. 27. Image: Glowing-sucker Octopod, Photo courtesy of David Shale

The Sant Ocean Hall

Location: First Floor
Exhibit: Permanent

A one-of-a-kind interpretive exhibit, extraordinary in scale, the Sant Ocean Hall presents the global ocean from a cross-disciplinary perspective, highlighting the biological, geological, and anthropological expertise and unparalleled scientific collections of the Museum, as well as ongoing research in marine science. The ocean is intrinsically connected to other global systems and to our daily lives. Artist rendering of the Sant Ocean Hall

Second Floor:

Genome: Unlocking Life's Code

Genome: Unlocking Life's Code

Location: Second Floor, Special Exhibits Gallery
Opens June 14, 2013

Inside every living thing on Earth—including you—is the complete set of instructions needed for an organism to grow and function.  The instructions are written in the twisting, ladder-shaped molecule known as DNA packed into the nucleus of almost all your cells. Scientists have identified thousands of genes that contribute to disease and begun to unlock the secrets of cancer, opening the way to more personalized healthcare. They’ve traced our ancestors’ migrations across the world and begun to sequence and compare all the species on our planet.

Man's mummy mask, 200-30 BC

Eternal Life in Ancient Egypt

Location: Second Floor
Exhibit: November 17, 2011 - Indefinite

This exhibit focuses on Egyptian burial ritual, its place with ancient Egyptian cosmology, and the insights that mummies, burial ritual, and cosmology provide about life in ancient Egypt. Understand how burial practices and associated religious beliefs serve as windows into world cultures. We invite our visitors to explore the ways in which mummies, tombs, and Egyptian mythology open new windows into the lives of ancient Egyptians as they navigated through the world of the living to achieve eternal life after death.

The Hope Diamond in its new temporary setting.

The Hope Diamond

Exhibit: Permanent.

The Hope Diamond, is on display in The Harry Winston Gallery. To learn more, visit the Smithsonian Channel's website for the documentary, “Mystery of the Hope Diamond”.

Rendering of Butterfly exhibit

Butterflies + Plants: Partners in Evolution

Exhibit: Permanent

This immersive exhibit explores the processes and patterns of evolution, and provides our visitors with an exciting new kind of experience in the Museum of Natural History - a walk-through living butterfly house. We will invite 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.Artist rendering of Butterflies + Plants: Partners in Evolution

Carmen Lucia ruby

The Carmen Lúcia Ruby

Exhibit: Permanent

This spectacular 23.1 carat Burmese ruby was recently donated to the Museum by Peter Buck in memory of his late wife, Carmen Lúcia Buck. Mined from the fabled Mogok region of Burma, the ruby possesses a richly saturated homogenous red color combined with an exceptional degree of transparency.

Earth from space

The Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems, and Minerals

Exhibit: Permanent

Explore the museum's unparalleled specimens of gems, minerals, rocks and meteorites. Highlights include the Hope Diamond, the National Gem Collection, the Mine and Rocks Galleries, the Plate Tectonics Gallery and the Moon, Meteorites and the Solar System Gallery.


Korea Gallery

Exhibit: Permanent

This new exhibition presents Korea's millennia of history and its distinctive culture through ceramics, paintings, textiles and sculptures, ranging from the 6th century B.C. to the 21st century. Thematic areas of the exhibit include: Korean ceramics, Honoring family, The Korean wedding, Hangeul (the Korean writing system), Korea's natural and built landscapes, Koreans overseas, and Korea's visual arts today.Tiger, magpie, pine, and sacred fungus. Late 19th century.

Osteology: Hall of Bones

Osteology: Hall of Bones

Exhibit: Permanent

Who has bones? Fishes, amphibians, birds, reptiles and mammals do. In our Osteology Hall you can observe a variety of vertebrate skeletons grouped by their evolutionary relationships. You can compare a human and gorilla, bone for bone. Count the number of neck vertebrae in a human and a giraffe. Observe skeletal features that are unique to reptiles or to fish.

Eastern Lubber Grasshopper (Romalea guttata)

The O. Orkin Insect Zoo

Educational Facility: Permanent

Visitors can observe live insects and other arthropods at the O. Orkin Insect Zoo. Volunteers conduct tarantula feeding demonstrations, work with live insects, and answer questions about the many-legged creatures that live in the Insect Zoo.

Silhouette with skeleton

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

Location: Second Floor
Exhibit: February 7, 2009 – January 6, 2014

Human anatomy and forensic investigation provide intriguing information on people and events of America's past. This exhibition will examine 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. At no other time in our history have we had the technological capability or opportunity that are now available to help us tell this tale.

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