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

Upcoming Exhibitions

Female dancer in traditional outfit

Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation

Location: Second Floor, Special Exhibits Gallery
Opens Winter 2013 (TBA)

"Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation" is a groundbreaking exhibition exploring the vibrant heritage, daily experience, and diverse political, professional and cultural contributions of Indian Americans in shaping the United States. From workers who built some of the first railroads in the West to the creator of Hotmail, Beyond Bollywood explores the history of sub-continental Indian immigration to America. Told through captivating images, music, visual art, and first-person narratives, Beyond Bollywood documents a history of discrimination, resistance, achievements and the lasting influence Indian Americans have had on the American experience.

New Exhibits

A gobi fish peering out from within the opening of a submerged soda can

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Highlighted Permanent Exhibitions

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.

The Hope Diamond in its new temporary setting.

The Hope Diamond

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”.

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: 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.

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

Virtual Exhibitions

grass growing in soil

Dig It! The Secrets of Soil

A new virtual exhibit that journeys into the skin of the earth and explores the amazing world of soil. This web site is a virtual exploration of the Dig It! traveling exhibition now on display at the National Museum of Natural History. Completely familiar yet largely unknown, soils help sustain virtually every form of life on Earth. Dig It! transports visitors to the world of fungi, bacteria, worms, and countless other organisms. The online exhibit includes educational activities and teacher resources.

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