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Silhouettes of a man and a woman against genetic codes in the background

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.  Strung together in a specific order, pairs of four similar chemicals called A, T, C and G – short for the nucleotide bases adenine, thymine, cytosine, and guanine – make a full strand of DNA. This is your genome!

It took nearly a decade, three billion dollars, and thousands of scientists to sequence the human genome in 2003. Ten years later, sequencing a human genome will soon take only a day and cost $1000.  And thanks to the pioneering work of the Human Genome Project, we are starting to know so much more about ourselves, and our world.

The exponential growth in sequencing technology helped spark a revolution.  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.

Opening on June 14, 2013, Genome: Unlocking Life’s Code will be shown at the National Museum of Natural History until September 1, 2014, and then will travel throughout North America from Fall 2014 to Fall 2018 by Science North.

concept rendering of exhibit


Discover all things genome. Visit the Unlocking Life's Code website and learn how genomes impact society, health, and the natural world, explore a virtual tour of the Smithsonian exhibit, view the history of the human genome project, access learning resources for teachers and students, and much more!



Educators' Guide for Teachers of Grades 7-12

Download the Genome: Unlocking Life's Code Educator Guide for teachers of grades 7-12 (Adobe Acrobat PDF)

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