A Hall Through New Eyes
Skin & Bones



Few museum exhibits in the world can claim to have survived across three centuries or have been gazed upon by tens of millions of visitors. The Bone Hall is one of them, a grand comparative anatomy exhibit that opened the Smithsonian's first museum in 1881.

The design of today's Bone Hall still mirrors the selection and variety of skeletons used in the original exhibit - many of the prized specimens such as the great apes and swordfish are the same specimens that were on display. The exhibit highlights the diversity and unity of every major group of vertebrates, supporting ideas of evolution and common ancestry. It is one of the best study collections found in any museum.

Skin & Bones app screenshot on an Apple iPad

Now through the latest mobile technologies you can enjoy a completely different experience while you are in this celebrated, classic hall! Download Skin & Bones on the App Store to start your new adventure.

Download on the Apple App Store

The Skin & Bones App

Visitor holding ipad with Skin and Bones app before swordfish display.

Watch a vampire bat skeleton pull itself off the mount and run away, or an extinct Steller's Sea Cow materialize in the flesh. These are only two of a number of 3D digital experiences available when using the app in the exhibit. This exciting technology is known as Augmented Reality and it superimposes a virtual world onto the physical one. You can also test your natural history skills playing games. Try identifying a bat by its call, like telling a robin apart from a bluebird. Also, there is plenty of high quality video to entertain and transport inquisitive minds to the environments of the animals, explain ideas in ecology, biogeography and evolution, or introduce scientists who work at the Smithsonian.

If traveling to the future was possible, we like to think the 19th century curators of the Bone Hall would approve the use of technology and enjoy the 21st century experience alongside the one they inspired. Skin & Bones requires iOS 7.1 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. This app is optimized for iPhone 5.

Download on the Apple App Store

Can't Visit The Museum?

The best way to fully experience the amazing augmented reality of Skin & Bones is by visiting the museum and using the app within the Bone Hall. However, if you've downloaded and installed the app but can't visit the museum, have no fear. You can still experience Skin & Bones' augmented reality by downloading these triggering images (Acrobat PDF) and viewing them on a computer screen or printing them out. Follow the included directions to experience augmented reality from home!

Promotional Video

Screenshots and Video

Previous Next
Screen 1
Screen 2
Screen 3
Screen 4
Screen 5
Screen 6
Screen 7

The Bone Hall Through Time

Historical photo of bones in display in the U.S. National Museum

The Bone Hall represents the oldest exhibit in the National Museum of Natural History and is one of the oldest within the Smithsonian. The Hall opened in 1881 as part of the US National Museum (USNM), the Smithsonian's first museum. It was originally housed in what is today known as the Arts and Industry Building. Not long after the original museum opened plans were made to build a larger and grander building across the National Mall. The new USNM opened in 1910 and is known today as the National Museum of Natural History. The exhibition on comparative anatomy was moved into this new home and opened in 1911. In the 1960s, the skeletons were once again relocated and installed in the Hall on the second floor where we see them today. The Bone Hall is an important part of Smithsonian history.

Archive Photos

  • Paleontology and Comparative Anatomy exhibit installation, U.S. National Museum. c. 1881. Credit: Smithsonian Institution Archives.
  • Paleontology and Comparative Anatomy exhibit, U.S. National Museum. 1881-1887. Credit: Smithsonian Institution Archives.
  • Paleontology and Comparative Anatomy exhibit, U.S. National Museum. c.1882. Credit: Smithsonian Institution Archives.
  • full screen slider
  • Paleontology and Comparative Anatomy exhibit, U.S. National Museum. c. 1900. Credit: Smithsonian Institution Archives.
  • Preparing Gray Whale skeleton for exhibit in the Bone Hall. c.1960.
 Credit: Smithsonian Institution Archives
image carousel by WOWSlider.com v7.2

Download Acrobat Reader

Smithsonian Institution | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy