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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
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One hundred years ago the new U.S. National Museum building opened its doors to the public. Now known as the National Museum of Natural History, this new building offered state-of-the-art exhibition, research, and collections areas. The building was also important stylistically and architecturally in the development of Washington—setting the tone for the new monumental classical city that exists today.

Come explore the history of our unique collections—from insects and meteorites to dinosaurs and totem poles—some of which were collected before the Smithsonian even existed. See the changes to the building's architecture over time, explore the evolution of our exhibitions from 1910 to today, learn about fascinating field expeditions dating back to the early nineteenth century, and see how we conduct important field research around the globe today! Discover how new theories and technologies are enabling us to make new discoveries about our historic collections that our early scientists could never have imagined. Learn about the many unusual jobs in a natural history museum—such as taxidermists, collections managers, and curators of things like minerals, fossils, and spiders.  Meet some of the people who care for the collections, prepare our exhibits, maintain the building and make the Museum such a special place.

portrait of Scientists on an expedition


Scientific research lies at the heart of the Museum’s work. Many of the millions of specimens that comprise the collections were gathered on scientific expeditions. The National Museum of Natural History has conducted research all over the world—from the mouths of volcanoes to the canopy of tropical forests and the greatest depths of the ocean.

Taxidermist working on a bird

Life in the Museum

Meet the man who has studied the oldest known object on earth (a meteorite 4.5 billion years old!) and the person whose job it was to repair the giant elephant in the Rotunda. It takes many different people to do the work of the National Museum of Natural History. There are curators and scientists, taxidermists, exhibit specialists, collection managers, librarians, security officers, insect zoo keepers, educators, illustrators, and more.

Hope Diamond

Explore Our Collections

Museums are defined by their collections. Visitors often identify our Museum by the amazing objects in our exhibitions - the Hope Diamond, Elephant, Stegosaurus, and Giant Squid are just a few. But behind the scenes, the 126 million objects in our collections are the foundation of all our research, exhibitions, and educational programming.

Historic Postcard Icon

A Brief History of the Museum

The history of the National Museum of Natural History's collections begins with specimens collected by the United States Exploring Expedition, 1838-1842, and transferred to the Smithsonian Institution in 1858.

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