National Museum of Natural History
Director: Kirk Johnson
Total Full-Time Employees: 433
Annual Budget (Federal and Trust) FY 2014: $107 million
Approximate Number of Artifacts/Specimens: 127 million
Total museum size: 1.32 million square feet
Public space size: 325,000 square feet
Visitors (2013): 8 million
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History is the most visited natural history museum in the world. Opened in 1910, the museum on the National Mall is dedicated to maintaining and preserving the world’s most extensive collection of natural history specimens and human artifacts. It also fosters significant scientific research and educational programs and exhibitions that present the work of its scientists to the public.
Research and Staff
Staff includes Smithsonian scientists; collaborating research associates and fellows; and a professional team of educators, exhibition developers, collections managers, designers, information specialists, building managers, administrators, security and support personnel.
The scientific staff is organized in seven departments: anthropology, botany, entomology, mineral sciences, invertebrate zoology, paleobiology and vertebrate zoology. Interdisciplinary research programs bring together scientists from the museum’s departments and research institutions throughout the world. These programs address current topics, such as biological diversity, global climate change, molecular systematics for enhancing the understanding of the relationship between living things, ecosystem modeling and the documentation and preservation of human cultural heritages.
A number of affiliated U.S. government agencies contribute to the museum’s strength as a research center. These include the Department of Interior (Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Geological Survey), Department of Agriculture (Systematic Entomology Laboratory), Department of Commerce (National Marine Fisheries Service Systematics Laboratory), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Department of Defense.
The museum has more than 127 million objects and specimens in its collections. The Smithsonian’s Museum Support Center in Suitland, Md., provides state-of-the-art conditions for storage and conservation of collections, as well as a library and advanced research facilities.
The museum provides off-site access to the physical collections through an active museum loan and exchange program. The website (www.mnh.si.edu) provides access to departmental databases, online exhibitions and up-to-date information about museum programs.
- The Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems and Minerals showcases the Hope Diamond and other treasures of the National Gem Collection. It also encompasses re-created mines and galleries that present important research in mineral chemistry and physics; plate tectonics, seismology and the study of volcanoes; and planetary science.
- The 15,000-square-foot “David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins” exhibition focuses on the epic story of how the human species evolved over 6 million years, adapting and surviving during an era of dramatic climate change, and features more than 285 early-human fossils and artifacts, lifelike full-size reconstructions of several hominid species and 23 interactive experiences, including a morphing station where visitors can see what they would look like as early humans.
- The Sant Ocean Hall, featuring male and female giant squids and an exact replica of a living North Atlantic right whale, is a one-of-a-kind interpretive exhibition that demonstrates how the ocean is intrinsically connected to other global systems and the daily lives of people around the world.
- “Butterflies + Plants: Partners in Evolution,” a permanent exhibition, innovatively combining a traditional exhibit with the experiential learning provided by the Butterfly Pavilion that provides visitors a rare, up-close look at living butterfly and plant specimens that demonstrate how they have evolved and diversified together for millions of years.
- “Eternal Life in Ancient Egypt” showcases more mummies than have ever been on display in the museum’s history. The exhibition combines rare artifacts and cutting-edge research tools to illuminate how Smithsonian scientists have pieced together the lives of ancient Egyptians through their burial practices and rituals in preparation for their eternal life.
- The “Kenneth E. Behring Family Hall of Mammals” tells the story of mammal evolution across 225 million years with more than 274 specimens on display. Designed with families in mind, the hall includes four discovery zones with hands-on activities that help visitors explore mammal adaptations—from night vision to goose bumps—to habitats around the world.
- The Dinosaur and Fossil Hall features a Triceratops, the giant Diplodocus and the FossiLab, a glass-enclosed lab that allows visitors to watch the museum paleontologists and trained volunteers extract fossils from rock and make fossil casts and molds. The hall will close to the public at the end of the day April 27 in preparation for the largest, most extensive exhibition renovation in the museum’s history. The new dinosaur and fossil hall is slated to open in 2019. Dinosaurs will continue to be on view at the museum through several interim exhibitions and programs throughout the renovation period.
- The Orkin Insect Zoo offers visitors a variety of exhibits and live insects—as well as daily tarantula feedings—and plenty of hands-on activities.
- Among the other permanent exhibitions are “Life in the Ancient Seas,” “Fossil Mammals,” “Ice Age,” “Osteology” and “African Voices.”
Online audiences can discover and share the museum’s scientific content via its social media platforms, websites and video conferences. Hands-on educational activities are also available at the museum’s innovative learning center for teens and their families. The space, called Q?rius (pronounced “curious”), inspires visitors to explore their world through a scientific lens by directly interacting with scientists and more than 6,000 museum objects, including bones, minerals and fossils that are millions of years old. Q?rius Jr. is a separate learning environment that provides interactive programming to children ages 5–12 using a diverse array of museum specimens.
About the Museum
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, located at 10th Street and Constitution Avenue N.W., Washington, D.C., is the world’s most visited natural history museum and is open every day except Dec. 25 from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. with extended evening hours in the summer. It also houses the world’s largest collection of natural history specimens, which is managed by a research staff of more than 100 Ph.D.-level scientists. Learn more at www.mnh.si.edu or on the museum’s 11 social media platforms.
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