The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History is centrally located on the National Mall and is the third most visited museum in the world. The place features unique artifacts like the 45.52-carat Hope Diamond, which is supposedly cursed and is the most visited natural history museum in the world. The museum covers more than 1.3 million square feet in area and has a collection that total 126 million human, plant, and animal artifacts.
The purpose of the natural history museum is to promote education of the nature. When you visit the Natural History Museum in your tours of Washington DC, you will understand fascinating details about the place. The museum will offer you a unique land and water sightseeing adventure of the Potomac River and the National Mall.
History of the Museum
History says that the collection of the museum was housed initially in the Smithsonian Castle. It was then known as the National Museum Building and the Arts and Industries Building was made in 1881 to accommodate the increasing number of exhibits in the museum. The collection outgrew the second home of the museum as well, so the Congress authorized making a bigger structure. In 1910, the first neoclassical style building was erected on the north side of the National Mall. The green dome of the building has grown into a landmark along the National Mall.
Inside the Museum
Henry, the iconic fourteen-foot tall twelve ton African elephant, greets the visitors to the museum. The elephant made its debut in 1959 and has become a great attraction in the rotunda. A recent renovation of the rotunda revealed a compass hidden in the inlaid floor of the place. The Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems, and Minerals display the Gachala Emerald and the Star of Asia Sapphire, in addition to the Hope Diamond. You can also find extensive collection meteorites here.
On the 100th anniversary of the building of the museum, the David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins was opened. The exhibits here discuss the oldest records of human life in Earth. The major exhibits concentrate on the various aspects that make human beings unique. The topics displayed include the ability to walk upright, the size of the brain, and the use of complex nonverbal and verbal communications. A genuine Neanderthal fossil is the main highlight of the hall.
There is also the Hall of Dinosaurs and Paleobiology that has a collection of forty-six complete dinosaur specimens. These specimens reconstruct the behavior and history of creatures. The gallery at the hall also documents the old terrain and climates of the region that served as the habitat for the dinosaurs. The highlights of the hall includes complete skeleton of a T-Rex, a triceratops, and a megacerops. So if you want to understand about the different creatures that have resided on the Earth, you must visit the Natural History Museum during your tours of Washington DC.
In fact, there are different galleries that are dedicated to insects, the oceans of the world, and mammals. The museum has a diverse collection of vertebrate specimens that helps you to understand the adaptations of mammals to the changes in the surroundings. The highlights of the collection include the polar bear and the lion exhibits. There is the also the Orkin Insect Zoo that will let you know the way different types of insects thrive in various environments like swamps, deserts, and rainforests. Kids can enjoy the live tarantula feedings.
The Sant Ocean Hall highlights the world of diversity that exits beneath the oceans. The 1500-gallon aquarium in the hall has a giant squid and a live tropical Pacific coral reef. There is also the Butterfly and Plants pavilion that allow visitors to observe and understand the symbiotic relationship between butterflies and plants. The museum also displays the cultural history of humans. There are exhibits that show the development of western civilization from Ancient Greece, Mesopotamia, and Egypt, and the traditions and cultures of Asia and Africa. You can see how people live and work and how these works affect their environments.
There is also an education centre in the museum called Q?rius. In the centre, preteens and teens can have hands on experience of working in a laboratory to make their own discoveries. Children can also enjoy feature-length nature films in 3D in the Johnson IMAX Theater. The performances will sellout very early, so it will be a good idea to purchase your tickets when you plan your tours of Washington DC. The Q?rius education center also offers sleepovers for children between the ages eight to twelve.
Make sure that you opt for a guided tour of the natural history museum to know every detail of the place. The duration of a private Natural History Museum tour can range from two to two and half hours, but it can be customized too to cover all the popular attractions of the museum.