The National Museum of Natural History opened in 1910 and is a part of the Smithsonian Institution, the world’s most prominent research and museum complex. Located on the National Mall, the museum’s purpose is to invoke discovery and education of the natural world around us. Its green dome and immense size (altogether, it is the size of 18 football fields) are signatures, as well as the 126 million natural science specimens and cultural artifacts that it contains. The Smithsonian Institution estimates that more than 7 million people visit the museum per year.
The facility contains some of the most famous museum artifacts in the world. The Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems and Minerals has the supposedly cursed Hope Diamond on display. Meanwhile, the brand new education center, Q?rius, offers teens and tweens a lab where they can make their own scientific discoveries (pictured). The David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins details the story of how the human species evolved through full-size reconstructions; the exhibit features more than 285 fossils and artifacts. Other permanent exhibits include an insect zoo and The Sant Ocean Hall, which features an exact replica of a living North Atlantic right whale. Note: The Dinosaur Hall is currently undergoing renovations and won't reopen until 2019.
Admission to the National Museum of Natural History is free. Its regular hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., but hours are extended during the summer with a closing time of 7:30 p.m. The museum is open every day of the year except Dec. 25. The most convenient way to reach the museum is via public transportation. Public parking is scarce, but there are parking spaces available for visitors with disabilities. If using Metrorail, take the Orange or Blue line to the Smithsonian station and use the Mall exit. If taking Metrobus, use the 32, 34 or 36 routes.
The museum is centrally located in DC, just a block away from the National Mall. Numerous landmarks and monuments can be found nearby, including the White House, the Lincoln Memorial, the World War II Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the United States Botanic Garden. Surrounding the museum is Downtown DC, which offers an array of restaurants and forms of entertainment for the entire family to enjoy.
- One of the museum’s collections, the National Anthropological Archives, contains 400,000 photographs.
- It is estimated that each year over 15,000 visitor days are spent in the collections in the museum.
- The main building covers 1.5 million square feet, including 325,000 square feet of exhibition and public space.
- The museum’s herbarium contains 4.5 million plants pressed onto sheets of paper.
- The extensive research activities for the museum are organized into seven different departments.