Smithsonian Museum of Natural History

I know this blog is currently just a tour of the various Smithsonian museums, but hey, they’re great and totally awesome to go to! This past week my super amazing girlfriend’s sister and her sister’s boyfriend (collectively, “A2“) were visiting us. The two of them went to a whole bunch of museums while I was working, but on Saturday I got to go with them to the National Museum of Natural History.

The Natural History Museum is by far the Smithsonian to which I have been the most. I grew up not too far from here and when I was but a wee lad we went all the time on the weekends. Specifically, we went all the time because my brother wanted to go. I always wanted to go to like, any of the other museums, but he whined the loudest so we would always go to the Natural History Museum.

Fortunately the museum as a little something for everyone. A2, for example, was most excited about the dinosaurs. I, too, was actually pretty excited to see this because I hadn’t been to the museum in years and the last time I went they were still remodeling the dinosaur hall, so it was nice to see it finally all together. It actually took me a sec though to register where the dinosaurs actually were because instead of walking into the hall and seeing a big ole’ T-Rex he’s kinda hidden a little bit around the corner and you have to walk in past some boring old mammals to see a fossilized tyrannosaur chomp down on a fossilized stegosaurus. Pretty neat though!

My super amazing girlfriend, on the other hand, was always a big fan of ocean stuff. She is pictured above next to a giant squid (she’s on the right). I have to remind myself while writing this that everyone has not been to the Smithsonian a thousand times, but their ocean hall is pretty darn nice. My favorite part of it is actually a bit off to the side where they have fossils of ancient sea creatures, including really big fish and the like and I just imagine swimming around and then encountering some of these ancient big fish and like, not really liking it at all. The ocean can be a scary place! This is why I read the below sign as a threat:

Historically, as I was being carted around the Natural History Museum looking at the things that other people wanted to look at, I enjoyed the Hall of Geology, Gems, and Minerals. They got a lot of pretty rocks in there! The centerpiece is of course the Hope Diamond. When I was younger the curse surrounding it seemed a lot more salient but it is still like, wow. I know that picture is terrible but it was harder to get than you think because it was so brilliant that it even overwhelmed my poor cellphone camera. I was also always a big fan of the opals, because I think they are the prettiest and also because they are my birthstone. Another big factor about liking the gems is that they always seemed the most straight-up sciency, probably because they have this one big holographic crystal wall thingy that it supposed to make you feel like you’re inside a molecule, and when I was a kid I wanted to be a scientist, potentially a mad scientist. I would of course go on to get a whole degree in chemistry where I did a lot of stuff on crystals, which makes opals even cooler because they are amorphous and amorphous solids in materials that are usually crystalline have a lot of cool properties and that is neat.

Anyways these days what I find coolest are the anthropological sorta exhibits and also art galleries. Luckily the Natural History Museum had an African Voices exhibit which was pretty neat! It was very dimly lit which is one of the reasons the below photo of two minkisis isn’t too great (of a Mother and Child figure and a Male, and wow also the Smithsonian’s collection website is terrible), and of course forces itself to survey an entire continent of cultures in one exhibit hall, but this is the sort of stuff I enjoy seeing. It has lots of really great displays and reminders to go check out the Museum of African Art and the Museum of African American History & Culture.

But to wrap up one of the coolest things I saw all day was the below copper plate, which was created by the Mississipian culture about 700 years ago. I had known that the Mississipian culture existed, but I had no idea they had art like that and it was a very exciting thing to discover in a museum I had been to many, many times before. I guess goes to show you that there is always reason to broaden one’s horizons.

We didn’t stay way too long in the museum because the rest of the crowd was already pretty museum’d out after three intense days of museums. We wandered out to the mall and took some photos and then got on the metro for the ride home. Overall a pretty darn good day.