A Day Exploring the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History

Courtesy of Kat Kaderabek

By Kat Kaderabek 

Located along the National Mall, the Museum of Natural History holds several permanent exhibits including a butterfly pavilion, the Hope Diamond, a collection of dinosaur fossils, as well as temporary exhibits such as The Bearded Lady Project and Sea Monsters Unearthed. Based largely in science and new discovery, the museum centers itself on education throughout time, with pieces and information dating from millions of years ago to current scientific pioneers and artifacts. 

A current temporary exhibit entitled The Bearded Lady Project was created to highlight contemporary female scientific pioneers. The project aims at conquering gender bias in science by giving credit to the female scientists and their recent work within their fields. 

On the wall of the exhibit are the words, “what is the consequence to science of leaving some people out?” The plaque beneath these words states that the typical image of scientists conjures “khaki-wearing, whiskered men.” In an effort to confront these stereotypes, The Bearded Lady Project features a series of photographs of female scientists wearing obviously fake beards. 

The description of each photo included the female scientist’s name and her focus in paleontology, along with facts about their career and education. 

One of the permanent exhibits featured in the museum is the butterfly pavilion. This exhibit does cost a significant amount of money, but it all goes towards the upkeep and purchasing of butterflies for the pavilion. Guests are welcome to stay inside the space, which is kept at a rather steamy 80 degrees Fahrenheit, for as long as they please and take in the scenery. 

Inside the pavilion are several different species of butterflies as well as rare and indigenous fauna. The plants assist in the upkeep of the butterflies. These plants act as shelter, a food source, and an interactive element for the hundreds of butterflies in the space. 

Encountering the insects is not hard to do. Many zoom back and forth across the space and will happily land on guests as they wander through the garden space. The museum also showcases crystallis in their early states, and if some are lucky, guests can even see a butterfly hatch. 

Another permanent exhibit includes the exhibition of the Hope Diamond. This artifact is rather interesting, especially with the curse and superstitions that surround it. It is said that the diamond was originally stolen from India from a statue of the Hindu goddess, Sita. Because of this, it is said that terrible things will befall those in possession of the diamond. The beheadings of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI have been attributed by some to their possession of the diamond. 

From curses to current scientists to dinosaurs and diamonds, the Museum of Natural History offers a wide variety of experiences for museum-goers and showcases the broad scope of history in the world. It is a museum for all people to find their niche and makes for a great place to spend a Sunday afternoon. The museum is open until 5:30 p.m. 

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