Smithsonian National Museum – History is intriguing! History books in school have taught us so much about our past and biological evolution to explain why the world, humans, and some practices are the way they are now. Let’s delve into the story of our evolution. How many of us have enjoyed reading chapters that explained how humans evolved from apes, how they went from being four-legged animals to a new two-legged homo-sapien species, how their life changed from being nomads to settling in groups, and how their evolution has never stopped? Listening to stories is fun; watching videos that depict them is next level but seeing the actual age-old remains of real objects with artistic, cultural, and historical significance is different. 

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National Museum of Natural History_©Smithsonian

An Interesting combination of the two cases above – a movie that depicts these historical stories with real arts and artefacts in a museum realm. That sounds like a childhood fantasy come true! Well, some intelligent brains have already foreseen it before deciding to make the movie “Night at the Museum”. The movie was shot in the Smithsonian Institution – the world-renowned museum and research complex comprising 17 museums, galleries, and a zoo. The National Museum of Natural History, one on the premises, boasts its expanse and architecture along with the world’s history. 

Museum History | Smithsonian National Museum

Founded in 1846, The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History opened its doors on March 17, 1910, to house art, culture, history, and natural history collections of the United States Exploring Expedition 1938-1842 and the collections from surveys of the American West in the 1850s, 1860’s and 1870s. These collections were originally housed in the Smithsonian Institution building, aka Castle, which explains how the museum gets its name. In January 1903, the US Congress appropriated funds for the Smithsonian Institution to expand the museum. 

Art and Architecture

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Museum Interior_©Washington.Org

Hornblower and Marshall envisioned the new museum building with an area of one million square feet. Secretary Samuel P. Langley was consistently unhappy with the design when architects Charles Follen Mc Kim and Daniel Hudson intervened. MC Kim and Burnham changed the design by lowering the dome’s height and adding a massive columned portico that faced the Mall. Soon after this, construction began, and the Neoclassical museum building was completed in 15 months. The final design output stood out in Washington as a prototype for the Beaux-Arts buildings with architectural elements such as a flat roof, arched windows, a symmetrical granite facade, and a domed rotunda. Taken a look at the iconic dome rotunda in the museum is sure to resemble the Pantheons of Rome. The dome is known for its immense size (as large as 18 football fields). 

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Ocean Terrace Cafe and restaurant_©Ewing cole

The museum is home to 140 million natural science specimens and cultural artefacts. The building has three floors with different sections. The ground floor has two research wings, a Baird auditorium, and two halls for the birds of D.C. The first floor has the Hall of Human Origins, the Hall of Fossils-Deep Time, the Hall of Mammals, the Sant Ocean Hall, and the Hall of African Voices. On the second floor were the Hall of Geology, Gems, and Minerals, the Insect Zoo with a butterfly pavilion, and a Bone Hall. Every floor had Individual research wings for educational purposes. 

The building underwent a series of renovations to house the expanding collections. The first modernisation began in the 1950s and continued for a decade. Two new wings were added in the 1960s. Renovations of the Hall of mammals began in 2003 and are still said to be ongoing. The Dinosaur Hall was closed for renovation from 2014 to 2019. 

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Hall of birds_©Morgan Anderson
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Hall of Human origins_©Perkins Eastman
Hall of mammals_©Smithsonian
Hall of mammals_©Smithsonian

Artefacts | Smithsonian National Museum

As far as the artefacts are considered, As in the movie, so at the museum! The museum has an extensive collection of gems and minerals, including samples of every known type of meteorite. Some of the most famous artefacts in the world, such as the “Hope Diamond” and Star of Asia Sapphire, one of the largest sapphires in the world, are on display at the hall of Geology, gems, and minerals. An interesting interactive human family tree in the Hall of Human origins shows humankind’s six million years of evolution, and a ‘Changing the World’ gallery focuses on issues surrounding climate change and the human impact on the world.

Hope Diamond_©siris-sic
Hope Diamond_©siris-sic
Fossil of Triceratop_©DCist

In the Hall of fossils is present, the skeleton of Tyrannosaurus rex set in a virtual motion achieved through scanning and digital tech. The Smithsonian museum does not just provide visitors with some insightful art and historical knowledge and provides them with room for curiosity. Q?rius is an interactive education zone that allows visitors to experience interactive activities and puzzles. 

The Smithsonian museum must have a history of manipulating readers’ minds into paying a visit to the museum if given a chance or at least giving the movie a watch to see a glimpse of it. 


NMNH. A brief History of NMNH. [online]. Available at:brief-history-nmnh [Accessed on 17th Feb, 2023]  

Smithsonian Institution Archive. Architectural History of the National Museum of Natural History, 1904. [online] Available at: siris_sic_14435 [Accessed on 17th Feb, 2023]  

Washington DC.Visiting the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC [online] Available at:smithsonian-national-museum-natural-history [Accessed on 17th Feb, 2023]  

Smithsonian. National Museum of Natural History. [Photograph]                            Washington.Org. Museum Interior. [Photograph]                                                                Ewing cole. Ocean Terrace Cafe and restaurant. [Photograph]                                          Morgan Anderson. Hall of birds. [Photograph]                                                                      Perkins Eastman. Hall of Human origins. [Photograph]                                                  Smithsonian. Hall of mammals. [Photograph]                                                                      Siris-sic. Hope Diamond. [Photograph]                                                                                  DCist. Fossil of Triceratop. [Photograph]


An architectural graduate with a vision to create artful and functional environments. She has a strong inclination towards exploring and interpreting the aesthetics of people, places, and buildings. With a writing niche, she believes in the power of words to emote.