The Smithsonian Institution was founded in honor of a man who never came to America or lived to see it built. In fact, it is because of his death, and the subsequent death of his nephew, that the museum was funded in the first place. James Smithson was born in 1765 and died without children in 1829. According to his will, his inheritance passed to his nephew, and if the nephew were to die without a family, the money was to go “to the United States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an Establishment for the increase & diffusion of knowledge among men.” The nephew died without a family in 1835, and the Smithsonian Institution was founded in 1846. Smithson’s inheritance started what would grow to be the largest museum complex in the world. Today, the 19 museums in Washington, DC (as well as many research centers and affiliate museums around the world) make up the Smithsonian Institution, or what is lovingly called, “America’s Attic.”
The Smithsonian Institute National Museum of Natural History is more than its name indicates. Not only is it a showcase for all things related to chemistry, biology, geology and every other science course you took in high school, it is a premier research facility and one of the best museums in the world. Housed in the building with the green dome, it has a commanding presence on the National Mall. It was built in 1910 and has 325,000 square feet of exhibition space. This is a place that furthers mankind’s understanding of our world and imparts that knowledge to those who visit through 126 million artifacts and specimens as well as hands-on exhibits and thoughtful displays. The primates exhibit tracks our human origins back millions of years, the butterfly room has a dizzying array of specimens pinned for perfect viewing and the geology display, in addition to playing host to the Hope Diamond, has some of the most spectacular gems and crystal formations you will ever see. This is not a children’s museum, though there is plenty for them here. This is a place for everyone of all ages and levels of understanding. We live in an incredibly complex world, and this museum makes sense of a lot of it.
The Smithsonian Institute National Museum of Natural History is open every day of the year except December 25 from 10:00am to 5:30pm. Some nights it is open until 7:30pm, so check here to see if you can stay late.
Go here. It is an amazing experience and is not to be missed. Also, they have lots of dinosaur skeletons.