Sea Monsters and Shiny Rocks

Over the weekend, we took our first trip to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.  We went to the American Museum of Natural History in New York quite a few times while living up there, so I was eager to see how this one compared. My verdict: The Smithsonian museum seemed a little smaller, but also a little more technologically advanced than the one in New York, making it a little less overwhelming and a bit easier to enjoy.

The first exhibit we walked through was about the deep ocean. The deep ocean, with its giant squids and glow-in-the-dark fish and other alien-like creatures that look like they sprung from an 11-year-old’s imagination, is fascinating to me. There is so much down there that we don’t know about, that we’ve never seen. We have NASA, which devotes so many resources to studying space and the unknown above us. But I feel like we should have a NASA-esque organization devoted to studying the deep oceans. We don’t know a lot about the life down there, but we do know that life exists, and isn’t that more interesting than all the unknowns that come with space? I didn’t take a photo of it, but they had a fish that was probably 4 feet long that scientists had presumed had gone extinct with the dinosaurs until a fisherman happened across one accidentally some time in the last 50 years. The dinosaurs! So why aren’t more researchers (besides James Cameron) trying to go down there? I have no idea, but I think they should get on it. Here’s one of the little guys they had preserved in the exhibit:


I thought the name of this fish was funny.

After the deep ocean, we walked through the Mammal exhibit. The last time we went to the natural history museum in New York I was a little bored by the mammals—they were just replicas of the animals I would see at the zoo. I was pleased by the way the exhibit at the Smithsonian was set up, though. They had animals organized by adaptations, like how they survive in freezing temperatures, by hunting methods, and a bit by where you would find them, like by a watering hole in the African desert. I thought these additional educational aspects made it more interesting. Here’s my obligatory photo of the brown bear, my favorite animal:


So majestic. So fluffy. So misunderstood.

The last exhibit I particularly enjoyed was the Geology, Gems and Minerals. For rocks, this was pretty interesting. They have a bunch of meteorite pieces, some of which you could touch. The thing that kept striking me while walking through this exhibit was that nothing in it (except for some of the cut gemstones at the end) had been touched by man. The incredibly smooth edges, jagged surfaces and brilliant colors were all created by nature and nature alone—or space, in the case of the meteors. I know it sounds cheesy, but stuff like this just makes me appreciate the beauty and vastness of the world around us.

Usually I find the interactive elements in museums to be kind of lame, but props to the Smithsonian for sprinkling some cool ones throughout this exhibit. There was one where you could choose the size of your meteor, its speed, and whether or not the earth had an atmosphere and then see how large of an impact it would make when it hit the surface. And there was another where you chose a type of rock and had to guess how many elements of a house were made with that rock.

The halls that house the gems and minerals were huge. There were so many cases filled with minerals, rocks and gemstones of incredibly brilliant colors. I didn’t take a ton of photos because it wouldn’t do them justice, but this exhibit was pretty awesome. Oh, and they also have the Hope Diamond, one of the most famous diamonds in the world, if you’re into that sort of thing. Personally, I was more fascinated by the natural specimens pulled from mines than with the cut pieces of jewelry. Here are a couple photos of those:




We also quickly walked through the special exhibit on narwhals, but I’m actually going for a private tour of this exhibit later this month, so there will be a whole post devoted to narwhals then! All in all, another incredibly successful—and free—museum trip!

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