The Smithsonian Natural History Museum Part One

Being the awesome and interesting people we are (or rather, being nerds), we decided to spend the entire day at the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum. Why? Because we like spending time among musty collections of stuffed animals, that’s why!

We were actually planning to wait in line to see the National Archives, but since there were already 250 people in line when we got there at 9:30, we thought it would be best to visit the Smithsonian instead. The map showed several very tiny looking rooms, and I was prepared to be disappointed. But when we stepped into the first room, I realized the map was very much not to scale. Each room in the museum is the size of another museum. It’s like museum Inception.

Okay, I know that was a bad joke. Anyway, we spent an hour staring at the gem collection before we realized we’d better get a move on or not get to see everything.

The gem and mineral collection is actually really cool to see. Gems are shiny and, well, once you see the mineral collection you’ll understand why we spent an hour there. For instance, did you know rocks can grow like mold? If I saw this anywhere else, I’d be reaching for a face-mask to get away from the spores:

And really, if you saw this, wouldn’t you think it was a giant rock shark:

The big problem I had with the collection was how they were totally making up chemical formulas. You are not supposed to put an ‘X’ or subtraction/addition in them.

(Science interlude from the Other Half: The ‘X’ here is because Pyrrhotite can magically make its iron atoms disappear and still maintain its crystalline structure. And apparently it can do this within the same sample, if I understand correctly. This is called polymorphism, and the individual specimens are polytypes.) [Non-science interlude from Batscapades: He totally looked this up when he got home. No normal people use chemical formulas in their chemical formulas. I’ll refrain from further Inception jokes.]

We also wandered into the rock room next door, where the Other Half commented they were hiding the body of the Michelin Man after he got into a fight.

Alternatively, it’s a really cool sand sculpture. We finally got out of the collection and headed across to the arthropod room, where they had the biggest bird-eating spider I’ve ever seen in my life:

This girl was at least 6 inches long. The cool thing about the museum is how kid-friendly it is, especially this exhibit. The bad thing is that it means there are a lot of unsupervised children running around everywhere. The one place they were being well-behaved was in the butterfly pavilion. For a few dollars, you too can see my spouse running around saying, “Look, kids! I have a butterfly on my head! Isn’t this awesome?” Actual true story. He was like a kid in a candy store. Or a butterfly pavilion.

At least he wasn’t acting like this owl butterfly, who was taking the opportunity to harass everyone walking in the door:

They also have a hall of skeletons, which resembles the Museum of Osteology but is larger.

And of course, they have the requisite bat skeletons, though they have a much wider variety of them than museums we’ve been to before.

Oh, and they’re very artistically mounted. How cool is that?

The second floor is also great fun because of two other exhibits we didn’t take pictures of: the Egyptian burial collection, including several mummies and a really great explanation of the embalming process; and the colonial forensics exhibit. Of the two, the colonial exhibit was less crowded, but it was much more interactive and well put-together. There are several cases of colonial era bodies and archaeological finds that they walk you through how it was found, what the clues they used were, and what the final identification and cause of death of the bodies was. You should definitely see it while it’s there.

We actually finished the second floor in enough time to nip out for a bite to eat. The Other Half kept telling me it was only a half mile further. He totally lied just to keep me walking so we could eat at this great Thai place near Chinatown. It was worth it, but I’ll never let him live his “I promise it’s only a half-mile away” down. Therefore, from now on, all distance increments I give him are in half-mile units. Ha!

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