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The National Museum of Natural History is part of the Smithsonian Institution, the world’s preeminent museum and research complex. The Museum is dedicated to inspiring curiosity, discovery, and learning about the natural world through its unparalleled research, collections, exhibitions, and education outreach programs. Opened in 1910, the green-domed museum on the National Mall was among the first Smithsonian building constructed exclusively to house the national collections and research facilities.
Whether looking at the history and cultures of Africa, describing our earliest Mammalian ancestor or primate diversity around the world, examining ancient life forms including the ever popular dinosaurs, or exploring the beauty of rare gemstones such as uniquely colored diamonds, the Museum’s temporary and permanent exhibitions serve to educate, enlighten and entertain millions of visitors each year.
Through its research, collections, education and exhibition programs, National Museum of Natural History serves as one of the world’s great repositories of scientific and cultural heritage as well as a source of tremendous pride for all Americans.
The museum is open from 10:00 AM to 5:30 PM daily, but is closed December 25. The Museum extends its hours until 7:30 PM on certain dates.
(Note: Many places fill to capacity on busy, nice weather days, especially holiday weekends. Please call ahead or visit the official website to get the most up-to-date information before visiting.)
Admission is free to the museum and programs.
At the center of the Museum’s exhibition and research programs are its expertly documented collections: more than 126 million natural science specimens and cultural artifacts. Just to name a few of our museum holdings, the collections include 30 million insects carefully pinned into tiny boxes; 4½ million plants pressed onto sheets of paper in the Museum’s herbarium; 7 million fish in liquid-filled jars; and 2 million cultural artifacts, including 400,000 photographs housed in the National Anthropological Archives. Over 3½ million specimens are out on loan each year; over 15,000 visitor days are spent in the collections; and there are almost 600,000 additional visits to collection data bases available on the Web.
When the “new” U.S. National Museum building, now known as the National Museum of Natural History, opened its doors on March 17, 1910, it housed art, culture, history, and natural history collections. At the time the Smithsonian was founded in 1846, its legislation provided for the National Museum. Spencer F. Baird, the first Curator of the National Museum and second Secretary of the Smithsonian, oversaw the development of the Smithsonian as the national museum of the United States. The Museum’s early collections included the artifacts and specimens from the United States Exploring Expedition, 1838-1842, and the collections from the great surveys of the American West in the 1850s, 1860s and 1870s. Today, the National Museum of Natural History cares for some 126.5 million artifacts and specimens both in the Museum on the Mall and at the Museum Support Center.