Thursday, March 17, 2011

Taking a trip to the National Museum of Natural History

Every once in a while I venture out of Bethesda, MD and into the wilds of Washington DC.  Last week I went to the National Museum of Natural History (aka, the Dead Animal Museum).  I took the red line to Metro Center and walked south for a few blocks (Federal triangle is closer but it isn't worth switching lines).  Admission to the museum is free.

There are a few non-american, non-natural artifacts in the museum, such as this Maoi from Easter Island.  It wasn't actually as tall as I thought it would be, probably about 15 feet.  I always imagined they would tower over you.

The main attraction, however, is the dead animals.  There's a giant elephant in the main rotunda and lions, tigers, giraffes, squid, whale bones, etc.  You might how this is different than going to the zoo,  there are a couple of ways it is.  At the zoo, the animals are a ways a way, they may not be out, or they may be lying down in the shade (and obviously, they move).  At this museum, the animals are right there, just a couple of feet in front of you, posed so you can get a good look at them.  You get a much better idea of the size of the animals when you are standing right next to them.

In the basement are cabinets of birds, all birds that either live in or migrate through the D.C. area.  I had no idea that there were so many (over 500 species).

If dead animals aren't your bag, they do have a small selection of living ones, mostly small.  There is a colony of bees, some four inch long cockroaches, various shrimp, and of course, the butterfly exhibit. Unlike most museums and exhibits in DC, the butterfly exhibit costs money, $6 for adults and $5 for children (it is free for everyone on Tuesdays).  There are over 20 species of butterflies at any given time, fluttering around, sipping nectar and occasionally landing on people.  It is neat to see them and worth the price of admission.

There is really too much to see in one visit, you can see their website for a full list of exhibits.  I also saw the Ocean exhibit, the insect zoo, and the hall of human origins.  Some that I didn't get a chance to see included Gems and minerals (including the Hope diamond), the dinosaur exhibit, and the discovery room (hands on exhibits).

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