A Virtual Bounty: Tour the Smithsonian’s Incomparable Natural History Museum

The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (SNMNH) is an awesome place to visit. I actually got to see a portion of it many years ago. If you have an interest in fossils and artifacts, human origins and cultural communities, geology and mammals–well, heck, there’s so much more! So much, if you have a curious bone in your body about science and nature, you’ll love the SNMNH.

The SNMNH virtual tours take you on self-guided, room-by-room tours from your computer or tablet (or if you don’t mind a small screen, your smart phone) of a number of the exhibits and areas within the museum. You can also access “select collections and research areas at the museum’s satellite support and research stations, as well as past exhibits that are no longer on display.”

I found this to be a really good virtual tour that incorporates a 360 visual, a zoom in-and-out opportunity, and click-on-arrows that let you move through the various rooms. Occasionally you can get close enough with the zoom to actually read the information signage provided on the exhibits. Not all, of course, which is a shame, because I’m sure there are some excellent details written about the various displays that are just too far away (even when you’re zoomed in) or too small for you to make out.

It’s not perfect–sometimes the arrows move you past something you’d like to view closer, and sometimes the camera angles don’t let you see everything in a given exhibit, but considering you aren’t actually there, overall I consider it a wonderful way to see the Smithsonian.

I love paleontology, so the exhibits of dinosaur bones were riveting to me. You may find other areas draw your attention.

There are an incredible number of choices. Under “current exhibits” you’ll find these areas for exploration:

African bush elephant and rotunds; African voices (the people, cultures, religion, history); Bone Hall (bones of today’s species); butterfly pavillion; Hall of Fossils; Hall of Human Origins; Eternal Life in Ancient Egypt; Garden Lounge; Hall of Geology, Gems and Minerals; Hall of Mammals; Insect Zoo; Objects of Wonder; Outbreak: Epidemics in a Connected World (certainly pertinent now!); Q?rius, Science Education Center; Ocean Hall; Sea Monsters Unearthed: Life in Angola’s Ancient Seas; Birds of D.C.; and Museum grounds.

Permanent exhibits: These displays include an area called “Travel Back in Time – the not so distant past.” The main hallway includes a Mastodon, T. Rex and the last American dinosaurs, an area about rainforests spread across the globe, and ice age extinction events. The displays are colorful and rich and informative. Even though you aren’t there, you can almost feel the coolness of the rooms, and you CAN see the beautiful colors. Texture is transmitted in the interplay of shadows and light.

Past displays: These cover big events both in recent and ancient times. The displays aren’t physically up any more, but thanks to photos and current technology, they exist in perpetuity. You really are wandering digital-only halls on this tour! Exhibits include “Rescue at the Chilean Mine”; Cyprus: Crossroads of Civilization; Former fossil hall; Genome; Iceland revealed; Last American Dinosaurs; Mud Masons of Mali; Narwhal: Revealing an Arctic Legend; National Geographic: Into Africa; Nature’s Best Photography Exhibits; Orchid Exhibits; Q?rius Jr; Soil; Universe; Western cultures; Wilderness 50; and Written in Bone.

A virtual tour through the Smithsonian is a lovely way to take a trip and spend some hours exploring our world as the museum has preserved it. Prehistory, history, cultures, animals… whatever interests you will be here. You may discover new interests. There are other areas to “walk” through, even beyond what I’ve noted here. Have fun with it! Just follow this link. OR, here’s a link to the Smithsoian Magazine that has an article about “Seven Ways to Learn About Natural History from Home.” There are some excellent links there, as well.

Don’t sit at home bored. Go forth into the digital world. And learn some new facts about the real world.

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