This is big. Mammoth-big. Dinosaur-big. Cambrian Explosion-big!
At the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH), our fossils help us tell a much bigger story. Organisms like dinosaurs are the evidence behind the long and storied history of life on Earth – 3.5 billion years of history! We explore the complexity of interconnections and evolution of life, learn about fascinating prehistoric plants and animals, and begin to understand our place in Earth’s history. At least, that’s the plan for the new Deep Time exhibition.
NMNH last renovated the fossil halls in the early 1980s, which means we’re missing many of the critical stories of science and discovery that have emerged in paleobiology in the last three decades. Many of these recent discoveries have significantly changed what we know about Earth’s past, and what we foresee for Earth’s future. Our collections have grown to include new specimens, while at the same time, many of the 1.900+ specimens in our current exhibition need some updating and TLC. It’s time we did something about that.
So here’s the plan: we are going to renovate our fossil halls, returning the space to the original Beaux Arts architecture of our 1910 building. We’ll also conserve and update our prehistoric giants and all the smaller invertebrates, vertebrates, and plant fossils. We’ll bring out some specimens that are new – new to our collection or new to the public. The new, 31,000-square-foot exhibition will bring together research and the latest scientific knowledge from all seven Museum science departments: Paleobiology, Mineral Sciences, Botany, Entomology, Vertebrate Zoology, Invertebrate Zoology, and Anthropology. You, our visitors, can explore the interconnections among ecosystems, climate, geological forces, and evolution through time.
In the new Deep Time Hall, you will uncover life’s past through the science of paleobiology, and discover the events that have shaped our planet and the species that live on it, including us. Through it all, you will experience awe seeing how we are connected to all life on Earth.
Along the way, we will be sharing this incredible journey with our online visitors through social media and blogs, and with our onsite visitors through public surveys, temporary displays that allow a sneak peek into our progress, and a temporary exhibition about the Late Cretaceous world. We hope you’ll join us in decoding the past. Together, we can use our understanding of the past to increase our knowledge about possible futures, for our planet and for ourselves!
Kirk Johnson guided the exhibits team through what was once a Late Cretaceous landscape. We’ll be showcasing fossils from this expedition in our temporary exhibition and our FossiLab. Photo by Siobhan Starrs, Smithsonian Institution