Wednesday, March 17, 2010
One hundred years ago today, the National Museum of Natural History, then called the United States National Museum, opened its doors to the public. As of December 2009, some 290,00,000 visitors have passed through its doors.
The building opened in 1910 and became the third Smithsonian Museum on the National Mall. The New United States National Museum, was designed by architects Hornblower and Marshall. they designed a museum based on the finest in Europe with abundant space for research and exhibition.
When visitors came to the Museum that Thursday, March 17, they discovered a one stop shop for exhibitions on art, history, and science. Paintings, sculptures, historic relics, cultural artifacts, and specimens shared the halls of the Museum. With new collections arriving every day, the US National Museum quickly exceeded capacity and the one large Museum split into several separate ones -- the National Museum of Natural History, National Museum of American History, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian American Art Museum, as well as the National Air and Space Museum, which came out of the collections from the Arts &Industries Building.
Today, artworks, artifacts, and specimens from many of the museums can be searched and viewed in the Collections Search Center, and in a way, this allows users to recreate the experience visitors had at the US National Museum. For example, in 1965 we might have visited the US National Museum to see the newly reopened George Catlin Paintings exhibit after we checked out the Birds Hall. Now with the ease of a click we can again see both in one stop, the Collections Search Center!
The National Museum of Natural History kicks off its 100th anniversary with the opening of the new David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins. Throughout the year, there will be more events including an exhibit on the history of the Museum, Celebrating 100 Years at the National Museum of Natural History, so keep your eyes open. Also, dig a little deeper and learn about the history of the Natural History Building in a variety of ways when you visit the Collections Search Center!
Pictured: The Natural History Building as Seen from the National Mall, May 3, 1917, Smithsonian Institution Archives.
Courtney Esposito, Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives