Here are just a few of the fascinating artifacts you might encounter during a visit to The Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.: Moon rocks; the Hope Diamond; the fossilized skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus rex; ancient mummies dating back to 1200 BC—and that’s just what’s on display. The Museum houses over 126 million scientific specimens and cultural relics, and a large fraction of the colossal collection is kept behind closed doors.
The Museum’s private storage is almost unfathomable in size and scope, containing curiosities that span from birds to bones to butterflies. The artifacts are scrupulously preserved, catalogued, and organized, so that authorized scientific experts can explore for new discoveries. According to the Museum, the goal is to better predict the future by examining the past: "NMNH scientists and their colleagues worldwide seek the puzzle pieces that will form detailed pictures of vital topics such as evolutionary relationships of organisms, biodiversity loss and global climate change."
Though the secluded shelves are normally off-limits to the public, the Museum offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the clandestine compendium in the photographs below.
Top photo credit: Chip Clark
Photo credit: Chip ClarkPhoto credit: Chip Clark
Photo credit: Chip Clark