Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Natural history, gotta love it. October 27th, 2010

Back online again.  After two plus weeks (I think) of being totally off the grid, it feels good!

And now, back to our story....

On our second day in DC we tackled the National Museum of Natural History.  Yes, another one.  Given that we hardly scratched the surface of the one in NY, this stop was certainly a no brainer.  Would have been a no brainer anyway for our family who can't seem to get enough of this stuff.

But first, we tackled parking.  I should probably use a gentler term since it was more like gliding into a spot rather than fighting for one.  Like I said, S and his magic parking talent....Yup, he found a spot right on Constitution Ave, a block away from the museum....

And here's proof :-)


To me it was so miraculous, especially after everyone and their uncle was telling us how impossible it is to park, that I just had to take a picture.

We began our exploration of this wonderfully free museum with the earth and its oceans.  Have I already mentioned that all the museums are FREE??  I keep reiterating that since I still can't believe it!  SO much to see without having to pay admission!  It's truly miraculous.

We started to watch what seemed to be a very cool 3 dimensional presentation on the subject when 2 minutes into the show it stopped.  Just stopped.

All video, 3D and otherwise, presentations and computer interactive exhibits went kaput in the ENTIRE museum, stunning not only us guests but the docents as well.  Things didn't get back to normal for quite a while and by then we were practically done with the museum......Oh well, that's how it goes sometimes.  Though I have to say, with all our sightseeing experiences, thankfully this is the first time something major went wrong or didn't work.  So I guess that's pretty incredible.

We moved on to our endless fascination with coral reefs....

The real deal (well, as real as you can get behind glass),


And the crocheted version!

This special exhibit was truly cool.  Every bit is either crocheted or made from recycled materials, but mostly crocheted. The exhibit was more than this one section, this is just a taste.

Analyzer has recently started crocheting so looking back on this is pretty interesting for her, giving her a whole new perspective to be sure.

Among many things, we learned about the ocean zones (surface, twilight and deep) and why bioluminescence is so important, especially in the twilight zone.


(for communication, protection, attention [from its own species], etc. in case you were wondering.)

We spent a whole lotta time in the prehistoric area.  It's pretty extensive.

This is 'Lucy'.  A 3.2 million year old early human from what is today Ethiopia.  She walked upright AND climbed trees, best of both worlds.  Inventor seems to be kind thinking 'I came from that?!'.  Who can blame him....


There was so very much to see, do and touch in this section of the museum that, like I referenced before, we spent a huge chunk of our time here.

We talked about different shape skulls,


and brain sizes and shapes,


and the possible reasons for their evolution as well as the benefits of it.

We discussed what makes us human and when those changes came about,


Like using tools, developing communication, communities (or hearths, as the case may be), adornment, etc.

We also came across a display about how our ancestors began eating meat and the costs and benefits of it.  I won't go into the whole 'are we or are we not supposed to be eating meat' discussion here, I'll just say that there was definitely some surprising misinformation there, particularly about how our bodies digest meat vs. plants.  'Nough said.  For now.

We played with DNA and saw how close we are, genetically speaking, to ALL living organisms, including Banana trees!


We hung around by the clan fire and partook in a meal.  Generous fellow.


Then, we came REAL up close and personal with our ancestors.



'Twas a little creepy......

Love this dude,


Just too bad Inventor had his eyes closed....

Finally, at the close of this exhibit, we examined how us humans have affected the world and how we continue to do so.  Not all's hunky-dory of course.


Sure, lots of good things have come about from the way we've evolved and now live.  We don't have to hunt and farm (well, most of us don't anyway) so now we have time to enrich our lives with such things as music and play and we have time to think up new inventions that benefit us.  However, in doing so, we have also altered the world.  We've hurt it, as well as the other living creatures that share the planet with us.  We're hurting ourselves as well of course, in the long run and in the short run.

Did you know that we, as a world population, depend primarily on four, that's FOUR (!!), main crops??  Those would be wheat, corn, rice and potatoes.  Now that's a scary thought....What would happen if something went horribly wrong with those crops?? Then there's the whole terrifying issue of a couple major major companies trying to (and succeeding in many ways) to control those crops.  But that's a whole 'nother story that I believe I've referenced here a while back.

Okkkkkkkk, so let's move on to the African water hole shall we?


The exhibit was of course more extensive than this, but all in all it was relatively small.

Except for this cool dude, nothing small about him, plus this picture gives you a feel for the place.  The building itself is really beautiful and very grandiose.


Here's the view from the small elephant exhibit up above it all,


From Africa we moved on to the dinosaurs.  A must of course.


There was quite a collection of full skeletons and they were fun to get up close and personal with (well, one of us here looks pretty exasperated here, not sure if it's with the dinos or with her family...),


but the New York Natural History Museum has waaaay more in the way of dinos.

On we go to the rocks and minerals!  Another place we tend to spend a lot of time in in most museums.  I think I'm the only one in this family who is not so totally enthralled with these things.  I am trying though, hard as it may be.....

Even this thing, the Hope Diamond for goodness sake (!!), couldn't get me excited.  Yeah, I know, I'm pretty strange that way.  Diamonds and gems just don't get me going, sorry.  The Hope diamond, FYI, is one of the world's most famous gems.  OK.  If you say so.....


This area had tons of these little 'please touch' signs, exactly what we love to find!  What's the fun in just seeing things after all?!?

Here you have some quartz, a type of crystal.  The Greeks gave it this name since they thought it was ice frozen so hard that it wouldn't melt.  They named it 'crystallos', or, 'ice'.


This is Amethysts, a type of quartz, and therefore a crystal too or course.  It's pretty gorgeous.


All these various rocks, gems and minerals make me very confoosed, very often, but they sure are perrty!


We were reintroduced to atoms in this exhibit, we always seem to be reintroduced to atoms...not by me, not to worry.


This particular little display was trying to show us what the basis of all this 'stuff' is.

So, here's the drill, as explained to me over and over again might I add, by S.  Chemistry was never my thing....Ready?  Get your pen and paper there'll be a quiz later:

An element (as in the Table of Elements) is a pure atom. The basic of the basic.
A molecule is of course a combination of two or more atoms. They're not pure anymore.
Crystals are formed when elements or molecules are arranged in a repeating predictable pattern creating their amazing 'crystal like' structures.
A mineral is a crystal from the ground (you can have other crystals in the world, like snow, but they're not from the ground).
A rock is not a mineral, it is a mix of different elements, moleculs, crystals, etc.

Got all that??  I think I finally did.....

Now here we actually came across a display of something we saw out in nature and not 'just' in a museum, rock columns of course!  That was pretty cool and Whirlwind is the one who figured it out too.  In case you can't tell, Devils Tower is one example of these rock columns (formed by cooling lava flow).  We also saw some in Yellowstone.

This one was also pretty cool, did you ever even stop to think that there was water in rocks?!  I sure didn't.  This display compared the amount of water in various kinds of rocks.


And finally, we wrapped it up by figuring out where we'd find all those different kinds of rock in the US....


On our way out of the museum we came across a very small Totem Pole exhibit.  Real small.


I did not know this, but totem poles were not used in worship but were a status symbol in the indigenous cultures of the costal northwest.  I also didn't know they were so limited geographically.

So, that brings our day at the National Natural History Museum to a close.  I hope you've enjoyed your prehistoric history and chemistry lessons for the day.  Or at least benefited from them a teeny tiny bit :-).

And, to end where we began, here we are again with a new prime spot, this time on the mall itself I believe (S had to go move the car while we were in the museum).


I promise, no more parking pictures in the days ahead.  Scout's honor!


  1. it is amazing how you all stay so focused for so long and are able to absorb so much information.

  2. Hi, All!

    I'm writing for the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. We are so glad you enjoyed your stay with us! Would it be possible for us to obtain some of your photos for our Web site and upcoming annual report? They'd be great to illustrate the experience here! We'd need them emailed to us. Let us know at editor@bbhc.org. Thanks for sharing your visit with the world!

    BBHC PR staff