It is an exciting time for paleobiology at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (NMNH). The museum is undergoing a complete renovation of its fossil halls, and an initiative to support research in and improve understanding of evolutionary and environmental change across deep time is at the top of the museum’s agenda. However, it will still be awhile before visitors can enjoy the results of these efforts. The east wing, home to fossil displays since the NMNH building opened in 1910, closed on April 28th, 2014, and will not reopen until 2019.
In the meantime, it is worthwhile to take a look at the history of fossil displays at the Smithsonian. This series investigates the origins and histories of the skeletal mounts at NMNH. I will try to avoid discussing the biology of the animals in question, and instead treat these specimens as the historic artifacts they are. Since many of these mounts have been on display for more than a century, they tell an intriguing story of the changing focus, methodologies, and philosophies of science and science communication. This series is also about the talented researchers and technicians who built the historic mounts, and the institution which hosted these people and their creations.
Please note that this is my personal blog and I am solely responsible for the veracity of its content. These posts do not represent NMNH, the Smithsonian Institution, or any of their affiliates. Be sure to check out Digging the Fossil Record and the Department of Paleobiology for official news on the fossil hall renovation.