Creatures That Caught My Eye at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

While New York is an epic and fabulous place, it’s good to get out every once in a while, so recently I took a weekend trip to Washington, DC to visit friends and explore. I hadn’t been since I was quite young, so it all felt new, although with some vague memories in the background. One of the best things about DC is that you can visit all the Smithsonian museums for free, so of course I had to visit the Natural History Museum. Here are some creatures that caught my eye, including this elephant in the rotunda, which when it was installed in 1959 was the largest taxidermy animal displayed in any museum. Its eyes are hand blown glass.

I think I’ve gotten a little spoiled with natural history museums, having visited so many beautiful locations with 19th century dioramas, but there were some interesting displays here, even if they lacked something in aesthetics.

I don’t think it quite counts as creature, but this deep sea exploration device certainly had a lot of personality.

Here is a life-size model of a North Atlantic whale. It was installed in 2003 and replaced an early 1900s model of a Blue Whale, which unfortunately seems to have fallen apart and had to be “discarded.” Oh, what I would give to happen upon that in some junkyard…

But even better than a whale model is a real coelacanth  the fish once thought extinct that is now known to still dwell in our oceans. It’s displayed here with a baby coelacanth.

This is a Triplewart Seadevil, a deep sea angler fish, preserved in a jar. It has a rather tough name for a small, squishy fish, but it’s what it was called when people found them floating in the ocean and were totally baffled by their strange shapes.

The Smithsonian has many impressive squid to be seen, including multiple giant squid, such as the above and another held in a 1,500 gallon tank.

Here is another squid, much smaller.

And here is a fossil of a squid, from the Jurassic Period.

I just made it to this room with a mammoth and Irish Elk when the museum announced it was closing…

And that meant the end of my visit! I did have time to see the highlights like the Hope Diamond and Dom Pedro Aquamarine, and other objects not photographed here. As always, I love going into an unfamiliar museum and losing myself in the collections. Of course, this was not my only Smithsonian stop in DC, so watch here for more!

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