Day At The Museum

Wednesday – A day at the Museum

GNSI members will continue to observe its the Guild’s semicentennial by spending a day at the actual place we had our genesis in 1968, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

This memorable fun day will include the conference group photoshoot, plenary keynote talks, thetechniques showcase, and behind-the-scenes tours of various museum departments.

Bus transportation to and from the museum is included for all registrants and registered guests. Please check the schedule at a glance (link when ready) for times the bus schedule and the campus map for our meeting location.

The 50th Anniversary group photo will be taken in the museum rotunda before the two morning talks.

The plenary keynotes talks will be presented by Dr. Kirk Johnson and Liz Neeley.

Lunch will be on your own. There are a numerous great local eateries nearby. Due to building renovations there will be no food service operating inside the museum this summer. A list of places to eat and a map will be provided.

After lunch, the Techniques Showcase will take place in the Q?rius learning center on the ground floor of the Museum. Selected demonstrators will be showcasing their work for museum visitors.


--From the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History website—

Created for teens and tweens, Q?rius (pronounced "curious") was created for teens and tweens and is an interactive and experimental learning space that brings the unique assets of the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History – the science, researchers, and collections – out from behind the scenes. Visitors can use microscopes, handle some of the 6,000 collection objects, solve science puzzles, do touchscreen activities, and even meet a scientist. In Q?rius, visitors can unleash their curiosity with surprising results.


Behind the scenes tours, will be offered and guided by curators and staff of the various collections, and will be offered concurrently with the Techniques Showcase. The size of the each group is limited and tour start time(s) are indicated after the tour title. Each Conference attendee and registered guests may sign up for one tour each during registration. Tour groups will gather on the edges of the Rotunda 10 minutes before the tours are set to begin. Look for tour group leaders holding GNSI signs. Remember to sign up for your tour on the "SELECT WORKSHOPS & FIELD TRIPS" page of the registration form.

Department of Invertebrate Zoology Collection Tour (1:30PM; 3:00PM)

The collections of the Department of Invertebrate Zoology (IZ) were established in 1856. Current holdings are approximately 35 million specimens in over 15 linear miles of storage. Collections. Most of the dry preserved collections (Corals, Echinoderms, Mollusks and Sponges) are housed in the Natural History Building (NHB).Fluid Fluid-preserved collections are now housed in the Museum Support Center (MSC) located in Suitland, Maryland, and and due to logistic issues it will not be included in the tour.


Department of Entomology Collection Tour (1:30PM; 3:00PM)

The National Insect Collection at NHB is one of the largest entomological collections in the world. It contains over 35 million specimens housed in more than 132,354 drawers, 33,000 jars or vials, and 23,000 slides in more than 5,200 cabinets.

Specimens and their associated data are used as the basis for original scientific research on the nature, inter-relationships, origin, and evolution of insects and their allies. The large holdings of medically and agriculturally important species make some parts of the collection especially significant as sources of systematic research and for the identification of insect pests. The Illustration archive has a dedicated room within the Dept. and houses tens of thousands of illustrations, some dating back to the 1800’s.


Division of Physical Anthropology Collection Tour (3:00PM)

NHB houses several important anatomical collections which include a diverse series of human anatomical specimens, primarily osteological, that are used for studies in biological anthropology (skeletal biology, paleopathology, human variation), medical research, forensic investigations, and questions concerning human origins. Nearly 33,000 specimens represent populations throughout the world. The majority of the cultural anthropology collections are now stored off off-site in Suitland Md.


Department of Botany Collection Tour (1:30PM; 3:00PM)

The United States National Herbarium was founded in 1848, when the first collections were accessioned from the United States Exploring Expedition (50,000 specimens, 1838-1842). Current holdings total 5 million specimens/historical plant records, making this collection among the ten largest in the world. The herbarium is especially rich in type specimens (c. 110,000). There is also a Botanical Art Collection housed on the 4th floor representing contemporary scientific botanical artwork as well as historic pieces over 150 years old.


Division of Birds Collection Tour (1:30PM; 3:00PM)

The Division of Birds, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, houses and maintains the third largest bird collection in the world, with over 640,000 specimens. Our National Collection, known in the ornithological literature by the acronym USNM*, has representatives of about 80% of the approximately 9,600 known species in the world's avifauna. The majority of the specimens are study skins, but the Dept.’s skeletal and anatomical (alcohol preserved) collections are the largest in the world. Additional collections include egg sets, nests, and mounted skins. The oldest specimens originated from the private collection of Spencer Fullerton Baird, who collected in the Carlisle, Pennsylvania region in the early 1840's and later became the second Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. A major portion of the collection has been derived from the activities of the U.S. Biological Survey, which actively collected over much of North America from the 1890's to 1930's.


Division of Mammals Collection Tour (1:30PM)

The Division of Mammals houses a world-class collection of roughly 590,000 preserved specimens. It is by far the world's largest, nearly twice the size of the next largest mammal collections. The taxonomic and geographic scope of the USNM** mammal collection spans the globe. This mammal collection includes many historically important specimens, dating back to 1838, and includes 3200 primary type specimens, a number exceeded only by The Natural History Museum, in London. The tour will include samples of bones, pelts, skins, and fluid collections.

Division of Fish Collection Tour (1:30PM; 3:00PM)

This tour will focus on the osteology collection and some of the illustration archive. The vast wet collections are now stored off site. The fish collection at NHB is the largest in the world, with approximately 540,000 lots (a lot consists of all specimens of a species collected at the same time and place). The collections have great historical importance, containing marine fishes from the Wilkes Expedition and from the extensive U.S. Bureau of Fisheries trawling expeditions conducted by the Blake, Albatross, Fish Hawk and other ships in the late 1800's and early 1900's. North American freshwater fishes collected on the Mississippi-Pacific Railroad and Mexican Boundary Surveys in the 1850's are also included in our collections.The collections are worldwide in coverage.


Department of Mineralogy Collection Tour (1:30PM)

The Department of Mineral Sciences maintains a world-class research collection of rocks, minerals and meteorites. It includes over 600,000 specimens. Highlights include: Historically significant collections, including the Antarctic Meteorite Collection and many former USGS collections, samples from difficult- or impossible-to-access locations and events, including historic eruptions, closed mines, and the seafloor and rare or unusual rocks and minerals, including many mineral type specimens.

The U.S. National Meteorite Collection, housed here, is one the largest and one of the best museum-based collections of meteorites in the world. The National Rock and Ore Collections are divided into subcollections, and the specimens within each are indexed and retrievable by lithology, locality, museum catalog number, metal/commodity, or volcano name when appropriate, and many are retrievable by original field number and donor name.


Cullman Library Collection Tour (1:30PM; 3:00PM)

The Cullman Library holds the Smithsonian's collection of rare books in anthropology and the natural sciences. Its world-class collection contains approximately 10,000 volumes published before 1840 in the fields of physical and cultural anthropology, ethnology, Native American linguistics, and archeology; botany; ornithology, mammalogy, herpetology, ichthyology, entomology, malacology, and other zoological fields; paleontology; and geology and mineralogy. The publications of seventeenth- through nineteenth-century voyages of exploration, the history of museums and scientific collecting are strengths of the collection. The staff is assembling a significant display of their showpieces for the GNSI tour.


Scanning Electron Microscopy Lab Tour (3:00PM)

The Museum Of Natural History houses a state of the art facility for Scanning Electron Microscopy. A scanning electron microscope (SEM) is a type of microscope that produces high magnification images of a sample by scanning the surface with a focused beam of electrons. The electrons interact with atoms at the surface of the sample, producing various signals that contain information about the sample's surface topography and chemistry. An SEM can achieve resolution better than 1 nanometer. In the past specimens to be examined were coated with a few nanometers of noble metal or carbon. The modern variable pressure or environmental SEM, can image specimens at low vacuum or wet conditions and at a wide range of cryogenic or elevated temperatures- especially desirable in the museum environment. This laboratory has four SEM’s enabling research on uncoated and hydrated materials, various light microscopes, laser scanners, photogrammetry workstations and micro computed tomography.


Skin and Bones Mobile App Tour in the Bone Hall (1:30PM)

This tour will be lead by Diana Marques, the co-creator and designer of the “Skin and Bones” mobile app, in the space it was designed for (the permanent exhibit at the Bone Hall). Watch a vampire bat skeleton pull itself off the mount and run away, or an extinct Steller's Sea Cow materialize in the flesh. These are only two of a number of 3D digital experiences available when using the app in the exhibit. This exciting technology is known as Augmented Reality and it superimposes a virtual world onto the physical one.

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* The old name of the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of Natural History (now NHB for Natural History Building) was the United States National Museum (USNM).