Washington, DC

Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History set to launch exhibit connecting people and nature

Watchful Eye

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Courtesy of National Museum of Natural History

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC will open its “Our Places: Connecting People and Nature” exhibit on July 1.

“Our Places” is meant to be hands-on and to drive home the point that not only is nature all around us but we are connected to it in countless ways, even in the middle of an urban area like DC, the museum’s website explains.

The exhibit will include objects of environmental importance, including the historic Asian giant hornet nest called “Nest Zero.” In 2019, this nest was the initial piece of evidence showing large hornets, who prey on pollinators, like honeybees, had arrived in the Pacific Northwest from Asia, a museum press release says.

Visitors will learn about the threats that invaders in nature pose to natural ecosystems, and museum-goers will get an up-close view of high-tech gear, such as a hornet radio tracker and a heavy-duty suit, straight out of a sci-fi movie that Smithsonian-USDA entomologist Matt Buffington used to remove the giant hornets' nest.

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Courtesy of Tim Ervin

The experience will include an opportunity to identify local birds and other animals through nature sounds. The exhibit is designed to acquaint visitors with the efforts to incorporate accessible, equitable green spaces in urban communities, reinvigorate barren soil through Indigenous community-led restorative agricultural practices and sustainably harvest seafood through minority-owned aquaculture programs in the Chesapeake Bay.

Individuals get to participate in pollinator garden planning activities, and they can leave notes and drawings behind to complement the displays. In the press release, the museum explains that this will help the exhibit to be continually evolving.

Visitors will have the opportunity to get acquainted with fieldwork in places like India and Peru but they’ll also have the chance to learn about local spaces, including Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens and Anacostia Park, which provide natural oases to communities often overlooked by conservation efforts.

Further, visitors will have the chance to meet scientists and community members working to protect environments around the globe, from tropical rainforests and coastal mangroves to local neighborhood greenspaces.

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Courtesy of National Museum of Natural History

“From differential access to nature and personal safety to biodiversity stewardship and sustainability, ‘Our Places’ challenges museum visitors to see themselves as part of the natural world and share their experiences and connections with others,” said Torben Rick, the museum’s curator of North American archaeology who helped curate the new exhibition.

The Our Places exhibit will run through July 2024.

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