Smithsonian Trip 4-2014

The cherry blossoms were done blooming, but even so - eleven members of the North Carolina Fossil Club journeyed to Washington DC on Good Friday to visit the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History for an exclusive behind the scenes tour. Most everyone went up the night before and several of us had the experience of riding the train in from the outskirts of town – an adventure in and of itself! We were met at the museum enthusiastically by Dave Bohaska.  To our delight, we gained entrance to the museum through the back door – by-passing all the metal detectors, etc. We were then treated to a lengthy tour behind the scenes of the paleo section of the museum, where rows and rows of shelves contained every imaginable fossil vertebrate – mammal, reptile, dinosaur, bird, amphibian and fish. There were countless cabinets with endless drawers of shark teeth, fossil bones, fossil dung and even mammoth skin and hair.  Their prep lab was awesome, and we learned that they use garnet sand in the bins they prop the fossils in to work on instead of sand because garnets produce less dust. Very cool. We also saw various stages of the process of fossil casting – done to ensure multiple museums have access to great display material. After our behind the scenes tour we were escorted to the main hall – where throngs of visitors hurried to and fro for the final weekend of the paleo hall before it’s closing for several years for a make-over. We were told our visitor badges gave us special privileges for the day and invited to eat in the staff cafeteria, which several of us took advantage of. We felt very special indeed. After a quick bite we roamed what remained of the paleo section, saw the display area they had set up to receive the Wankle T-Rex and even got to see a 3-D printer in action. It was a wonderful tour and certainly worth a return trip – even if the paleo hall is closed – it’s more fun BEHIND the scenes andyway. A big THANK YOU to Dave Bohaska for making the trip possible.