Friday 30 Apr, 2010

The super secret museum support center

It’s not exactly a super secret center, but according to Dan Brown’s “The Lost Symbol,” it certainly has intrigue. The Smithsonian’s Museum Support Center is the research and storage facility for a large portion of the 137 million objects in the Institution’s collection. From bugs to stuffed giraffes, and objects from early archaeological excavations in the 19th century to modern art pieces, the facility houses an amazing variety of artifacts.

As a working facility with curators doing research, conservators preserving objects, and move teams sending collections to museums nationwide for display, the Museum Support Center is constantly busy with activity. Located about 20 minutes outside Washington, D.C., the facility is not open to the general public but will meet with researchers and special groups by appointment only.

This week, EF Explore Americaers had the opportunity to get an inside peek.

Meeting with researchers and experts, the group viewed mosquitoes from around the world and learned how they transmit diseases like malaria and yellow fever. They quickly learned that the U.S. Military prioritized these issues during World War II because more soldiers were dying from mosquito-transmitted diseases than from combat.

Then they learned how artists create replicas of animals, fish, and other living things for use in Smithsonian exhibits. While some taxidermists use the skins of animals to mount for display, others need to be recreated from fiberglass to show their true shapes. How often do you get a chance to see a cougar this close?

Finally, the group met with Associate Curator Cedric Yee, and discussed the Japanese Internment Camps of World War II. Imagining what it would have been like for the U.S. Government to round up people quickly that were of a certain descent and send them away from their communities to camps in other states was a great opportunity to discuss civil liberties and freedoms we take for granted. The students had to imagine packing one bag of belongings, relinquishing their name and be given a family number, and then sent to a camp with no privacy and no freedom.

Science, history, art and culture all came together at the Museum Support Center- just another day at the Smithsonian Institution