National Museum of Natural History

About the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

National Museum of Natural HistoryThe National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) is dedicated to inspiring curiosity, discovery and learning about the natural world through its unparalleled research, collections, exhibitions, and education outreach programs. Opened in 1910, the green-domed museum on the National Mall was among the first Smithsonian buildings constructed exclusively to house the national collections and research facilities. Since opening, the main building on the National Mall has grown to the size of 18 football fields, and now houses over 1000 employees and more than 126 million natural science specimens and cultural artifacts.

Whether looking at the history and cultures of Africa, exploring the effects of climate change on earth’s plants and animals, describing our earliest Mammalian ancestor or primate diversity around the world, examining ancient life forms, or exploring the beauty of rare gemstones and meteorites, the Museum’s exhibitions educate and enlighten millions of visitors each year. All the Museum’s research and exhibitions relate to climate change in some aspect. Climate change is at the heart of our work.

Through its research, collections, education and exhibition programs, NMNH serves as one of the world’s great repositories of scientific and cultural heritage as well as a source of tremendous pride for all Americans.


Written in BoneWritten in Bone: Forensic Files of the 17th-Century Chesapeake

Written in Bone examines history through 17th-century bone biographies, including those of colonists teetering on the edge of survival at Jamestown, Virginia, and those living in the wealthy and well-established settlement of St. Mary’s City, Maryland.

The forensic investigation of human skeletons provides intriguing information on people and events of America’s past. No other inanimate objects make us feel the same passionate curiosity as the remains of once-living, breathing individuals like us. And nothing else can answer our questions in quite the same ways.



Curator Exhibition Tour: Written in Bone


The Secret in the CellarThe Secret in the Cellar: a Written in Bone Forensic Mystery from Colonial America

The Secret in the Cellar is a Webcomic based on an authentic forensic case of a recently discovered 17th Century body. Using graphics, photos, and online activities, the Webcomic unravels a mystery of historical, and scientific importance. Online sleuths can analyze artifacts and examine the skeleton for the tell-tale forensic clues that bring the deceased to life and establish the cause of death.

The Secret in the CellarWritten in Bone Teachers Guide

A special guide for teachers for the Written in Bone exhibition.





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Written in Bone: Buried Lives of Jamestown and Colonial MarylandWritten in Bone: Buried Lives of Jamestown and Colonial Maryland
By Sally M. Walker

Just as forensic scientists use their knowledge of human remains to help solve crimes, they use smiliar skills to solve the mysteries of the long-ago past. Join Sally M. Walker as she works alongside the scientists investigating colonial-era graves near Jamestown, Virginia, as well as other sites in Maryland. As you follow their investigations, she’ll introduce you to what scientists believe are the lives of a teenage boy, a ship’s captain, an indentured servant, a colonia official and his family, and an enslaved African girl. All are reaching beyond the grave to tell us their stories, which are Written in Bone. For ages 10-14. Hardcover, 144 pages.


Classroom ActivitiesWritten in Bone: Bone Biographer’s Casebook
By Douglas Owsley and Karin Bruwelheide

Smithsonian scientists Dr. Doug Owsley, division head for Physical Anthropology, and colleague Karin Bruwelheide. One part science and art and one part research and history, the book distills decades of study on human skeletons captured in the powerful images of Smithsonian science photographers Chip Clark and Brittney Tatchell. 11 1/2"l. x 9"w. x 11 1/2"h.





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