The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History will reopen its dinosaur and fossil hall Saturday, June 8. The 31,000-square-foot exhibition will feature an authentic Tyrannosaurus rexskeleton alongside more than 700 other fossil specimens, including mammals, reptiles, plants, and insects—some never before displayed at the museum. The exhibition tells the story of 3.7 billion years of life on Earth, highlighting the connections among ecosystems, climate, geological forces and evolution and encouraging visitors to understand that the choices they make today will have an impact on the future. “The David H. Koch Hall of Fossils—Deep Time” is named in recognition of a $35 million gift from David H. Koch.
“Visitors to the new hall will go on a voyage like no other—a journey that begins in the past and ends in the future,” said Kirk Johnson, Sant Director of the National Museum of Natural History. “Along the way, they will experience the history of life on Earth—a story told through extraordinary fossils and engaging interactive exhibits. Visitors will also be called upon to consider the very real challenges our planet faces and their role in shaping a desirable future.”
What Is Deep Time?
What is normally thought of as history is only a tiny fraction of Earth’s actual past. Earth’s history has played out over billions of years in what scientists call Deep Time.
Main Messages of the Exhibition
Fossils are clues from the past that reveal life’s 3.7 billion-year history on Earth. The Deep Time perspective gives context to the world today and helps predict how the human species and all life will fare in the future. Major themes throughout the hall include:
- All life is connected—past, present and future—to all other life and to the Earth itself.
- Evolution: Life is continually changing through time.
- Ecosystems Change: Ecosystems changed through time and continue to do so.
- Earth Processes: Geological processes and global cycles cause ecosystem and evolutionary changes.
- Extinction: Mass extinctions have periodically devastated life on Earth.
- Age of Humans and Global Change: Humans are now shaping the future and the fate of life on Earth.
The hall is a curving chronicle of the entire history of life on Earth that shows the origin and evolution of plants and animals, recreates their ancient worlds and highlights past examples of climate change and extinction. Visitors can use the Warner Age of Humans Bridge for a panoramic view of the exhibition. They can learn about the myriad ways in which humans are causing rapid, unprecedented change to the planet in the Warner Age of Humans Gallery. This gallery was created in consultation with the museum’s Anthropocene Advisory Committee—a panel of eminent scholars, communicators, and educators from nationally recognized organizations, who address human impact and climate change on the planet. Other highlights include the FossiLab where visitors can watch experts prepare fossils and the Coralyn W. Whitney Basecamp, a hands-on interactive gallery where visitors can explore the scientific process of asking questions and examining the evidence.