This is bittersweet news for me. The dinosaur hall at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History is closed for five years to make way for a total renovation.
I love the Smithsonian’s dino gallery. It was the first major fossil exhibit I ever saw (so long ago that some of the occupants were probably breathing at the time). There aren’t many museum experiences that could excite me more than walking through the NMNH rotunda, past that big bull elephant, and stepping into that massive hall dominated by a Diplodocus.
What I loved almost as much as the skeletons were the dioramas in the rear of the gallery. They were like little windows into a world I usually had to imagine. I doubt they’ll survive the renovation, since they’re pretty outdated. But to tell you the truth, once I got older I loved the fact that they were showing their age, because they took me back to the dinosaur books I read when I was a kid—books with dinos that hadn’t yet caught up with science, still lumbering around in swampy forests with their tails dragging behind them.
The new exhibit should be pretty awesome. They’re mounting a new T. rex, which I guess will replace the cast of “Stan” from the old hall. Until then, Washington, D.C. is going to be a lot less awesome. I really wish I could’ve visited this year, just to walk through one last time.