Posts Tagged With: museum

Human Origins at the Smithsonian

Last in our student series is the first to make me jealous. Saskia Lascarez Casanova was a Smithsonian intern this past summer. I’ve been behind the scenes at the Smithsonian twice, and I can attest to what an amazing opportunity this must have been! Saskia reviews her visit to the Human Origins exhibit at the National Museum of Natural Science.

Human Origins: the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural Science’s exhibit on the origins and evolution of our ancestors.

This past summer, I was privileged enough to intern at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, and with that internship came lots of perks! My favorite one was the unlimited access to museums. We had special “museum day” outings where all Smithsonian interns got to go to select museums around the National Mall before opening to the public and explore the exhibits, along with behind-the-scenes events and access to various lectures. My first museum day was at the National Museum of Natural Science (NMNH), and I quickly realized that just an hour would not be enough time to explore the vast 1.5 million square foot museum.

hall entrance

Entrance to the Human Origins Hall

The most impressive exhibit by far was the David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins, which holds skull reconstruction of what our ancestors would have looked like, spanning the last six million years, down to the purported height along with incredible detail, making them seem life-like.

Skull wall

Replica skulls showing the sweep of human evolution.

The Human Origins Hall opened to the public in March of 2010, marking the museum’s 100th anniversary and inaugurating the intensive work of over 100 researchers from as many as 60 different educational and research organizations around the globe. Having just finished my introduction to anthropology class, this was a great chance to test the knowledge I had just learned and further educate myself on the subject. The 15,000 square foot exhibit begins with Lucy— one of the earliest hominins ever found, and continues on to show the different aspects of life during those times, like the new tools produced, the adaptation to social life, the use of symbols and their meaning, and the different changes that brought about the extinction of the Neanderthals.


Reconstruction of a Neandertal (photo courtesy of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History website)

Throughout the exhibit, there are various interactive tables and screens, which allow users to further look into certain topics. Archaeological field site information and interactive snapshots let you explore the methods archaeologists used to process their finds, along with a small overview of how the site was found and who was credited with the find. There is also an interactive family tree and a camera, which takes a picture of you and shows you what you would have looked like as a different species. The “One Species Living Worldwide” theater plays a 5-minute video, which tells the story of our adaptation and survival and takes you through the entire history of Homo sapiens.

This exhibit took me an hour alone to explore, and that was one corner of one floor out of three. I visited the NMNH on two other occasions, and spent a total of about 12 hours in the museum walking the three floors and soaking up the different exhibits. If you ever get the opportunity to go to the National Mall, be sure to make the NMNH your first stop as this is the second most popular museum and fills up quickly! Mammal Hall, Butterfly Pavilion, and the Bones exhibits are others worthy of mention, although Butterfly Pavilion is usually sold out up to hours in advance. And you cannot leave without seeing the Hope Diamond along with the entire Geology, Gems, and Minerals section. There is even a section dedicated to Egypt and the mummification process. If you cannot make the trip up to D.C., do not worry! All of the permanent exhibits in the NMNH are accessible online through their virtual tour webpage, but be warned, you will spend hours looking through it all!

For further exploration:

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural Science’s Virtual exhibitions

Human Origins Exhibition information page

Human Origins: One Species, Living Worldwide Video

More information on Lucy


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Public Archaeology Day at Wormsloe

Next in our student series is Kirstyn Cardwell who attended Public Archaeology Day at Wormsloe Historic Site this past weekend.

Public Archaeology Day at Wormsloe Historic Site

Wormsloe State Historic Site hosted a Public Archaeology Day on April 14, 2018. The site was originally owned by Noble Jones who came to America as a colonist with James Oglethorpe. He leased about 500 acres of land on Isle of Hope where he built a house he named Wormslow, later renamed Wormsloe. What is left of the structure is now considered the Tabby Ruins. His family passed the property down through the years and still own a large amount of the area today. (Wormsloe Pamphlet)


Wormsloe’s tabby ruins

Archaeology Day is a public outreach program to get the community interested in the history of Wormsloe. They set up a small excavation site for the guest to take part in. The site has not been excavated since 1969, so in 2017 they set up a small dig next to the tabby ruins. The archaeologist found arrow heads, pottery, a glass bottle, tools, pipes and buttons.

2017 artifacts

Artifacts from the 2017 dig

For Archaeology Day this year, they wanted to excavate another small section with the community to see what else can be found near the tabby ruins. Three archaeologists from Atlanta were brought in to help with the dig. They dug a small shovel test pit and were allowing guests to help dry screen the dirt that was dug out.


Test unit excavation at Wormsloe’s Public Archaeology Day


Screening soil from the test unit

They found small chunks of brick and other building materials that they think indicates a structure. Because of the type of building materials found, they think it could have been a blacksmith shop or somewhere they were doing metal working. The other idea is that these pieces could have been tossed from the main building that still partially stands.

2018 artifacts

Artifacts found during the 2018 Public Archaeology day

They had two booths set up in the area. At one booth was Sarah Love, the archaeology outreach coordinator for the Historic Preservation Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, explaining what archaeology is and what kind of items are found in Georgia. She explained to guests that archaeology is not always ancient ruins from Rome. Artifacts can be found all over Georgia ranging from Native American times to about 50 years ago. She had a table of findings from around Georgia.

The other booth was set up to let people know that they can volunteer at Wormsloe. If you would like to just go out and visit, they are open Tuesday through Sunday from 9 am to 5 pm. The site has hiking trials, a museum, a gift shop and ruins for you to explore. Animals are allowed on the site as long as they are on a leash.


Georgia Department of Natural Resources Brochure. Wormsloe State Historic Site.

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The Savannah History Museum: Artifacts to the Dentist’s Chair

Anna Peters visits the Savannah History Museum, a museum noted for their use of local archaeology and artifacts in their exhibits.

The Savannah History Museum: Artifacts to the Dentist’s Chair

On February 11, 2018, I paid a visit to the Savannah History Museum located on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd in Tricentennial Park. Overall, I enjoyed walking through Savannah’s history from pre-colonization (before 1733) to our modern culture. I also had the pleasure of visiting two additional exhibits, one showcasing the life of Juliette Gordon Low and the other showing the material and artistic culture of southern quilters. The permanent exhibits included artifacts from pre-colonization to colonization, steam locomotion, a Savannah dentist office, the Revolutionary War, and public archaeology in Savannah. My two favorite exhibits of the self-guided tour were the Central of Georgia Railway Company and Dr. Belford’s Dental Office.

The Central of Georgia Railway Company was established in 1835 because cotton shipping through the Savannah port was diminishing. Their rails eventually stretched from Savannah all the way to Macon, GA. Ultimately, the initial process of building this large railway lasted eight years and was completed in 1843. At that time, it was the most extensive railroad in the world. The museum showcased many intact artifacts ranging from tickets, pay stubs, and handbooks to dishes, teaware, and conductor hats. The museum also has a life sized steam locomotive displayed in the middle of all the exhibits.

C of Ga

Objects from the Central of Georgia Railway displayed at the Savannah History Museum.

The other exhibit is a recreation of Dr. William T. Belford’s dental office. For over 60 years, he practiced dentistry here in Savannah working most of his time alone, with no assistant or receptionist. He also continued to use his older equipment well into 1970s until his death in 1980. He purchased his equipment in 1919, so just place yourself in his worn dentist chair and imagine his tools chipping at your teeth. Yikes! Displayed in cases below the reproduced office are some of these actual tools and aids for common teeth problems, with papers and little booklets applying to his work.


Part of William Belford’s Dental Office.

The Savannah History Museum should be on every tourist’s “to-see” list and even citizens that need a little brush up on their own town’s history. The museum does its job educating people on Savannah’s history by incorporating hands on activities and involving public speakers dressed in period clothing. Even the horrific wax figures can help a child or adult understand what it was really like to live in that period of time. The continuation of donations and public outreach can really make a big difference in future enhancement of the museum’s exhibits and continue to educate the oncoming generations.

For more information on visiting the Savannah History Museum, click here.

Another student reviewed the Savannah History Museum several years ago. See her posting here.

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