12 Amazing Photos of the Smithsonian's Secret Collections

Trevor English

The Smithsonian Institution has a seemingly endless collection of artifacts and museum pieces on display, but you may not know that they have huge warehouses filled with everything from rocks to boxes of mice. This large percentage of the Institution's collection is meticulously organized in warehouses cared for by hundred of staff that work around the clock. When you walk into the Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C. you are presented with a staggering amount of displays. It is then hard to believe that beneath those walls lie artifacts housed mostly in secret. Check out a small peak of everything the Smithsonian has stored away.

Birds collections from the Department of Vertebrate Zoology are displayed at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History. In the foreground is Roxie Laybourne, a feather identification expert. [Image Source: Smithsonian]

Lots and lots of stuffed birds and other animals are stored in drawers and cabinets, all labeled and constantly organized. You can start to see the staggering percentage of what is locked up in comparison to what is on display.

A view of one part of the Paleontology collection in the Smithsonian Institution's National Musuem of Natural History, arranged by the addition of representative specimens from other parts of the three floors of fossils in the East Wing. Staff: Dr. Scott Wing, Chairman of the Department of Paleontology. [Image Source: Smithsonian]

A look at the paleobiology room and all of the fossils contained therein. If you are looking for a specific fossilized animal to study, you can probably find it in the labyrinth of rows.

Collections from the Department of Invertebrate Zoology are displayed at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History. Invertebrate Zoology Staff present: Paul Greenhall, Robert Hershler, Ellen Strong, Jerry Harasewych, and Linda Cole. [Image Source: Smithsonian]

Every shell you can imagine, from the most common to those of the rarest creatures are carefully placed in padded boxes and stored for study at a later date. It would be incredible to walk through even an isle of these archives and see everything you could ever dream of.

A presentation of entomology specimens arranged within one aisle of the Entomology Department compactor collection cabinets at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History. Designed to illustrate the size and scope of the Entomology collection. May 9, 2006. Featured researchers: Dr. David Furth, Collections Manager; Dr. Ted Schultz, Research Entomologist; Dr. Jonathan Coddington, Senior Scientist; Patricia Gentili-Poole, Museum Technician. [Image Source: Smithsonian]

Bugs, butterflies, beetles, everything. If insects are your thing, then you will love this row of drawers where you can find endless specimens of every insect imaginable. At this point you might be beginning to notice that having only one of something isn't something that the Smithsonian does often, and if they do, it's probably because it's an ultra rare specimen.

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The Botany Department Herbarium at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History, displaying algae specimens, including coraline algae, wet specimens and the usual herbarium sheets. Featured researchers: Dr. James Norris (right, front), his research assistant Bob Sims (left, front), and associate researcher, Katie Norris (left, back). [Image Source: Smithsonian]

Who knew that there were endless sheets of flattened algae stored away to study, and organize. You would have to be an expert to tell the differences between many of these specimens.

Anthropological collections on display in Pod 4 (designed to house oversized objects) at the Smithsonian Institution's Museum Support Center (MSC), located in Suitland, Maryland. Anthropology collections staff present. Panoramic image #7 of 7 at 26mm focal length. [Image Source: Smithsonian]

In the above picture, you can get a sense of not only the scale of certain artifacts, but the scale of the the warehouses the collections are stored in. Be thankful that there are people out there like the Smithsonian institution tirelessly preserving history.

Botanical collections are displayed at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History. Botany staff present are Dr. David Bruce Lellinger (left, front), Carol Kellof (right, middle), and Rusty Russell (left, back).[Image Source: Smithsonian]

Above you can see all tall stacks of flattened plant specimens and various other petrified woods.

Anthropological collections are displayed in Pod 1 at the Smithsonian Institution's Museum Support Center in Suitland, Maryland. [Image Source: Smithsonian]

Not only does the collection house scientific artifacts, but cultural ones as well, and they do a great job at preserving the history and emotion of past peoples.

An assortment of mineral specimens from the Department of Mineral Sciences' collections are displayed in the storage vault known as the [Image Source: Smithsonian]

Every rock and mineral you could ever imagine is labeled by location, type, origin, etc. all stored away for those who need to study them.

Whale skeletons from the Department of Vertebrate Zoology's marine mammals collections are displayed in storage at the Smithsonian Institution's Museum Support Center (MSC), located in Suitland, Maryland.[Image Source: Smithsonian]

Bigger rooms are needed for some of the larger pieces, like the whale skeleton pictured above in scattered parts.

Mice from the Department of Vertebrate Zoology's mammals collections are displayed at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History. [Image Source: Smithsonian]

Yes, even drawers of perfectly preserved rats and mice are stored in the collection. The exact purpose is not really clear, but if anything they are storing knowledge about species variations or genetic mutations throughout various generations.

The Department of Vertebrate Zoology's wet collections of fish specimens preserved in alcohol, located at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History.[Image Source: Smithsonian]

What's in those jars you ask? Fish, there are rows and rows of jars filled with fish preserved in formaldehyde in case anyone needs to study them. This would be one area you would want to be really careful to not knock anything over. Nobody wants to clean that up.

SEE ALSO: 300 Year Old Library Houses Incredible Artifacts

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