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Inside The Vast Archives Of The Smithsonian's Museum Of Natural History

The secret world of biological museum samples.

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The Smithsonian Institution is made up of 19 museums and galleries across the United States. As well as the exhibits on display to the public, there are enormous collections of samples kept in storage. These pictures, released by the Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History, show just some of the huge number of samples kept behind closed doors.

From exotic parrots to shells, leaves, and butterfly samples, the archives have helped experts to explore the biological and cultural diversity of our planet, and learn how we evolved.

With such a huge variety of samples, experts are able to see evolutionary changes, tracing back the lineage of specific plants and animals, and can then find out how to help the continued survival of species.


Paleontologist Hans Sues and his colleagues discovered a new relative of the T. rex in the field in Uzbekistan and were able to use the museum's collection to identify the previously unknown species.

"Dubbed Timurlengia euotica, it was an early T. rex relative that was much smaller in size than the dinosaur we’re all familiar with," a spokesperson from the Smithsonian tells BuzzFeed. "And the scientists could deduce from the fossils that it had remarkable intelligence and hearing. In addition to just being a cool discovery, this helps us understand more about how and when T. rex and other creatures evolved."

The archives include 30 million insects dried and pinned into boxes, 4.5 million plants preserved by pressing them into sheets of paper that are then placed in the museum's herbarium, 7 million fish in jars filled with preserving liquids, and 2 million cultural artefacts, along with 400,000 photographs. With a total of 126 million natural science specimens and artefacts, the collections must be expertly catalogued.