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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

About the Museum

George Zug, a herpetologist, demonstrating identification of frogs to students in Chatthin Wildlife Sanctuary, Myanmar.

George Zug, a herpetologist, demonstrating identification of frogs to students in Chatthin Wildlife Sanctuary, Burma.
Photo by Carl Hansen.


We increase knowledge and inspire learning about nature and culture, through outstanding research, collections, exhibitions, and education, in support of a sustainable future.


Understanding the natural world and our place in it.

Core Values

Science: we use the scientific method to propose and test hypotheses and generate new knowledge.

Intellectual freedom: we recruit and train the best minds and give them independence to pursue important questions.

Excellence: we deliver the highest quality products and services in all endeavors, from research publications to exhibitions and educational programs.

Diversity: we capitalize on the richness inherent in differences.

Integrity: we achieve our goals with the greatest responsibility and accountability.

Core Strengths

People: our staff and volunteers are exceptionally experienced and dedicated to our mission.

Collections: we care for the largest natural history collections in the world.

Recognition: we have a long tradition and are widely known throughout the United States and the world as part of the Smithsonian Institution.

Location: our headquarters in Washington, D.C., provides access to national and international partners and audiences and is of symbolic importance to all our constituencies.

Partnerships: we are dedicated to collaboration with other parts of the Smithsonian, government agencies, universities, and museums in the United States and abroad.

Strategic Plan

Cover of 2010-2015 Strategic Plan

For information about the Museum's direction and stategy, see Knowledge for a Sustainable Future: Strategic Plan 2010–2015 (PDF)

What Sets the National Museum of Natural History Apart?

NMNH Capabilities Brochure Cover. Photography Credits: Valerie Bruchon, Chip Clark, Karolyn Darrow, James Di Loreto, Encyclopedia of Life, Donald E. Hurlbert, Ali Khawaja, Mehgan Murphy, John Steiner, Joseph Talman, Don Wilson, Young-ku Yang, and Christian Ziegler, Smithsonian Institution.

For an overview of the National Museum of Natural History, please download our brochure (PDF)

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