If you’ve ever been to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, you’ve seen fascinating exhibits on everything from science and history to fashion and culture. But what is put on display is nothing compared to the many treasures the Smithsonian stores in its archives, particular those in the National Museum of Natural History. Approximately 90% of the Smithsonian’s collections are stored at the NMNH, including 126 million items types of plants, animals, fossils, minerals, rocks, etc. Luckily, you don’t have to imagine what that collection looks like. Photographer Chip Clark recently went inside the archives to take a look and, boy, is that a massive collection.
The photos are impressive, to say the least. It’s full of millions of items, ranging from massive skeletons to microscopic plants, each needing to be appropriately catalogued and stored for reference by researchers. Perhaps that’s why the photos look less like a museum warehouse and more like a Hollywood prop house.
The colorful and carefully classified mineral collection blows any school kid’s rock collection out of the water. There are giant whale fossils, statue heads, and mountains of plants pressed between paper. And, of course, endless rows of animal carcasses—all impeccably preserved in the name of research.
We can only imagine what a labor of love goes into the endless organizing and upkeep. Shout out to the employees who do it for the world’s benefit.