Sunday, January 20, 2013

When Time and Duty Permit: Collecting During World War II

Where: Natural History Museum

When: through April 28, 2013

This exhibit is in the other large display case that's been moved from the vestibule.  It focuses on the work that scientists who were serving in the military during WWII and even regular soldiers did in the area of conservation.

The Smithsonian was able to advise the military about the geographic cultures and natural world of the Pacific region when the U.S. entered the war against Japan.  Curators at the Smithsonian encouraged soldiers to explore the natural world and send back specimens when they were able to do so.  Many servicemen found it a welcome break from the stresses of combat and were happy to assist the museum in its quest for items to add to its collection.

Smithsonian scientists themselves served in the military, and they also sent back specimens.  As a result, the Smithsonian developed a tremendous collection.  It became, and remains, a powerhouse in the field of Pacific studies.  One of the scientists specifically mentioned in the exhibit is S. Dillon Ripley, the Secretary of the Smithsonian from 1964-1984, and for whom the Ripley Center is named.  It was interesting to learn a bit more about Ripley, since I've been to shows in the building named for him many times.

Verdict: Well worth a few minutes of your time.  Like the rhino exhibit, it's easy to add this on to a trip to the museum to see a larger show.

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