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2001 SPS National Intern
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Mark Lentz
Mark Lentz
Northwestern State University, Natchitoches, LA

Internship: SPS National Office/SPS Outreach

The Smithsonian Institution: A Most Impressive Collection

I have been hearing about the Smithsonian Institute from the time that I was in grade school. I had even seen television programs about new and impressive exhibits that we being established there. All this time, I was thinking that the Smithsonian Institute was one enormous building that was divided into many different categories. Well it is true that the Institute is broken up into different categories, but it isn't just in one building. The Smithsonian Institute that I had always heard about is actually a collection of well over a dozen museums that are all located in the same general area called "the mall". Each building houses a category and each building is subcategorized within. These buildings are impressively designed and they are, at least by Louisiana standards, enormous.

The first building on my "to see" list was the National Museum of Natural History. This was the building that housed something that I had longed to see: dinosaurs! LOOK! There's bunches of them! (pictured at left—photo by Chip Clark).

The fossils of these ancient giants intrigued me. In this area of the building was also the Ice Age fossils which were, to my surprise, as or more impressive than the ancient reptiles. The towering giant land sloth looked like something from a Sci-Fi movie and the American mas to don looked like an ancient tank. It was amazing to think that these mammals roamed the earth that I now stand on less than 15,000 years ago is just humbling. I saw fossil after fossil of reptiles and mammals that looked as if they were from another world, yet they were merely from another time. The past, present and future of creation and evolution makes my simple mind dizzy.

The other area that I was eager to see was the "Geology, Gems and Minerals". The main attraction in this area is the world famous "Hope Diamond" (pictured at right) . It is the world's largest deep blue diamond. To me, personally, it was as pretty as any other diamond that I have every seen, but I have to say; it sure is big -- 45.52 carats! The Hope Diamond--the world's largest deep blue diamond--is more than a billion years old. It formed deep within the Earth and was carried by a volcanic eruption to the surface in what is now India.

The most beautiful "jewels" that I saw were in the Geology and Minerals area. Naturally formed crystals and varying composite meteors were what caught my eye. Their non-uniform shape and distinct uniqueness were quite impressive and extremely vivid. The interactive displays that were available explaining plate tech-tonics, volcanic activity, solar system and planet formation were truly unique. The "please touch" displays that were all throughout this area were quite popular and enlightening.

The displays that I've discussed are what I spent most of my time on, but they are a mere tidbit of what is located within this museum alone. I spent all day just in this one building. There are several gift shops, restaurants, and even an Imax theatre located within. This was just one of the many museums that I plan to visit at "the mall" during my stay in D.C. The Smithsonian Institute definitely has the most impressive collection of rarities of which I have ever heard and certainly the most impressive that I have ever seen. That's one museum down, and only 14 more to go! I look forward to each and every one!



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