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National Museum of Natural History

Location10th St. & Constitution Ave. NW Washington, D.C. 20560, Washington D.C., USA

Type(s) of establishmentNatural History and Natural Science Museums

Type Permanent exhibition

Collection Dinosaurs, fossils and bones

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History

The David H. Koch Hall of Fossils – Deep Time, is a 31,000-square-foot exhibit that opened in 2019.

Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History

Explore Earth history like never before

The exhibition spans 3.7 billion years and urges visitors to draw connections across geological time scales.

The museum spent over a decade brainstorming and crafting every inch of this exhibit.

Deep Time features roughly 700 fossil specimens, many never displayed before such as a giant sloth with sheathed claws, massive sea predators and a popular Tyrannosaurus rex, chomping on a Triceratops.

Deep Time features roughly 700 fossil specimens, many never displayed before such as a giant sloth with sheathed claws, massive sea predators and a popular Tyrannosaurus rex, chomping on a Triceratops.

The Scope

Zone Display Cases was an important collaborator to the project, contracted to supply more than 30 gigantic cases, which actually consisted in over 100 different modules, to accommodate this truly impressive collection of ancient creatures.

Some of the cases that we designed were as long as 40 feet and as tall as 13 feet.

Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History

Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History

Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History

Our Scope of work included a variety of stainless steel reader rails for AV integration.

Our Scope of work included a variety of stainless steel reader rails for AV integration.

Challenge

Although most cases represented a challenge due to their complexity and sizes.

Many of the display cases had irregular shapes and angles, and were specifically designed to hold a tremendous amount of weight, both on the base and on the actual structure to support freestanding and suspended objects.

Every single case for this project has been computer modelled with high resolution 3D renderings.

Every single case for this project has been computer modelled with high resolution 3D renderings.

A real technical feat

Our biggest challenge was to design and build a case around a vertically mounted fossil of a Stegosaurus that had been embedded for decades in the museum’s floor.

For this purpose, it would be impossible for us to obtain field measurements prior to designing and producing the case that would reach the floor to the ceiling.

Access from front and the back

On top of this extremely challenging situation, the museum staff had indicated their desire to have access to the fossil from both the front and the back of the case.

Our Solutions

A collaboration between Zone Display Cases and the other contractor was quickly put forward in order to exchange 3D technical drawings that would allow us to proceed with the design and fabrication of this unique case.

We also purposely planned for a gap around our structure to give us more flexibility when installing the case and make sure it would fit.

We arranged to use shims and hide any gaps with aesthetical fillers.

We also purposely planned for a gap around our structure to give us more flexibility when installing the case and make sure it would fit.

We arranged to use shims and hide any gaps with aesthetical fillers.

We made access on both sides of the case possible by providing several large hinged glass doors on the front , and multiple access doors on the solid back wall, via a maintenance corridor that ran along the wall on which the case was leaning.

The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History has the largest fossil collection in the world with 40 million specimens and a team of expert scientists studying the evolution of the Earth and its biological communities over time.

Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History
Products featured in this project