Tuesday

Behind-The-Scenes

So... I just had the opportunity to see something that most people will never see in their lifetime!

It started with a few phone calls and e-mail messages trying to get a private viewing of 2 gemstones in the Smithsonian's permanent collection. A dear friend of mine had cut the donated stones in the early 1990's, but only had a couple of pictures from a magazine article to show for it. Knowing that I travel to D.C. a couple of times a year, he asked if I could try to get a couple more pictures.

Luckily, the gentleman I contacted at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History knew exactly what stones I was looking for and where they were located in the archives.

On Monday, my friend Kathy & I rode into downtown D.C. on the Metro, and got in line to go into the Smithsonian. My husband joined us from his office nearby... and the three of us were admitted through security, given passes to go into the "Employees Only" areas, and were picked up by our host.

We walked down a long corridor of marble floors, took a right turn into a small hallway and walked down some narrow steps to catch an old elevator (decorated heavily in tarnished brass and mirrors). We slowly went up several floors and exited into a poorly lit hallway. In true museum style - sitting next to the elevator doors was a GIANT specimen of petrified wood with bands of yellow, green, black, and brown rock hinting at the composition of the 4-foot-tall chunk of rock.

Next we passed through two heavy metal doors and walked down another hallway that had large pipes running along the ceiling hanging so low that if anyone over 6'3" would need to duck to avoid hitting their head on the joints. To our left was a small, unassuming brown metal door with a key-pass lock.

Our host swiped his neck tag, punched in a code, and the door opened up to a living-room sized office. There was an old 1950's metal desk on the right, complete with an aged desk lamp and green-screen computer. To the left were a few tall wooden cases with hastily scribbled cards taped to the many drawers. Along the far wall were filing cabinets, a coffee pot 1/2 empty and stained from years of use... but this was not yet our stop.

We passed through another door that opened into a warehouse. Like a scene from an Indiana Jones film - this huge space held 10-foot-tall wooden filing cases as far as the eye could see to the right and straight ahead. As we walked along, our host pulled one drawer open and said, "We keep rock and mineral specimens of every kind from everywhere in the country here. There's sorted by locale." I peeked into the drawer labeled "Antarctica" to see rocks that looked like what someone would find in their yard.

Our small group walked about 30 yards, then took a left turn and walked another 15 yards and passed through one last door. Inside were glass display cases along every wall loaded with some of the most amazing rocks I've seen in my lifetime... hidden away from public view because they are probably not as rare as what is on display currently, but just beautiful. Two small gem cases were brought before me, and there the two stones were laid out for me to take pictures of.

It was a short ordeal setting up my tripod and correcting the light settings, then a few clicks later we were done.

We left the way we had came in, except instead of getting onto the elevator we went through two different sets of doors and were released into the "Minerals" branch of the museum. A few smiles and handshakes later, our host left... and my husband, friend, and I boggled over the experience we had just enjoyed. It was just - amazing.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

How exciting.

11:13 AM  
Blogger Trouble said...

Now I really want to go visit a museum and ogle things!

2:19 PM  

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