National Museum of Natural History

How to Take the Perfect Selfie at the Smithsonian

This African Bush Elephant is just the first of many photogenic sites for visitors at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. (James Di Loreto, Smithsonian Institution)
This African Bush Elephant is just the first of many photogenic sites for visitors at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. (James Di Loreto, Smithsonian Institution)

Selfies are a way to capture a moment and show off what you have done. What better place to do that than at the Smithsonian? This #MuseumSelfieDay, capture and share moments as you explore the world of dinosaurs, animals, geology and human origins at the National Museum of Natural History.

The natural selection of selfies

A visitor wraps his arm around the bronze shoulders of a Charles Darwin statue on display in the "David H. Koch Hall of Fossils - Deep Time" at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.
Studying nature with Charles Darwin in the “Hall of Fossils - Deep Time.” (Bailey Bedford, Smithsonian Institution)

If you don’t mind your selfie partner giving you the cold shoulder, visit Charles Darwin in the new “Hall of Fossils - Deep Time.” You’ll find his statue in the middle of the exhibit working on a sketch of the tree of life. Wrap an arm around his bronze shoulder and snap a picture of the two of you admiring the creatures from Earth’s past, including a T. rex, an American mastodon and a duck-billed dinosaur that was one of the last dinosaur species to roam America.

A visitor squats to take a bronze fish being offered by a life-size bronze statue of Homo heidelberensis on display in the "Hall of Human Origins" at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.
It’s always nice to share a meal around a fire and catch up on the prehistoric gossip. (Bailey Bedford, Smithsonian Institution)

But Darwin isn’t the only photogenic life-size statue around the museum. In the “Hall of Human Origins,” you can snap a photo as you accept food from Homo heidelberensis who lived over 200,000 years ago or pose with an ape as you watch a video on the mammal’s evolution in the Evolution Theater. These models give you the opportunity to imagine yourself interacting with the other characters in the millennium spanning story of our world.

Larger-than-life selfies

A visitor mimics the stoic expression of the Easter Island stone figure on display in the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.
I couldn’t get the Moai from Easter Island to smile for my selfie. (Bailey Bedford, Smithsonian Institution)

The museum has many exhibits that are larger than life. The Moai, more commonly known as an Easter Island stone figure, makes a perfect selfie partner if you don’t mind his grim facial expression. You can find him on the ground floor across from the very photogenic T. rex skull.

Searching for other colossal selfie partners? Check out the majestic African bush elephant in the Rotunda or the towering Diplodocus in the “Hall of Fossils - Deep Time.”

Over-whale-ming selfies

A visitor eats a pastry while taking a selfie in front of the 52-foot megalodon model on display in the Ocean Terrace Café at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.
Looks like I wasn’t the only one craving a snack! (Bailey Bedford, Smithsonian Institution)

If you want a selfie with a giant of the sea, then head to the Ocean Terrace Café on the first floor. You can grab a snack and a snap a selfie with the recently installed, 52-foot megalodon model. Keep an eye on the gigantic shark that prowled the ocean between 2.6 and 23 million years ago, lest you end up the snack.

A visitor smiles for a selfie next to the North Atlantic right whale on display in the "Sant Ocean Hall" at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.
Selfies are much better down where its wetter — under the sea! (Bailey Bedford, Smithsonian Institution)

Outside the café, you can also get a shot of the North Atlantic right whale model looming over you in the “Ocean Hall.” But if you want the best angle of the gentle giant, you should go up to the minerals gift shop on the second floor. In the back corner of the store, you can line up a selfie capturing both yours and the whale’s face.

Photobombed jungle style

A visitor appears scared in a selfie with a tiger on display in the "Kenneth E. Behring Family Hall of Mammals" at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.
Escaped by the seat of my pants in the mammals exhibit! (Bailey Bedford, Smithsonian Institution)

Watch out! You might get photobombed by a fierce hunter in your “Hall of Mammals” selfie. To the left of the entrance from the Rotunda, a tiger is permanently lunging towards its prey. Decide whether to pose happily oblivious to the looming threat or cowering in terror – either way, it’s sure to be an action-packed selfie.

Orangutans, bison and other wild selfies await if you venture further into the exhibit; just try not to cut off the giraffe’s head in your photo.

Hands on history

A visitor places his hand on a recreation of a hand print in an ancient cave on display in the "David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins" at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.
High-fiving history at the ancient cave paintings recreations in the “Hall of Human Origins.” (Bailey Bedford, Smithsonian Institution)

As you travel through the museum and all the times and places it spans, there are several recreated scenes to immerse you in the science. In the “Hall of Human Origins,” you can snap a picture of yourself with cave paintings created by our ancestors thousands or even tens of thousands of years ago. Perhaps it will inspire you to reflect on how humans have documented our journey through the world.

Other photo-ready scenes include a cave complete with picturesque stalagmites and stalactites and a re-creation of the Sterling Hill Mine with its fluorescent rocks in the “Hall of Geology, Gems, and Minerals.”. If you frame your selfie just right, your friends might not even realize you were in a museum.

Know thy selfie

The keys to an awesome selfie are creativity and having fun. If these suggestions don’t suit your style, seek out an exhibit that speaks to you and take a selfie capturing the moment. We would love to see them, so please share them with #MuseumSelfieDay and tag us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter!

Related stories:
Megalodon May Be Extinct, but There’s a Life-size One at the Smithsonian
Five Things You Shouldn’t Miss in the New Fossil Hall
Try These Hands-on Activities in the Smithsonian’s New Fossil Hall

Bailey Bedford

Bailey Bedford is an intern in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History’s Office of Communications and Public Affairs. His science journalism has appeared in Inside Science, Eos, The San Jose Mercury News and other outlets. He recently completed the graduate program in Science Communication at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He also holds a MS and a BS in physics from Pennsylvania State University and Oklahoma University, respectively.

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