Where the Smithsonian houses its treasures

The Smithsonian's Museum Support Center houses more than 31 million objects.(WTOP/Dick Uliano)

You might not know what’s behind the locked gates on Silver Hill Road in Suitland, but WTOP got a look inside the Museum Support Center — a storage and conservation facility for the Smithsonian Institution.

Randall Kremer, chief spokesman for the National Museum of Natural History, says the millions of items are housed in the climate-controlled facility safeguarded by security.

“We have more than 50% of the Smithsonian’s collection right here at the Museum Support Center, it’s state of the art collection facilities,” Kremer said. “We have small insects, we also have large examples of whales.”

He made it clear the support center is not a warehouse; it’s an active center that regularly hosts researchers.

Members of the public can see parts of the collection, but only by appointment. (WTOP/Dick Uliano)

“We use these collections — they are living collections that are utilized each and every day,” Kremer said.

Besides natural history, there are items in the support center from the National Museum of American History … even works of art from the Hirshhorn Museum.

All the exhibits at the museums on the National Mall are just a fraction of the Smithsonian collection.

Behind the locked gates, you can see a giant bronze statue of a Native American hoisting a peace pipe. Inside the buildings, there are other works of art.

Kremer said some of the items are too large for the museums on the Mall.

“It is a place where everything is represented in one form or another as it pertains to the diversity of life on earth.

The collection is indeed vast.

“We have 35 million specimens in our entomology collection — the largest in the world,” Kremer said.

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Dick Uliano

Whether anchoring the news inside the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center or reporting from the scene in Maryland, Virginia or the District, Dick Uliano is always looking for the stories that really impact people's lives.

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