Arts Desk

Quake Toppled Preserved Specimens at Natural History Museum; NGA is Just Fine

A Smithsonian employee picks up fragments of preserved bats.

Although everything is just about back to normal at the Smithsonian Institution's museums after Tuesday's earthquake, the Smithsonian Castle is closed again today as teams continue to inspect damage sustained by the 156-year-old structure. The Smithsonian announced yesterday that the James Renwick-designed castle sustained "significant damage" to five of its decorative turrets. With heavy rain and blistering winds expected this weekend from Hurricane Irene, repair crews are "working to secure" the turrets.

Though no other Smithsonian buildings suffered damage in the 5.8 magnitude temblor, several of the institution's collections took some of the brunt. A bookshelf collapsed in the Botany and Horticulture Library at the National Museum of Natural History, spilling a few volumes to the floor. The quake's toll was more severe elsewhere in the building, as 50 jars of specimens preserved in alcohol toppled of their shelves. (The museum owns nearly 1 million preserved specimens.) A similar effect occurred at the Smithsonian's storage facility in Suitland, where eight jars of preserved fish specimens fell to the ground. All the spilled artifacts were promptly moved to temporary containers, the Smithsonian said in a press release.

The National Gallery of Art fared better, press chief Deborah Ziska says. No works of the gallery's collection—including its extensive library of sculptures and mobiles by Alexander Calder—sustained any damage.

Meanwhile, TBD reported that the tremor knocked chunks from the Empire State Building and Burj Khalifa. Well, not the actual skyscrapers, rather, their Lego recreations at the National Building Museum. The other 13 structures in the exhibit "LEGO Architecture: Towering Ambition" survived the earthquake unharmed, while the New York and Dubai structures can be easily repaired by snapping the Lego pieces back together assuming the museum didn't lose the instructions. (A common hazard for any Lego aficionado.)

Photo by James DiLoreto of the National Museum of Natural History.

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