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Smithsonian museums, tunnels and movies

Ever wonder if the network of tunnels, storage areas and stairwells underneath the museums depicted in Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian actually exists? I did—and now I know.

When it came out, my family enjoyed the film for more than one reason. While we liked the story itself (though perhaps not as much as the first film), we loved how this one takes place in our own backyard. Well, not literally: The film actually takes place in several of the Smithsonian museums on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.—which we visit frequently as we live in the DC Metro area.

One of the things that intrigued me most about the film was whether or not those networks of storage areas and tunnels in which Larry and his friends and enemies adventure were real. This week, Smithsonian sponsored an “Ask a curator” day on Twitter, so I asked about the tunnelsand they answered:
Actually we sort of do. There is a tunnel that connects Arts & Industries (closed) the Castle, @freersackler & @NMAfa
Translation? There is a tunnel that connects the Arts & Industries Building, the Smithsonian Castle, the Freer and Sackler Museums (which are also connected by a public tunnel that houses displays) and the National Museum of African Art.

Of course, these are only a few of the museums on the National Mall (see the map above). Are there tunnels connecting them together? Heh. Not according to the tweet above, but you never know.

By the way, the Smithsonian has an entire section on its web site focusing on the connections between the film and its museums, including a map and list of the artifacts that appeared in the movie and in which museums you can find them.

And, for what it’s worth, below are some photos I’ve taken of locations in the film.

The National Museum of Natural History.

The Lincoln Memorial.

The National Gallery of Art (my favorite building on the National Mall).

Outside the National Museum of American History.

A sculpture outside the National Air & Space Museum.

The Smithsonian Castle.

(Images: Poster, Laps Entertainment/1492 Pictures/20th Century Fox; map, Smithsonian; rest of photos are mine)


scott davidson said…
What an interesting blog, introduced by a thought-provoking photo. The unusual wall painting of the dwellings is also a strangely modern interpretation. Something like this hieroglyphic view of a park by Swiss painter Paul Klee,
The image can be seen at who can supply you with a canvas print of it.