Not only does D.C. play host to many museums about uncommon topics (think the National Museum of American Jewish Military History or the National Postal Museum), many organizations located here also offer contributions of the museum variety. Take, for example, the Koshland Science Museum, which is the official museum of the National Academy of Sciences.
One thing right off the bat—although “science museum” may conjure up happy moments of your youth where you played with magnets and looked at cells under microscopes, this museum is decidedly not for kids. Which in my opinion actually makes it more unique, worthwhile, and interesting. It also is a welcome refresher to the fact that many adults don’t feel comfortable in museums designed for kids, prompting one writer to allege (with statistics and other evidence) that “science museums are failing grown-ups.”
Which brings us to the Koshland, whose mission is to “use science to solve problems.” It is quite small, in that it just has a few exhibits. But these exhibits are on big topics and also use super snazzy technology to pull you in.
The biggest exhibit featured at the Koshland is on global climate change. “Earth Lab: Degrees of Change” focuses on the causes of climate change, environmental issues, and solutions to them. Other exhibits include those that focus on the human body and immunology. One of my favorite things to do at the Koshland was play around with the high-tech and flashy interactive exhibits, especially those that included videos about light pollution and dark matter.
It’s quite notable that the Koshland is backed by and based upon the research of the National Academies. The National Academy of Sciences (whose sisters organizations are the National Research Council, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine) was created by Congressional charter in 1863 to be an independent science advisor to the government. This is all to say that the topics and research put forward that are presented at the museum are of some of the most rigorous and cutting-edge out there.
The Koshland is designed to expose the public to scientific research, which is useful, considering that these topics are often mired in ivory tower jargon and are fairly unapproachable. And in an era where science is becoming increasingly politicized, it seems like this kind of place has never been more necessary.
To visit: 525 E Street NW, (202) 334-1201, hours are 10am-6pm every day but Tuesday, adults $7. Gallery Place/Judiciary Square/Archives metro stops, or lots of buses.