Smithsonian Gardens Presents “Habitat”

Inaugural Smithsonian-Wide Exhibition Features 14 Distinct Exhibits
May 14, 2019
News Release
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mushroom sculpture

Life Underground exhibit outside of the National Museum of American History
"Mushroom" by Foon Sham
Image courtesy of the Smithsonian


For the first time in its 47-year history, Smithsonian Gardens is presenting a campus-wide exhibition featuring multiple exhibits across the Smithsonian. “Habitat,” on display through December 2020, includes 14 distinct exhibits in indoor and outdoor garden spaces at various Smithsonian museums, all exploring a central theme: protecting habitats protects life.   

The exhibition highlights the importance of habitats and offers simple ways humans can help protect them. Each exhibit explores the central theme “protecting habitats protects life” through the lens museum at which it is located. For example, Habitat of Flight at the National Air and Space Museum illustrates how the natural world has inspired innovations in flight, and Nests in the National Museum of Natural History’s Urban Bird Habitat highlights the diversity of spaces where birds live and raise their young through large-scale realistic nests.

Each exhibit features interpretive panels that invite visitors to learn more about topics related to habitats and their importance to life and what they can do to help preserve habitats. For example, several exhibits focus on the different structures plants and animals call home, like nests, birdhouses and beehives, and how visitors can help preserve these structures and the resources needed to build them in their own gardens. “Habitat” also explores different ecosystems and how Smithsonian scientists study them. For example, Biomes: Life in the Balance in the S. Dillon Ripley Center features different biomes found in North America and how scientists at the Smithsonian are studying disruptions to the balance of these ecosystems; Sign of the Dragonfly in the Moongate Garden examines how conservationists study indicator species, like dragonflies, to determine the health of an ecosystem.  

“The exhibition underscores Smithsonian Gardens’ mission to inform people on the importance of plants in our cultural and natural worlds,” said Barbara Faust, director of Smithsonian Gardens. “It challenges visitors to reflect how protecting habitats protects life. We hope visitors will begin to understand how habitats are interconnected and fragile, and examine their role in protecting habitats.”

Public Programs

The exhibition will be accompanied by educational programs for children and adults around the theme of habitats, including “Let’s Talk Gardens” lunchtime talks and demonstrations on gardening basics. They will be held every Thursday May through June and September through October at 12:15 p.m. in the Enid A. Haupt Garden.

Smithsonian Gardens is also partnering with the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District (BID) to bring programs related to “Habitat” to the Golden Triangle—the 43-square-block neighborhood that stretches from Dupont Circle to Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. Throughout the summer of 2019, various Golden Triangle BID programs, including Farragut Fridays and Golden Cinema movie nights, will feature educational information and hands-on activities related to gardens and the importance of habitats.

About Smithsonian Gardens

Since its inception in 1972, Smithsonian Gardens has extended the Smithsonian’s museum experience in a public garden setting, inspiring visitors with exceptional displays and educating them about horticulture, plants, the natural and build environments and artistic design. Its research and educational programs promote the ongoing development of collections of living plants, garden documentation and horticultural artifacts. Smithsonian Gardens is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. For more information, visit the Smithsonian Gardens website.


Note to Editors: Selected high-resolution images are available for download here.


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Alexandria Fairchild