Smithsonian’s Naturalist Center Scheduled to Return to National Museum of Natural History

June 21, 2011
News Release

The Naturalist Center will return from its location is Leesburg, Va., to the Museum of Natural History in 2013 when it will become part of a new educational facility at the museum. The popular learning center has been operated as a joint program with Loudoun County, Va., and is currently located in a building leased by the county for the Smithsonian. The Naturalist Center was relocated to Leesburg in 1995 to accommodate ongoing renovations of the 100-year-old Natural History Museum building.

The Naturalist Center in Leesburg will continue to serve the public through July 9, after which it will close in preparation for the move back to the National Mall. Up-to-date information on the center is available at

At the Naturalist Center visitors have hands-on experiences with collections and are able to conduct scientific investigations similar to those done by Smithsonian scientists. They work with animals, rocks, minerals, bones and other real objects to learn more about the natural world and scientific research. When it returns to the Mall, visitors will be able to explore museum collections in the same way with a new emphasis on the tools and technologies scientists use. They will also meet scientists face-to-face and hear their amazing stories of adventure and discovery.

“The Naturalist Center is one of the jewels of the science education program at the Smithsonian,” said Bill Watson, chief of learning and evaluation at the museum. “We are thrilled that the Naturalist Center will soon be an integral part of a much larger, expanded facility that will offer our visitors even more opportunities to become connected to science and the natural world.”

The center is a popular destination for school groups and families seeking direct access to natural history specimens in a museum setting. The return to the museum will make the materials available to the approximately 7 million people who visit each year. The center in Leesburg had about 9,000 visitors a year.

“We wish to express our sincere appreciation to the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors and the Loudoun County Public Schools for the tremendous support they have provided the center during its stay in Leesburg,” said Richard Efthim, manager of the Naturalist Center. “Over the course of 16 years the Leesburg site has hosted more than 150,000 visitors—people who have learned about everything from paleobiology to botany and earth sciences. We also wish to pay tribute to our wonderful team of volunteers, whose dedication and tireless energy has made the Naturalist Center such a success.”

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History is located at 10th Street and Constitution Avenue N.W. in Washington, D.C. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., with extended hours during the summer (until 7:30 p.m.). Admission is free. Moreinformation about the museum is available at or by calling (202) 633-1000, TTY (202) 633-5285.

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