I went on what can arguably be the most exclusive of tour in Washington DC, one so exclusive that I have to write a little something about it. One might be surprised that it took place inside one of the busiest and most visited places in DC: the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History (NMNH). Before I reveal what it is, let me offer some background. Many folks think that the Smithsonian is merely a museum.  It’s actually 19 museums and galleries, as well as the National Zoo. Admission to all the museums and galleries is free. But wait, there’s more! There are also 9 research facilities in the Washington region and elsewhere in Florida. Together they make up what is officially known as the Smithsonian Institution. The NMNH opened in 1910 and welcomed 7 million visitors in 2014. It contains over 127 millions specimens for research, much of which is conducted inside the museum.  I toured the Department of Mineral Science and met the curator of the general mineral collection, Jeff Post.

I had known of of the NMNH’s vast collection for a long time, but it was a thrill to see part of it in person, especially the part associated with one of the museum’s prized possessions, the Hope Diamond. At 45.52 carats, it would be hard to put a price on this stunning blue diamond.  Likewise, it would be hard to value many items in it’s collection.  Much of the collection is locked in the Gem Vault called “Blue Room,” named not after the Hope Diamond, but but because of the color of the room itself.  This is the most exclusive room in DC, much more exclusive than the Blue Room in the White House.  Unfortunately, I cannot post any pictures of the inside of that room for security reasons.  Instead, you can look at the article published by the GIA chronicling their visit.

I wish I could offer this tour to whomever wished to book it.  Unfortunately, I was able to go only because I was leading a group of students from Dr. Post’s home town on a multi-day Washington, DC tour. That doesn’t mean exclusive tours like after-hour visits and behind-the-scenes tours at the Smithsonian are not possible.  In fact, the Smithsonian offers exclusive events periodically throughout the year.  We here at Custom Tours of DC would be happy to help you plan your private tour of Washington DC around one of these events.  As far as the gems themselves, the NMNH curators put their very best items on display in the the exhibit space for all to see, and as always, the Hope Diamond.

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In a hallway with thousands of mineral samples

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