May 16, 1983 The Smithsonian’s Museum Support Center, a state-of-the-art Smithsonian collections management facility, opens in Suitland, Md., to house and protect millions of museum artifacts and specimens. The formal dedication is held on May 16, but Smithsonian staff were allowed to tour the facility from May 10-13.
The Museum Support Center is designed to provide optimal storage and conservation areas for the institution’s vast collections. There were originally four “pods,” laid out in a zig-zag pattern, so as to permit future growth. The astonishing variety of these specimens poses its own challenges. There are microscopic-sized organisms, tissue samples stored in liquid nitrogen at temperatures of up to -190 degrees Celsius, ancient marine mammal skeletons weighing thousands of pounds, sound recordings of endangered languages, and meteorites that need to be stored in special cases flooded with nitrogen gas to protect them from earthly contaminants.
The MSC remains a model for the high-quality housing of collections, and it continues to add cutting-edge facilities for the preservation and study of the objects, specimens, and data used by the Smithsonian in its core mission: the increase and diffusion of knowledge.
Posted: 16 May 2015