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Genome: Unlocking Life’s Code exhibition reopens at the National Museum of Natural History

Rachael Zisk October 27, 2021   PRESS CONTACT

Collaboration between NHGRI and the Smithsonian will continue educating visitors on the promise of genomics

After a seven-year tour across North America, the widely popular Genome: Unlocking Life’s Code exhibition has returned to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History (NMNH). A collaboration between NMNH and the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), this high-tech, interactive exhibition allows visitors to explore the complexities of the human genome and the history of genomics research.

“The field of genomics is incredibly exciting, and the exhibition was designed to convey the breadth and depth of the science to visitors in a fun and interactive way,” says Lawrence Brody, Ph.D., director of the NHGRI Division of Genomics and Society, who worked with the Smithsonian to help develop the exhibition.

The exhibition first opened at NMNH in 2013 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the discovery of the double-helical structure of DNA and the 10th anniversary of the completion of the Human Genome Project. Roughly 3 million visitors viewed the exhibition at the Smithsonian during its original stay. The exhibition then left NMNH in September 2014 to go on tour, visiting history museums and science centers throughout North America for several years.

Now, it’s making a grand return to NMNH, where museum visitors will once again be able to explore the history, science and impact of genomics.

“We’ve put a lot of work into the exhibition to share our love of genomics with the public,” says Vence Bonham Jr., J.D., acting deputy director of NHGRI and former chief of the NHGRI Education and Community Involvement Branch.

There are so many ways that genomics affects our lives and health. Our partnership with the Smithsonian has been a great way to share that information with a wider audience.

At the exhibition, visitors get the opportunity to explore what genomics is, how genomics and genetics research is conducted, and how genomics has changed modern science. Important connections between genomics and the greater world are illustrated, revealing the relevance of genomics to medicine, everyday life and even wildlife conservation. Teams from NHGRI and the Smithsonian contributed scientific and historical information to the exhibition.

The exhibition also challenges people to think about the moral and ethical implications of genomics. Visitors are encouraged to share their thoughts about the information they discover through interactive modules.

The exhibition incorporates video, 3D models and interactive quizzes to create a high-tech, immersive experience for its visitors. It was originally designed with the dynamic nature of genomics in mind, using modular panels that can be updated to add new information as the field advances. Updates to the returning exhibition include sections on CRISPR genome editing and the use of data science in genomics. “Our partnership with the Smithsonian through this exhibition has been a great way for us to bring our enthusiasm for genomics to the many people visiting the NMNH,” says Eric Green, M.D., Ph.D., director of NHGRI. “Genomics is becoming so relevant to our lives, and we hope that visitors will come away from the exhibition with a greater appreciation of the field.”

The Genome: Unlocking Life’s Code exhibition opened at the NMNH on Oct. 21, 2021, and is scheduled to remain open until summer 2022.

About NHGRI and NIH

The National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) is one of the 27 institutes and centers at the NIH, an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services. The NHGRI Division of Intramural Research develops and implements technology to understand, diagnose and treat genomic and genetic diseases. Additional information about NHGRI can be found at: www.genome.gov.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 institutes and centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.

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Last updated: October 27, 2021