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On June 14, 2013, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. opened the high-tech, high-intensity exhibition Genome: Unlocking Life's Code to celebrate the 10th anniversary of researchers producing the first complete human genome sequence - the genetic blueprint of the human body - in April 2003.


Unlocking Life's Code


The Genome: Unlocking Life's Code exhibition is a collaboration between the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) and the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) of the National Institutes of Health. The exhibition examines the complexities of the genome - the complete set of genetic or hereditary material of a living organism - and chronicles the remarkable breakthroughs that have taken place since the completion of the Human Genome Project a decade ago.

With cutting-edge interactives, 3D models, custom animations and engaging videos of real-life stories, the exhibition examines both the benefits and the challenges that genomics presents to modern society. From the moment visitors enter the approximately 2,900 square-foot exhibition, they will find themselves immersed in an interactive, futuristic environment that communicates the revolutionary nature of genomics. The exhibition gives visitors a window into genomes that provides new ways of looking at themselves as individuals, as members of a family and a species, and as part of the diversity of life on Earth.

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Educational Programs

To complement the exhibition, NHGRI, the National Museum of Natural History, and The Smithsonian Associates have partnered to develop a series of educational programs, including lectures, symposia, discussion panels and informal gatherings.

The programs were designed to spark lively conversations among the public and genomics leaders, scientists, scholars, and the arts community about relevant and timely subjects in the genomics field. Programming was made possible thanks to generous grants and gifts made through the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health.

Genome: Unlocking Life's Code Exhibition Closing Symposium: Genomics and Global Health: What does the future hold?
The symposium, in partnership with NHGRI, the National Museum of Natural History, and the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health focused on how genomics can prevent, diagnose, treat, and cure diseases for individuals, their families, and global populations; and what the next decade holds in terms of genomic advances.

A Spectrum of Perspectives: Native Peoples and Genetic Research
This symposium was co-hosted by the National Congress of American Indians, the National Human Genome Research Institute and the National Museum of the American Indian as part of the Genome: Unlocking Life's Code exhibit at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. It demonstrated the range of perspectives in Native communities on genomics and highlight key topics for ongoing community conversation.

Q?rius Presentation: What Exactly is the Human Genome?
A decade ago, scientists announced that they had completed the Human Genome Project. But, what exactly is a genome and how is it important to your health? Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health, and Dr. Eric Green, Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, explored the science of genomics and turning our discoveries into health.

Finding our Inner Neanderthal: Evolutionary Geneticist Svante Pääbo's DNA Quest
Can the DNA of extinct humans provide a clue to our origins? Noted researcher Svante Pääbo discussed a groundbreaking investigation that led to new genetic and geographic connections between Homo sapiens and our ancient ancestors.

Q?rius Presentation: The Dog Genome: Shedding Light on Human Disease
Dogs have been called a person's best friend, but they also can tell us a lot about human disease. Dr. Elaine Ostrander discussed how her lab at the National Human Genome Research Institute studies the genes of canines (dogs) in order to better understand human diseases, such as cancer.

Q?rius Presentation: Know Your Family History - Improve Your Health
A demonstration of how your ancestry, family culture, and lifestyle choices can influence your future health. Learn how to use one of the most powerful genetic tools, your family health history, to identify specific ways to stay healthy. Let us dispel common myths about genetics and inheritance, and learn how to recognize what information matters. Leave knowing how to get the information, services, and resource tools you need to assess your risks and take charge of your health.

Is Genetic Information Different?
New and often-complex ethical and medical questions have emerged as genetic testing becomes more widespread. Two debaters with extensive experience in genetics and genomics - Robert C. Green and Susan M. Wolf - addressed the issues in a lively event in which the audience plays a key role. NHGRI Director Eric Green moderated.

Exhibition Support

Funds for the Smithsonian-NHGRI exhibition and related initiatives were raised privately by both the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health.

Already, Life Technologies Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Life Technologies Corp. of Carlsbad, Calif., has pledged $3 million to fund the production of the exhibition itself. Additionally, more than $500,000 has been raised through the Foundation for The National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md., and from the Brin Wojcicki Foundation of Palo Alto, Calif.; the Celgene Corporation of Summit, N.J.; Pacific Biosciences of Menlo Park, Calif., Pac Bio president and chief executive officer Mike Hunkapiller, Ph.D., and his wife Beth; the New England Biolabs of Ipswich, Mass.; and from Genentech, Inc. of South San Francisco, Calif.

Last updated: September 27, 2019