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Smithsonian Natural History Museum

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Hi, I'm looking for information about what happens at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, esp. after hours. Do the guards make regular rounds, do they have someone stationed at the information center in the rotunda, do the lights get dimmed?
Also, how do they announce that the museum is closing? Do they blink the lights, what does the announcement say, do guards walk through to make sure everyone is gone?

I have tried contacting the museum, with no response, but I thought with all the varied experience here that someone might know.

Thanks!
#1 - June 18, 2013, 04:50 AM

I'm not sure anyone here would really know, and if they did know (like if they worked there or something), they probably wouldn't be at liberty to say.  I feel like the museum staff wouldn't exactly give out their nightly security scheme, either.

The closest you might get would be if someone could go hang out there at closing time for you, just to tell you what the procedure is for shooing guests out.  I'm going to guess they don't blink or dim the lights, though (for safety reasons), but have repeated announcements and a security walk-through (encouraging guests to leave), as well as alarms on just EVERYthing.  Could you visit the museum and get a feel for it yourself?  Or see if someone on YouTube has posted video?

In the end, though, it might serve your story best to make up your own idea of what they'd do and say for closing, as well as the patrolling they do after hours, sort of like Night at the Museum (the movie) did.  You wouldn't want to be too realistic in your information/detail anyway, and give someone the 411 on how to break into or stay inside the Smithsonian, would you? 
#2 - June 18, 2013, 06:13 AM

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I'm not sure anyone here would really know, and if they did know (like if they worked there or something), they probably wouldn't be at liberty to say.  I feel like the museum staff wouldn't exactly give out their nightly security scheme, either.

The closest you might get would be if someone could go hang out there at closing time for you, just to tell you what the procedure is for shooing guests out.  I'm going to guess they don't blink or dim the lights, though (for safety reasons), but have repeated announcements and a security walk-through (encouraging guests to leave), as well as alarms on just EVERYthing.  Could you visit the museum and get a feel for it yourself?  Or see if someone on YouTube has posted video?

In the end, though, it might serve your story best to make up your own idea of what they'd do and say for closing, as well as the patrolling they do after hours, sort of like Night at the Museum (the movie) did.  You wouldn't want to be too realistic in your information/detail anyway, and give someone the 411 on how to break into or stay inside the Smithsonian, would you? 

You're joking, right?  I would hope that no one who wants to break in the museum is going to use a children's book as their how-to guide.

 I don't think asking if a guard walks around at night or one sits at the info desk, or whether they say "ten minutes until closing" or "the museum is closing now" or the lights get dimmed at night is classified information. I'm not asking for the precise time they walk by the Hope Diamond or what security measures they take.


#3 - June 18, 2013, 07:49 AM

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My thought was the same as Jaina's.  It's not that anyone would use a children's book as a how-to; it's that someone would call pretending to be writing a book in order to get information.  Obviously, real thieves would realize just how complicated a Smithsonian heist would be and would be much more professional, but a person who isn't quite altogether might cause havoc.  Easier not to give that info out.
#4 - June 18, 2013, 08:03 AM
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Not sure what to say, Anita.  I was just giving you an opinion.  I very much doubt the Smithsonian will happily volunteer the actual info, no matter who the stated target audience of your piece is.  This is my guess.  If I worked there, I would not answer such an email--"Thanks for asking!  We have three night guards, one of whom is always standing at Point A, while . . ."

Thanks, Anne Marie, for chiming in.
#5 - June 18, 2013, 08:18 AM

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Actually Anita, Jaina's not too far off the mark here! I can't speak for the Smithsonian, but when I interned at a museum with a high profile collection (and nothing even close to the type of collection they have at the Smithsonian) the security was so tight you'd think I was being given access to the Hope Diamond! And even as an intern, I was told to keep security procedural info to myself (and I had like zero clearance). They take this stuff very seriously. They have to. These collections are worth millions and millions and millions of dollars.
#6 - June 18, 2013, 08:49 AM

Considering how few people would actually be at the Smithsonian after hours, you could probably safely make it up...
#7 - June 18, 2013, 09:18 AM
Robin

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Adding to what MysteryRobin was saying, if you make it up, you could always explain in an author's note that you did so. That will keep you from any accusation that you didn't do your research (which is an aspect that might bother me, if it were me), and at the same time signal the public (for whoever wants to get the message) that the real security procedures for a place like the Smithsonian aren't just freely tossed "out there."
#8 - June 18, 2013, 09:56 AM
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Adding to what MysteryRobin was saying, if you make it up, you could always explain in an author's note that you did so. That will keep you from any accusation that you didn't do your research (which is an aspect that might bother me, if it were me), and at the same time signal the public (for whoever wants to get the message) that the real security procedures for a place like the Smithsonian aren't just freely tossed "out there."

Thank you. This is precisely why I asked the question. I don't want the grief from a reader.
#9 - June 18, 2013, 11:05 AM

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For what it's worth, when I was working on CAPTURE THE FLAG, I called the Smithsonian and asked for advice on how my bad guys might sneak their Star Spangled Banner out of the building. The curator was delightful and invited me on a behind-the-scenes tour before the museum opened one morning, where we rode freight elevators, checked out the basement, etc. It was a HUGE help, and while I didn't even try to describe the real security protecting the flag (what Jaina and Anne Marie said is valid - you DO need to be careful about not writing a how-to guide), being there and having an overview of security procedures in museums LIKE this one was huge.
#10 - June 18, 2013, 04:35 PM
« Last Edit: June 18, 2013, 04:37 PM by KateMessner »
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Almost all museums announce that they are closing in X minutes.  From what I recall of my visits to the Smithsonian they first announce that the gift shop will be closing and if you want to make a purchase you need to do so now.  It closes before the museum does.  Most visitors are one day visitor, maybe two depending on how many days they are spending in Washington D.C.

If you wish to talk to someone, call do not email them.  Trust me, they will probably trash your email, not to be rude to you, but to write you (oops bad pun) as one of those odd people who email them constantly with strange questions.

No I do not work for and have never worked for the Smithsonian.  I do have insider information on museums, but I will not divulge it here. 

I could tell in Capture the Flag (sorry Kate) where someone not familiar with museums and their working where "it just wasn't right." - which was good - no one could just walk in and steal the Flag as here book described.

Most museums will be willing to give you a tour, but may not explain everything to you. 

You can also look up on the FBI site the division that looks into stolen Art and Artifacts. 

#11 - June 19, 2013, 04:42 PM
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