Discover The Smithsonian Museums . . . while watching Night At The Museum

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Being at home these past few weeks has meant more time watching movies. One movie that has been on rotation on tv is Night at The Museum: Battle of The Smithsonian. After watching a few times, I realized that it’s a great movie to help teach kids history. And it’s also a great way to help plan a future trip to the Smithsonian museums in Washington D.C. or the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Here’s some characters from the film and where you can find them in the museums.

Note: The National Museum of American History, located in Washington, D.C. is part of the Smithsonian. The American Museum of National History, located in New York City, is not part of the Smithsonian museum system.

Rapa Nui Moai Cast (aka Dum Dum Got Gum Gum)

Rapa Nui Moai Cast at American Museum of Natural History, NYC_My Cornacopia Blog

Originally seen in the first Night at The Museum film, the Rapa Nui moai (or statues) are thousands of years old. Considered sacred by the native residents of Easter Island, this statute is a casting of the actual ones on the island.

My own family visited the Rapa Nui Moai Cast several years ago. My daughter’s favorite character was the Moai in Night at The Museum who says “Dum Dum got gum gum?” and begged to see him. Warning – he’s alllll the way in the back of the museum, which is quite large.

See Rapa Nui Moai Cast at American Museum of Natural History, New York City, NY

Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart display at one of Washington D.C. Smithsonian Museums
Photo from DepositPhotos ( arak7)

Amelia Earhart was the first female to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, and as is often mentioned in the movie, the first woman to be awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. While trying to fly around the world, Earhart and her navagator went missing over the Pacific Ocean. Their bodies and plane were never found.

See Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Vega plane at Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, Washington, D.C.

See Amelia Earhart’s flight suit at Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum, Washington, D.C,

Darth Vadar

Rejected by the gang of criminal mannequins, Darth Vadar and Oscar The Grouch make a brief but hilarious appearance in the film. While one of the Oscar puppets is in the Smithsonian’s archives, their website says that he’s currently not on display. However their displays are routinely rotated so he may appear again one day.

For Star Wars lovers, there are plenty of opportunities to see various characters at the Smithsonian museums.

See Darth Vadar’s portrait at Smithsonian’s Natural Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.

See Darth Vadar’s postage stamp at Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum, Washington, D.C.

General George Custer

General Custer is portrayed in Night at The Museum: Battle at The Smithsonian as a bumbling, scared Army officer. The real General Custer is most famously known for leading his troops to their death at the Battle of The Little Bighorn.

Custer was well known before his death for being not only vain but for being a media personality of the day. His widow helped change the narrative of his death by having books published that helped improve his image.

See General Custer photo and portrait of General Custer at Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C.

Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein photo - Smithsonian Archives
Photo courtesy of Smithsonian Institution Archives

 

 

Physicist and Nobel Prize Winner Albert Einstein is shown in Battle at The Smithsonian as funny bobblehead dolls who help solve the puzzle at the center of the movie. In addition to discovering a theory for gravitation, Einstein published more than 300 papers and is synonymous with the word ‘genius’.

See Einstein sculpture and Einstein portrait at Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.

See Einstein’s pipe at Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, Washington, D.C.

Tuskegee Airmen

Photo of Tuskegee Airmen in WWII
Public Domain Photo

Before 1940, African-Americans were barred from flying for the United States military. Pressure was put on the government as World War II loomed and, in 1941, a Black fighter group was stationed in Tuskegee, Alabama.  Over 14,000 men were trained in all aspects of flight including instructors, maintenance crews, mechanics and navigators. Although faced with discrimination and prejudice the Tuskegee Airmen ended up as one of the most respected fighter groups of the war.

See Tuskegee Airmen Bombadier wings and Purple Heart at Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington, D.C.

See Tuskegee Airmen Congressional Gold Medal at Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, Washington, D.C.

American Gothic Painting

Making a brief appearance in the movie, the original painting of American Gothic isn’t located in either the Smithsonian museums or the American Museum of National History. However there are several artifacts at the Smithsonian by the American Gothic artist Grant Wood.

See sketch of house in American Gothic and American Gothic photomechanical print at Smithsonian’s American Art Museum, Washington D.C.

See American Gothic postage stamp at Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum, Washington, D.C.

Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt Mural_Architect of the Capitol
Photo from public domain (Architect of the Capitol)

Head of the Rough Riders. Distinguished soldier. The reason the teddy bear has its name. Environmentalist. 26th President of the United States of America. There’s a very good reason why Theodore Roosevelt is one of the main characters in Night at The Museum – he’s deeply ingrained into American history. He even helped the Panama Canal get built!

See bust of Teddy Roosevelt at Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.

See Teddy Roosevelt 5¢ Stamp at Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum, Washington, D.C.

 

Do you have a favorite from Night at The Museum: Battle at The Smithsonian who was also a real-life figure?

7 Comments

  1. Alissa

    29th Mar 2020 -

    I loved these movies as a kid and I was fortunate enough to eventually visit both the smith Smithsonian museums and the American Museum of Natural History! Looking for characters from the movies was one of the most exciting parts of those trips 🙂

  2. menty

    29th Mar 2020 -

    haha, lovely, I would definitely love this museum, plus I’m a fan of that movie too! Watched all series!

  3. Margarida Vasconcelos

    29th Mar 2020 -

    I think you’re right, the film teaches history to kids. Interesting post.

  4. Jen

    28th Mar 2020 -

    Love the Smithsonian museums! I’ve been to almost all of them in DC 😁 great post!

  5. Kay

    28th Mar 2020 -

    I’ve heard such incredible things about the museum! I usually never take time out of my vacation to visit them though, but this one sounds like it’s worth it!

  6. Tina

    28th Mar 2020 -

    Love this! Haven’t seen the movie yet, but the American Museum of Natural History in New York City is my all-time favorite museum and I remember that statue from my first visit there. What a great idea!

  7. Ashley

    28th Mar 2020 -

    Awesome post, I have never heard most of these stories about our history. Thanks for sharing!

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