Spring exhibits include slavery at Monticello, Discovery, fish X-rays

January 27, 2012

Even with the National Museum of American History shutting some of its exhibition halls for renovation, plenty of action of the history and science variety rolls out in the spring.

Most anticipated: “Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello: Paradox of Liberty,” an exhibition at the National Museum of American History, is presented in partnership between the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello and the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Monticello is the best-researched plantation in the country regarding its slave past. This exhibit is a strong indication of how the Smithsonian’s future African American museum will handle the reality and legacy of American slavery. Runs through Oct. 14.

Most jaw-dropping: The 122-foot-long space shuttle Discovery arrives at the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles International Airport in mid-April. A welcoming celebration is planned April 19 for Discovery, the longest-serving orbiter, which logged 39 missions in 27 years.

Stay with it: Want to know what the insides of that rockfish look like? Maybe not. But the National Museum of Natural History has organized a show of 40 X-rays of its huge fish collection. The method was used so the preserved specimens would not be damaged, and the photography is glowing. The show opens Feb. 4 in the Sant Ocean Hall.

Centennials: This spring is the 100th anniversary of Tokyo’s gift of 3,000 cherry trees to Washington as well as the sinking of the luxury liner Titanic. Expect crowds at commemorative events and endless shutterbugs. The National Archives will display the SOS message from the Titanic beginning March 19. New photo op this year: cherry blossoms framing the memorial to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Tidal Basin.

Secret tip: Get to the museums and the monuments on weekdays after 2 p.m., when the school field trips have departed.

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