WASHINGTON — The Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History plans to open a hall next year dedicated to the story of human evolution over 6 million years, officials announced Wednesday.
The nearly $21 million Hall of Human Origins will follow milestones in history – when humans started walking upright and started speaking, for example – as well as the impact of climate change and extinction of ancient species. It's scheduled to open on March 17, 2010, marking the museum's 100th anniversary on the National Mall.
"The exploration of human origins helps to tell us about how we came about and also helps place our own existence," said curator Rick Potts, director of the museum's Human Origins Program.
This will be the Smithsonian's first permanent exhibit focused solely on human evolution. It will include hundreds of fossils, reconstructed faces of early humans and 75 cast reproductions of skulls. Interactives will show the human family tree and current research around the world.
The museum also is establishing an advisory group called the Broader Social Impacts Committee to foster discussion on how scientific and religious perspectives on human origins can be compatible. Potts said many people of deep religious faith also want to understand "how the science informs who we are.