Although securing a private behind-the-scenes tour of any of the Smithsonian Museums is a fascinating donation, the Smithsonian Institution has two lesser-known research facilities that make for unusual benefit auction items. These work great in the silent auction or possibly the live.
(I’ve written before about the popularity of research-related benefit auction items.)
The Feather Identification Lab (jokingly called “CSI for Birds”) of The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History is one facility. This group analyzes feathers and body material found after “bird-strikes,” the term used when birds collide with aircraft.
For instance, when US Airways Flight 1549 landed in the Hudson River on January 15, 2009, it was the Feather Identification Lab which identified the birds as a flock of Canada Geese.
The Osteology Lab of the Smithsonian Institution’s Natural History Museum is another unusual item.
The most exciting part of the tour is often said to be watching the Dermistid beetle colony. The colony is used to prepare bone specimens. Dead mammals and birds go into the tank, and the beetles swarm over the specimen, naturally cleaning the bones of all flesh. This allows the specimen to be ‘skeletized.’
Certainly neither of these labs will be common-place to most guests attending your gala, so if you are reaching out to the Smithsonian Institution or a contact at the facility, consider asking for a tour of one of these facilities.