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The thrill of discovery awaits you in the Smithsonian Learning Lab. From the Discovery space shuttle to the Star Spangled Banner to dinosaur fossils, the Learning Lab gives everyone with a desire to learn the opportunity to explore the Smithsonian's rich resources anytime, anywhere. Start discovering what interests you today, and find your inspiration from more than a million multimedia resources.

Suggested Discoveries

Gold Nugget

National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
This small piece of yellow metal is believed to be the first piece of gold discovered in 1848 at Sutter's Mill in California, launching the gold rush.

James Marshall was superintending the construction of a sawmill for Col. John Sutter on the morning of January 24, 1848, on the South Fork of the American River at Coloma, California, when he saw something glittering in the water of the mill's tailrace. According to Sutter's diary, Marshall stooped down to pick it up and "found that it was a thin scale of what appeared to be pure gold." Marshall bit the metal as a test for gold.

In June of 1848, Colonel Sutter presented Marshall's first-find scale of gold to Capt. Joseph L. Folsom, U.S. Army Assistant Quartermaster at Monterey. Folsom had journeyed to Northern California to verify the gold claim for the U.S. Government.

The gold samples then traveled with U.S. Army Lt. Lucien Loeser by ship to Panama, across the isthmus by horseback, by ship to New Orleans, and overland to Washington. A letter of transmittal from Folsom that accompanied the packet lists Specimen #1 as "the first piece of gold ever discovered in this Northern part of Upper California found by J. W. Marshall at the Saw Mill of John A. Sutter."

By August of 1848, as evidence of the find, this piece and other samples of California gold had arrived in Washington, D.C., for delivery to President James K. Polk and for preservation at the National Institute. Within weeks, President Polk formally declared to Congress that gold had been discovered in California.

In 1861, the National Institute and its geological specimens, including this gold and the letter, entered the collections of the Smithsonian Institution. The Marshall Nugget remains in the collections as evidence of the discovery of gold in California.

Postcard of Horned Dinosaur Skeletons

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
The National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) first opened to the public on March 17, 1910, as the new United States National Museum. The National Museum was first housed in what is now the Arts and Industries Building.

Grayscale postcard of two skeletons of horned dinosaurs on exhibit at the United States National Museum, now the National Museum of Natural History. The larger one is a Triceratops skeleton, and the smaller one is a Brachyceratops skeleton. The postcard is unused, but the message side has a printed note about the dinosaurs: "These skeletons of two extinct reptiles known as Horned Dinosaurs were discovered in the Cretaceous rocks of the West. Triceratops, the larger of the two specimens, shown, named for the three horns on its head, was about 20 feet long. With a head 6 feet in length it had the largest skull of any known reptile. The other skeleton, Brachyceratops, less in size than the skull of the Triceratops, is the smallest of North American horned dinosaurs. Both of these animals were plant eaters, living in the swamps of the western plains. They became extinct over 100,000,000 years ago."

Star-Spangled Banner

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
The Star-Spangled Banner, undated. Note that the "A" sewn into the flag has been whited out in the image The Star-Spangled Banner was the Garrison flag of Ft. McHenry, Baltimore, during the bombardment of the fort by the British, September 13-14, 1814, when it was successfully defended by Colonel George Armistead. The flag was presented to the United States National Museum, Washington, D.C., by Mr. Eben Appleton of New York, the grandson of Colonel George Armistead.

Bao Bao's First Snow Day!

National Zoo
Support giant panda conservation at the Zoo and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute! http://s.si.edu/1DGqJEj Jan. 6, 2015—As the year’s first blanket of snow coated the Washington, D.C. area today, giant panda Bao Bao spent much of the morning playing in it for the very first time. The sixteen month-old panda cub tumbled down the hill in her outdoor enclosure, climbed trees and pounced on her mother Mei Xiang.

Albert Einstein

National Portrait Gallery
Albert Einstein transformed the world of physics with his groundbreaking theory of relativity, and in 1921 he received the Nobel Prize for “his services to theoretical physics” and “his discovery of the law of photoelectric effect.” The German-born physicist was visiting the United States when Hitler and the Nazis came to power in his homeland in 1933. Einstein never returned to Germany. Instead, he accepted a position at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey—the newly established academic institution that would become a major center for research in theoretical physics. In residence at the institute for the remainder of his life, Einstein continued to publish, work on the interpretation of quantum theory, and wrestle without success on his unified field theory. He became a U.S. citizen in 1940.

Karsh relished the opportunity to photograph Einstein, whose face, “in all its rough grandeur, invited and challenged the camera.”

Introductory Trailer to Chandra (High Definition)

Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
To commemorate Chandra's ten years in orbit, a new trailer has been produced to spotlight NASA's premier X-ray telescope. This short video begins with Galileo some 400 years ago and brings the viewer to modern astronomy, of which Chandra's high-energy Universe plays a critical role. Transcript: In Florence, Italy, in the year 1609, the world changed. Using a small telescope, Galileo proved that the Earth is not distinct from the universe, but part of it. And he showed that there is much more to the universe than we see with the naked eye. In the twentieth century, astronomers made another revolutionary discovery - that optical telescopes reveal only a portion of the universe. Telescopes sensitive to invisible wavelengths of light have detected microwave radiation from the Big Bang, infrared radiation from proto-planetary disks around stars, and X-rays from explosions produce by black holes. Ten years ago this July, the most powerful X-ray telescope ever made began its exploration of the hot Universe. Explore the Universe with Chandra.

Pressure Suit, RX-2-A, Constant Volume, Litton

National Air and Space Museum
This RX-2-A Advanced Extra-Vehicular Suit is an experimental constant volume suit was manufactured by Litton Industries who made a series of "hard" suits during the early 1960s. These experimental suits were designed to maintain an almost perfectly constant volume while enabling a full range of body motions. They could operate at higher pressure, thus reducing the time-consuming oxygen pre-breathing period before extra vehicular activities.

It has more sophisticated shoulder joints than the RX-2, and closes with a dual-plane closure at the back. It operated at 5psi instead of the 3.7psi of the Apollo soft suits.

Transferred to the National Air and Space Museum from NASA in 1977