Genome: Unlocking Life's Code exhibition bows out

Genome: Unlocking Life’s Code exhibition bows out

Genome: unlocking life

On June 14, 2013, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) in Washington, D.C. opened the high-tech, high-intensity exhibit Genome: Unlocking Life’s Code to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the completion of the Human Genome Project and his generation of the first sequence of the human genome – the genetic model of the human body. The exhibit was jointly developed by NHGRI and NMNH. After staying at the NMNH for over a year, the exhibit traveled to 12 states and Canada, then returned to DC in October 2021 for a final stay at the museum of its origin. This year, on November 28, the exhibition closed.

Featured in the December 2021 issue of The landscape of genomics, the exhibition examined the intricacies of the genome – the complete genetic or hereditary material of a living organism – and chronicled the remarkable breakthroughs that have taken place since the completion of the Human Genome Project. With millions of people visiting the exhibit over its lifetime, NHGRI hopes it has made an unforgettable impression on the wonders of genomics.

In August 2022, STAT published a article highlighting thoughts from genomics leaders on how the field has changed since 2013. As quoted in that article, Carla Easter, Ph.D., who helped develop the exhibit at NHGRI, said: “What seemed avant-garde maybe in 2013, now in 2022, were just things that were a bit more routine. As before 2013, genomics has since progressed rapidly as a field of research, and has recently found its way into healthcare. Others mentioned in the article referred to achievements in many different areas of genomics (such as DNA sequencing technologies, genomic variation, functional genomics, comparative genomics, evolutionary genomics, conservation genomics, genome editing, and genomic medicine, among others) and the barriers that need to be overcome to ensure that genomics benefits everyone.

In the article, NHGRI Director Eric Green highlighted the importance of addressing the societal implications of introducing genomics into healthcare. He said: “The implementation of certain aspects of genomic medicine is no longer scientifically difficult. They are sociological, because of the societal issues related to health care. Moreover, “science dictates certain things, but it is not the only thing” that dictates genomic medicine.

As it has done for nine years, the Genome: unlocking the code of life will continue to be a source of information on the field of genomics. The site hosts training activities, interactive calendars, videos and lesson plans. Visitors can sign up for monthly newsletters to learn about new educational resources and tools. A remote tour of the exhibition itself is also available via a virtual tour. The NMNH has also created do-it-yourself mini-versions of some elements of the exhibit. Called “Genome DiY”, the resource provides very informative panels that can be downloaded for free for printing, each available in multiple languages.

Although the exhibit is officially closed, some major exhibits from it have been moved to the main NIH campus in Bethesda, MD. Specifically, four elements of the exhibit – covering ‘what’s in your genome’, ‘what’s your genetic risk’, ‘what’s in your microbiome’ and ‘what genomics could mean for you” – will be installed on four floors in the C wing of building 31 (the Claude D. Pepper building) in the coming months.

NHGRI was very lucky to have established a wonderful collaboration with NMNH. Together, the NHGRI-NMNH partnership developed a landmark exhibit that effectively introduced the field of genomics to millions. Perhaps the NHGRI and NMNH will come together in ten years to create another exhibit showcasing the next decade of amazing genomic breakthroughs.

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