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Forensic Anthropology Uncovers the Mysterious Death of Kennicott, a 19th-Century Naturalist and Collector
Q?rius Theater


Image credit: Smithsonian

FREE ticketed event

150 years ago a young American scientist named Robert Kennicott, one of the founders of the Smithsonian, set out for a walk into the Alaskan wilderness while on an expedition to the Yukon and was never heard from again.

The mystery of his death shook the nation and his crew. No one knew how or why he died, and rumors of suicide by swallowing strychnine have circled ever since. That is, until 2001, when Doug Owsley and Kari Bruwelheide, renowned forensic anthropologists at the National Museum of Natural History, traveled to the Grove in Glenview, Illinois, Robert Kennicott’s boyhood home, to open the naturalist’s casket and determine the cause of his death.

Hear more from Kari Bruwelheide on how science and an iron coffin provided a new lens to solve the mystery of Kennicott's death. 

After the program, get a chance to engage with Kari Bruwelheide and see an iron coffin from our Anthropology collection. 

This program is presented as part of the Beyond the Exhibition: Objects of Wonder series, which offers opportunities to look more closely at some of the objects in the acclaimed Objects of Wonder exhibition at the National Museum of Natural History. 

The Objects of Wonder exhibition is located on the second floor of the National Museum of Natural History. Open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily.

Accessibility Information

The National Museum of Natural History is committed to providing inclusive experiences for all audiences. Please contact 202-633-3611 or email for access services. To view and print a map with accessible entrances, curb cuts, designated parking, and more for Smithsonian facilities on the National Mall, please download the Accessibility Map here. 

Assistive Listening SystemsThe Q?rius Theater contains an induction loop.

Assisted listening devices are also available in the Q?rius Theater.


Sign Language Interpretation

If you would like to have a sign language interpreter or real-time captioning (CART), you should call (202) 633-3611 or send an e-mail to Please allow time to schedule the request by contacting the Accessbility Office at least 2 weeks prior to the program. We will do our best to accomodate last-minute requests.

Time: 6:45 PM - 8:30 PM
Ground Floor, National Museum of Natural History
10th St. and Constitution Ave., N.W.
Washington, DC 20013-7012
United States

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