When the inaugural festivities were over, Baird prepared the building for the public. As soon as the permanent floor was laid, the work of installing exhibits began. Massive specimens of marine mammals were hoisted into place. A team of watchmen and laborers was hired for the building. The building opened to the public in October of 1881. In its first full year, 1882, the guards counted 167,455 visitors.
Installation of whale in the
Comparative Anatomy Hall
Initially, the ground floor was completely open and devoted to exhibits. The halls were furnished with mahogany exhibit cases that were 8 feet, 8 inches long, to fit the architectural design of the building. They were easy to move so exhibits could be reconfigured without great difficulty.
The cases themselves served as the partitions between exhibits. The cases were dust-proof and insect-proof, with special Yale locks, and each case was wired with an electric alarm that ran to the Superintendent's office.
Installation of floors in
the boat exhibit hall
When the U.S. National Museum opened its doors to the public in 1881, it was the realization of Baird's dream to create a great national museum to educate the citizens of a democracy and display his country's accomplishments to visitors from all over the world.