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Posted at 5:13 PM ET, 05/20/2009

Where to Find 'Museum' Pieces

By Jen Chaney

Ben Stiller and Amy Adams soar in the Wright brothers' plane -- or at least a version of it -- in "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian." (20th Century Fox)

If you have kids, or if you're someone who (understandably) loves watching Hank Azaria pretend to be an Egyptian pharoah with a ferocious lisp, you may have plans to see "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian" this weekend.

The first film ever set and partially shot inside D.C.'s world-famous museums, the kiddie comedy is a celebration of the Smithsonian's many high-profile artifacts, several of which star in the movie alongside Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson and co.

After seeing it, viewers may be extra-curious to explore the real exhibits that came to life onscreen. Naturally, the P.R.-savvy people at the Smithsonian have anticipated that desire, which is why they have added information about key pieces from "Night at the Museum" to the daily free tours at the Air & Space Museum. Those tours take place each day at 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Special bonus: There are 9 a.m. screenings of the Imax version of "Night at the Museum" every Saturday and Sunday at the Air & Space's Imax theater for the next three weekends, allowing moviegoers to hop right onto that 1 p.m. tour shortly after they leave their stadium seats. Isabel Lara, a Smithsonian spokeswoman, says that additional weekend tours may be added if demand is particularly high. Advance reservations are only accepted for groups of 20 or more.

Of course, it's possible to do a self-guided "Battle of the Smithsonian" tour and check out some of the key exhibits yourself. This story in KidsPost focuses on a few of the Air & Space items that score some screen time, including the bright red flyer that belonged to the real Amelia Earhart (as opposed to the endearingly plucky version played by Amy Adams in the movie), the Wright brothers' plane and Able the space-flying monkey.

The Air & Space Museum's Web site drills down even further, providing additional information for more of the museum's "Battle" stars, like Chuck Yeager's Bell X-1 plane and the Tuskegee Airmen exhibit. (News flash, kids: Even though the movie might lead you to believe that "The Office's" Craig Robinson was one of the Airmen, he actually did not fight in World War II, although one could argue that he deserves commendation for his fine work in "The Pineapple Express.")

If you want something even more comprehensive, the Smithsonian has put together an impressive interactive map that highlights many of the exhibits in the four structures -- Air & Space, the Museum of American History, the Museum of Natural History, the Smithsonian Castle and the National Portrait Gallery. The Institute's team also created a "treasure map" that visitors can print and take with them as they traipse through the buildings in search of Oscar the Grouch (who appears opposite Azaria and is on display in the pop culture collection at the Museum of American History) or the painting of Theodore Roosevelt (portrayed in the movie by Robin Williams, but on display in real life at the Portrait Gallery).

As cool as all of this is, a few items from the movie are not addressed here. So allow me to tell you where to find them:

One cast of Rodin's "The Thinker" -- who, as the movie tells us, turns out to be kind of a lunkhead -- can be found not at the Smithsonian at all, but at the National Gallery of Art, as can a couple of the "Little Dancer" sculptures by Degas that so enchant Amy Adams in the film.

Heavy breather Darth Vader, who shares his cameo with Oscar the Grouch, is not currently on display at American History. However, you can see C3PO in the Archives wall on the first floor of the museum. (Why didn't C3PO get a role in "NatM"? You know the answer ... he's way too uptight to handle all that Hollywood pressure.)

Finally, the heap of artifacts Azaria perches on -- including a replica of Archie Bunker's chair -- is on display at the Castle through Sept. 30. Just prepare to have your own, private battle of the Smithsonian if you have to go elbow-to-elbow with other tourists trying to snap digital photos of this set piece from the movie.

By Jen Chaney  | May 20, 2009; 5:13 PM ET
Categories:  Movies, Museums  
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