[Gleaned from the AP story, "Smithsonian Gets Eerie Queries"]
The Smithsonian Museum's phone answerers usually get questions like "How do
you get there?" "When are you open?" Etc. More detailed questions get
shunted to departments such as Anthropology. But every so often, you get
funny ones. Here are some Cordelia Benedict of the Smithsonian's telephone
information services and Marilyn London of the anthropology outreach and
public information office have gotten over the years:
* There's a mastadon in my back yard. Can you send some scientists to
dig it up? "There was literally a mastodon buried on her ranch,"
Benedict says. "She was right. We referred her to the vertebrate
department, I think."
* Do you have the Original Bible? You know, 10 Commands, tablets, Moses,
* What's the name of the guy who invented the wheel? ("How do you know
it was a man?" London replied.)
* Where do you keep the flying saucers you've captured?
* Can a small plane land on the Mall? The caller was sure it could since
"all those planes in the Air and Space Museum had to get there
* Is Fawn Hall's underwear on display? This from "two men in a Texas bar
who obviously had a lot to drink," says Benedict.
* Where is the Ark of the Covenant? (Try Indiana Jones movies.)
* Does the Smithsonian display Civil War planes?
* Is the Smithsonian interested in buying the carcass of Bigfoot?
* Will the Smithsonian sell the starship Enterprise, used for the
popular "Star Trek" television show? "She only wanted it if the
transporter was in working condition," Benedict says. (The only
life-size Enterprise at the Smithsonian is the space shuttle of the
* Can the Smithsonian set up a caller with a hula teacher? "Actually, I
tracked one down for her," remembers London. "We have a curator
involved in South Pacific and Hawaiian culture, so she knew one."
* How do you say "I'm thinking of you" in Apache?
* Can you send "all the information you have on human evolution, even
the secret stuff?" from a grade school letter writer.
* How about the coin George Washington tossed across the Delaware River?
* Could the Smithsonian take a "petrified whale" off a caller's hands?
He was referred to paleontology. "I told him that means `very old
biology,' and he said, `good because this is a very old whale,'"
* And one of Benedict's favorites: an offer to donate a collection of
potato chips resembling "famous people and animals."