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Does the Jeffersonian Institute from ‘Bones’ Exist in Real Life?

Want to walk in the footsteps of your favorite crime-solving scientists at the Jeffersonian Institute? You’re in for a little disappointment.

Bones scene showing the fictional Jeffersonian Institute

If you’re looking to book a trip to Washington, D.C. and want to walk in the footsteps of your favorite crime-solving scientists and anthropologists at the Jeffersonian, you might be in for a little disappointment.

The Jeffersonian Institute — prominently featured on the show as the workplace of leading anthropologist Temperance Brennan — doesn’t exist in real life.

A play on the world-famous Smithsonian Institution, the Jeffersonian was created to add credibility to the scientists running the show. But exterior shots of the Jeffersonian do show two actual museums: the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles and the Wallis Annenberg Building at the University of Southern California.

The Jeffersonian was inspired by the very real Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C., the world’s largest museum, education, and research complex.

Consisting of an impressive total of 21 museums AND the National Zoo, the Smithsonian dates back to 1846 and is being run by the U.S. Government “for the increase and diffusion of knowledge”. The Smithsonian served as both inspiration for the name of the Jeffersonian, and for the many exhibits and scene

As for the interiors of the Jeffersonian, those were all built on a large sound stage at the 20th Century Fox lot in Century City, Los Angeles.

So if you’ve ever wanted to step inside the Bones Room or walk on the platform where Jack Hodgkins, Camille Saroyan, and Dr. Brennan — along with her massive team of interns — perform their magic, sadly, that’s not a possibility.

If there’s no Jeffersonian, where was ‘Bones’ filmed?

While the show is said to take place entirely in the nation’s capital, Washington D.C., ‘Bones’ was filmed almost entirely in Los Angeles (with the exception of a trip Seeley Booth and Temperance Brennan took to the UK, which was filmed on location in London).

The building used for the Jeffersonian in Bones is actually the Wallis Annenberg Building of the Doctor Theodore T Alexander Junior Science Center School in Los Angeles.

You’ll find the familiar structure at 3737 S Figueroa St, next to the California Science Center.

Another prominent building used as the Jeffersonian Institute on Bones is the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles, whose exterior will look awfully familiar to fans of the show.

The Natural History Museum in Los Angeles, used to film scenes outside of the Jeffersonian Institute on Bones.
The Natural History Museum in Los Angeles, used to film scenes outside of the Jeffersonian Institute on Bones. Photo credit: David Leigh Ellis, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

And it makes sense for the filming crew to have chosen this location. The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County — located at 900 Exposition Boulevard, Exposition Park — is the largest natural and historical museum in the western United States, containing nearly 35 million specimens and artifacts that cover 4.5 billion years of history. 

Can’t imagine any other California building that Temperance Brennan would have loved more.

More Bones filming locations

The FBI office – standing in for Seeley Booth’s office and the FBI headquarters is Stage 9 of the 20th Century Fox Studios, located at 10201 Pico Blvd., Century City, Los Angeles, California, USA.

The lab itself – this too was filmed on a sound stage at the 20th Century Fox Studios in Los Angeles, more specifically on Stage 6.

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