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The Smithsonian Institution ( ), or simply, the Smithsonian, is a group of museums and education and research centers, the largest such complex in the world, created by the U.S. government "for the increase and diffusion of knowledge". Founded on August 10, 1846, it operates as a trust instrumentality and is not formally a part of any of the three branches of the federal government. The institution is named after its founding donor, British scientist
James Smithson James Smithson (c. 1765 – 27 June 1829) was an English chemist and mineralogist Mineralogy is a subject of geology specializing in the scientific study of the chemistry, crystal structure, and physical (including optical mineralogy, optical ...
. It was originally organized as the United States National Museum, but that name ceased to exist administratively in 1967. Called "the nation's attic" for its eclectic holdings of 154 million items, the Institution's 19 museums, 21 libraries, nine research centers, and zoo include historical and architectural landmarks, mostly located in the
District of Columbia ) , image_skyline = , image_caption = Clockwise from top left: the Washington Monument The Washington Monument is an obelisk within the National Mall The National Mall is a Landscape architecture, landscape ...
. Additional facilities are located in
Maryland Maryland ( ) is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspaper ...

Maryland
,
New York New York most commonly refers to: * New York City, the most populous city in the United States, located in the state of New York * New York (state), a state in the Northeastern United States New York may also refer to: Film and television * New ...
, and
Virginia Virginia (), officially the Commonwealth of Virginia, is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), '' ...

Virginia
. More than 200 institutions and museums in 45
states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina, Un ...
,States without Smithsonian Affiliates:
Idaho Idaho () is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspaper in ...

Idaho
,
New Hampshire New Hampshire ( ) is a U.S. state, state in the New England region of the United States. It is bordered by Massachusetts to the south, Vermont to the west, Maine and the Gulf of Maine to the east, and the Canadian province of Quebec to the nor ...

New Hampshire
,
New Jersey New Jersey is a U.S. state, state in the Mid-Atlantic States, Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern United States, Northeastern regions of the United States. It is bordered on the north and east by the state of New York (state), New York; on the ea ...
,
North Dakota North Dakota () is a U.S. state In the United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country Contiguous United States, primarily located in North America. It c ...
,
Utah Utah ( , ) is a U.S. state, state in the Mountain states, Mountain West subregion of the Western United States. Utah is a landlocked U.S. state bordered to its east by Colorado, to its northeast by Wyoming, to its north by Idaho, to its so ...

Utah
.
Puerto Rico Puerto Rico (; abbreviated PR; tnq, Boriken, ''Borinquen''), officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico ( es, link=yes, Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico, lit=Free Associated State of Puerto Rico) is a Caribbean island and Unincorporated ...

Puerto Rico
, and
Panama Panama ( , ; es, link=no, Panamá ), officially the Republic of Panama ( es, República de Panamá), is a List of transcontinental countries#North America and South America, transcontinental country in Central America and South America, b ...

Panama
are Smithsonian Affiliates. Institution publications include '' Smithsonian'' and ''
Air & Space ''Air & Space/Smithsonian'' magazine is a bimonthly magazine put out by the National Air and Space Museum based in Washington, D.C., United States. Its first publishing was in April 1986. Because the museum is a part of the Smithsonian Institution ...
'' magazines. The Institution's 30 million annual visitors are admitted without charge. Its annual budget is around $1.25 billion, with two-thirds coming from annual federal appropriations. Other funding comes from the Institution's endowment, private and corporate contributions, membership dues, and earned retail, concession, and licensing revenue. As of 2021, the Institution's endowment had a total value of about $5.4 billion.


Founding

In many ways, the origin of the Smithsonian Institution can be traced to a group of Washington citizens who, being "impressed with the importance of forming an association for promoting useful knowledge," met on June 28, 1816, to establish the
Columbian Institute for the Promotion of Arts and Sciences The Columbian Institute for the Promotion of Arts and Sciences (1816–1838) was a literary and science institution in Washington, D.C., founded by Dr. Edward Cutbush (1772–1843), a naval surgeon. Thomas Law had earlier suggested of such a so ...
. Officers were elected in October 1816, and the organization was granted a charter by Congress on April 20, 1818 (this charter expired in 1838).
Benjamin Latrobe Benjamin Henry Boneval Latrobe (May 1, 1764 – September 3, 1820) was a British-American neoclassical Neoclassical or neo-classical may refer to: * Neoclassicism or New Classicism, any of a number of movements in the fine arts, literature, thea ...
, who was architect for the US Capitol after the War of 1812, and
William Thornton Dr. William Thornton (May 20, 1759 – March 28, 1828) was a British-American physician, inventor, painter and architect An architect is a person who plans, designs and oversees the construction of buildings. To practice architecture means t ...

William Thornton
, the architect who designed
the Octagon House The Octagon House, also known as the Colonel John Tayloe III John Tayloe III (September 2, 1770March 23, 1828), of Richmond County, Virginia, was a planter, politician and businessman. He was prominent in elite social circles. A highly successf ...

the Octagon House
and
Tudor Place Tudor Place is a Federal architecture, Federal-style mansion in Washington, D.C. that was originally the home of Thomas Peter and his wife, Martha Parke Custis Peter, a granddaughter of Martha Washington. Step-grandfather George Washington left he ...
, would serve as officers. Other prominent members, who numbered from 30 to 70 during the Institute's existence, included
John Quincy Adams John Quincy Adams (; July 11, 1767 – February 23, 1848) was an American statesman, diplomat, lawyer, and diarist who served as the sixth president of the United States The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state ...

John Quincy Adams
,
Andrew Jackson Andrew Jackson (March 15, 1767 – June 8, 1845) was an American lawyer, soldier, and statesman who served as the seventh from 1829 to 1837. Before being elected to the presidency, Jackson gained fame as a general in the and served in ...

Andrew Jackson
,
Henry Clay Henry Clay Sr. (April 12, 1777June 29, 1852) was an American attorney Attorney may refer to: Roles * Attorney at law, an official title of lawyers in some jurisdictions * Attorney general, the principal legal officer of (or advisor to) a gove ...

Henry Clay
, Judge
William Cranch William Cranch (July 17, 1769 – September 1, 1855) was a United States Circuit Judge and Chief United States Circuit Judge of the United States Circuit Court of the District of Columbia The United States Circuit Court of the District of Columb ...

William Cranch
, and
James Hoban James Hoban (1755 – December 8, 1831) was an Irish architect An architect is a person who plans, designs and oversees the construction of buildings. To practice architecture means to provide services in connection with the design of building ...
. Honorary members included
James Madison James Madison Jr. (March 16, 1751June 28, 1836) was an American statesman, diplomat, expansionist, philosopher, and Founding Father The following list of national founding figures is a record, by country, of people who were credited wi ...

James Madison
,
James Monroe James Monroe (; April 28, 1758July 4, 1831) was an American statesman, lawyer, diplomat and Founding Father The following list of national founding figures is a record, by country, of people who were credited with establishing a state. ...
,
John Adams John Adams (October 30, 1735 – July 4, 1826) was an American statesman, attorney, diplomat A diplomat (from grc, δίπλωμα; romanized Romanization or romanisation, in linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific stud ...

John Adams
,
Thomas Jefferson Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826) was an American statesman, diplomat, lawyer, architect, philosopher, and who served as the third from 1801 to 1809. He had previously served as the second under and as the first under ...

Thomas Jefferson
, and the
Marquis de Lafayette Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette (6 September 1757 – 20 May 1834), known in the United States as Lafayette (, ), was a French aristocrat and military officer who fought in the American Revolutionary War, co ...

Marquis de Lafayette
. Operating expenses were covered from the $5 yearly dues collected from each member. The Institute proposed a number of undertakings. These included the study of plant life and the creation of a botanical garden on the Capitol Mall, an examination of the country's mineral production, improvement in the management and care of livestock, and the writing of a topographical and statistical history of the United States. Reports were to be published periodically to share this knowledge with the greater public, but due to a lack of funds, this initially did not occur. The Institute first met in Blodget's Hotel, later in the Treasury Department and City Hall, before being assigned a permanent home in 1824 in the Capitol building. Beginning in 1825, weekly sittings were arranged during sessions of Congress for the reading of scientific and literary productions, but this was continued for only a short time, as the number attending declined rapidly. Eighty-five communications by 26 people were made to Congress during the entire life of the society, with more than a half relating to astronomy or mathematics. Among all the activities planned by the Institute, only a few were actually implemented. Two were the establishment of a botanical garden, and a museum that was designed to have a national and permanent status. The former occupied space where the present Botanic Garden sits. The museum contained specimens of zoology, botany, archeology, fossils, etc., some of which were passed on to the Smithsonian Institution after its formation. The Institute's charter expired in 1838, but its spirit lived on in the National Institution, founded in 1840. With the mission to "promote science and the useful arts, and to establish a national museum of natural history," this organization continued to press Congress to establish a museum that would be structured in terms that were very similar to those finally incorporated into the founding of the Smithsonian Institution. Its work helped to develop an underlying philosophy that pushed for the pursuit and development of scientific knowledge that would benefit the nation, and edify its citizens at the same time. The British scientist
James Smithson James Smithson (c. 1765 – 27 June 1829) was an English chemist and mineralogist Mineralogy is a subject of geology specializing in the scientific study of the chemistry, crystal structure, and physical (including optical mineralogy, optical ...
(1765–1829) left most of his wealth to his nephew Henry James Hungerford. When Hungerford died childless in 1835, the estate passed "to the United States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an Establishment for the increase & diffusion of knowledge among men", in accordance with Smithson's will. Congress officially accepted the legacy bequeathed to the nation and pledged the faith of the United States to the charitable trust on July 1, 1836. The American diplomat
Richard Rush Richard Rush (August 29, 1780 – July 30, 1859) was the 8th United States Attorney General and the 8th United States Secretary of the Treasury. He also served as John Quincy Adams's running mate on the National Republican ticket in 1828 United ...
was dispatched to England by President
Andrew Jackson Andrew Jackson (March 15, 1767 – June 8, 1845) was an American lawyer, soldier, and statesman who served as the seventh from 1829 to 1837. Before being elected to the presidency, Jackson gained fame as a general in the and served in ...

Andrew Jackson
to collect the bequest. Rush returned in August 1838 with 105 sacks containing 104,960
gold sovereign The sovereign is a gold coin of the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for t ...
s. This is approximately $500,000 at the time, which is or . However, when considering the GDP at the time it may be more comparable to $220 million in the year 2007. Once the money was in hand, eight years of Congressional haggling ensued over how to interpret Smithson's rather vague mandate "for the increase and diffusion of knowledge". Unfortunately, the money was invested by the US Treasury in bonds issued by the state of Arkansas, which soon defaulted. After heated debate, Massachusetts representative (and former president)
John Quincy Adams John Quincy Adams (; July 11, 1767 – February 23, 1848) was an American statesman, diplomat, lawyer, and diarist who served as the sixth president of the United States The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state ...

John Quincy Adams
persuaded Congress to restore the lost funds with interest and, despite designs on the money for other purposes, convinced his colleagues to preserve it for an institution of science and learning. Finally, on August 10, 1846, President
James K. Polk James Knox Polk (November 2, 1795 – June 15, 1849) was the 11th president of the United States, serving from 1845 to 1849. He previously was Speaker of the House of Representatives (1835–1839) and Governor of Tennessee (1839–1841). ...

James K. Polk
signed the legislation that established the Smithsonian Institution as a trust instrumentality of the United States, to be administered by a Board of Regents and a secretary of the Smithsonian.


Development

Though the Smithsonian's first secretary,
Joseph Henry Joseph Henry (December 17, 1797 – May 13, 1878) was an American scientist who served as the first Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution The Smithsonian Institution ( ), or simply, the Smithsonian, is a group of museums and educat ...

Joseph Henry
, wanted the institution to be a center for scientific research, it also became the depository for various Washington and U.S. government collections. The
United States Exploring Expedition The United States Exploring Expedition of 1838–1842 was an exploring and surveying expedition of the Pacific Ocean The Pacific Ocean is the largest and deepest of Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic Ocean in the north t ...
by the
U.S. Navy ), (unofficial)."''Non sibi sed patriae''" ( en, "Not for self but for country") (unofficial). , colors = Blue and gold  , colors_label = Colors , march = " Anchors Aweigh" ...
circumnavigated the globe between 1838 and 1842. The voyage amassed thousands of animal specimens, an
herbarium A herbarium (plural: herbaria) is a collection of preserved plant Plants are predominantly photosynthetic Photosynthesis is a process used by plants and other organisms to Energy transformation, convert light energy into chemical ener ...
of 50,000 plant specimens, and diverse shells and minerals, tropical birds, jars of seawater, and
ethnographic Ethnography (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is ap ...
artifacts from the
South Pacific Ocean South is one of the cardinal directions or compass points. South is the opposite of north and is perpendicular to the east and west. Etymology The word ''south'' comes from Old English ''sūþ'', from earlier Proto-Germanic language, Proto-Germa ...
. These specimens and artifacts became part of the Smithsonian collections, as did those collected by several military and civilian surveys of the
American West The Western United States (also called the American West, the Far West, and the West) is the List of regions of the United States#Census Bureau-designated regions and divisions, region comprising the westernmost U.S. state, states of the United ...
, including the Mexican Boundary Survey and
Pacific Railroad Surveys The Pacific Railroad Surveys (1853–1855) consisted of a series of explorations of the American West to find possible routes for a transcontinental railroad across North America. The expeditions included surveyors, scientists, and artists and resu ...
, which assembled many
Native American Native Americans may refer to: Ethnic groups * Indigenous peoples of the Americas, the pre-Columbian peoples of North and South America and their descendants * Native Americans in the United States * Indigenous peoples in Canada, the indigenous p ...
artifacts and
natural history Natural history is a domain of inquiry involving organisms, including animals, fungus, fungi, and plants, in their natural environment, leaning more towards observational than experimental methods of study. A person who studies natural history ...

natural history
specimens. In 1846, the regents developed a plan for weather observation; in 1847, money was appropriated for meteorological research. The Institution became a magnet for young
scientists A scientist is a person who conducts scientific research The scientific method is an Empirical evidence, empirical method of acquiring knowledge that has characterized the development of science since at least the 17th century. It involves ...
from 1857 to 1866, who formed a group called the
Megatherium Club The Megatherium Club was founded by William Stimpson. It was a group of Washington, D.C.-based scientists who were attracted to that city by the Smithsonian Institution's rapidly growing collection, from 1857 to 1866. Many of the members had no fo ...
. The Smithsonian played a critical role as the U.S. partner institution in early bilateral scientific exchanges with the
Academy of Sciences of Cuba An academy (Attic Greek: Ἀκαδήμεια; Koine Greek Ἀκαδημία) is an institution of secondary education, secondary or tertiary education, tertiary higher education, higher learning, research, or honorary membership. Academia is the w ...
.


Museums and buildings

Construction began on the
Smithsonian Institution Building The Smithsonian Institution Building, located near the National Mall The National Mall is a landscaped park within the National Mall and Memorial Parks National Mall and Memorial Parks (formerly known as National Capital Parks-Central) is ...

Smithsonian Institution Building
("the Castle") in 1849. Designed by architect
James Renwick Jr. James Renwick Jr. (born November 11, 1818, Bloomingdale, in Upper Manhattan Upper Manhattan, called "Uptown", is the most northern region of the New York City New York, often called New York City to distinguish it from , or NYC for s ...
, its interiors were completed by general contractor Gilbert Cameron. The building opened in 1855. The Smithsonian's first expansion came with the construction of the
Arts and Industries Building The Arts and Industries Building is the second oldest (after The Castle) of the Smithsonian Institution, Smithsonian museums on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Initially named the National Museum, it was built to provide the Smithsonian with ...
in 1881. Congress had promised to build a new structure for the museum if the 1876
Philadelphia Centennial Exposition The Centennial International Exhibition of 1876, the first official World's Fair to be held in the United States, was held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, from May 10 to November 10, 1876, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Uni ...
generated enough income. It did, and the building was designed by architects
Adolf Cluss Adolf Ludwig Cluss (July 14, 1825 – July 24, 1905) also known as Adolph Cluss was a German-born American immigrant who became one of the most important, influential and prolific architect An architect is a person who plans, designs and ove ...
and Paul Schulze, based on original plans developed by
Major General Major general (abbreviated MG, maj. gen. and similar) is a military rank used in many countries. It is derived from the older rank of sergeant major general. The disappearance of the "sergeant" in the title explains the apparent confusion of a lie ...
Montgomery C. Meigs of the
United States Army Corps of Engineers , colors = , battles = , battles_label = Wars , website = , commander1 = LTG Scott A. Spellmon , commander1_label = Comma ...
. It opened in 1881. The National Zoological Park opened in 1889 to accommodate the Smithsonian's Department of Living Animals. The park was designed by landscape architect
Frederick Law Olmsted Frederick Law Olmsted (April 26, 1822August 28, 1903) was an American landscape architect A landscape architect is a person who is educated in the field of landscape architecture. The practice of landscape architecture includes: site analysi ...

Frederick Law Olmsted
. The
National Museum of Natural History The National Museum of Natural History is a natural history museum A natural history museum or museum of natural history is a scientific institution with natural history scientific collection, collections that include current and historica ...

National Museum of Natural History
opened in June 1911 to similarly accommodate the Smithsonian's United States National Museum, which had previously been housed in the Castle and then the Arts and Industries Building. This structure was designed by the D.C. architectural firm of
Hornblower & Marshall Hornblower & Marshall was a Washington, D.C.-based architectural firm that was a partnership between Joseph Coerten Hornblower (architect), Joseph Coerten Hornblower (1848-1908) and James Rush Marshall (1851-1927). The firm designed numerous subst ...
. When
Detroit (strait A strait is a naturally formed, narrowing, typically navigable waterway that connects two larger bodies of water. The surface water generally flows at the same elevation on both sides and through the strait in either direction. Mo ...

Detroit
philanthropist Philanthropy consists of "private initiatives, for the public good, focusing on quality of life Quality of life (QOL) is defined by the World Health Organization The World Health Organization (WHO) is a list of specialized agencies of the ...
Charles Lang Freer Charles Lang Freer (February 25, 1854 – September 25, 1919) was an American industrialist, art collector, and patron. He is known for his large collection of East Asian East Asia is the east East is one of the four cardinal direction ...
donated his private collection to the Smithsonian and funds to build the museum to hold it (which was named the
Freer Gallery The Freer Gallery of Art is an art museum of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. focusing on Culture of Asia, Asian art. The Freer and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery together form the Smithsonian's national museums of Asian art in the U ...

Freer Gallery
), it was among the Smithsonian's first major donations from a private individual. The gallery opened in 1923. More than 40 years would pass before the next museum, the Museum of History and Technology (renamed the
National Museum of American History The National Museum of American History: Kenneth E. Behring Center collects, preserves, and displays the heritage of the United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or Ame ...

National Museum of American History
in 1980), opened in 1964. It was designed by the world-renowned firm of
McKim, Mead & White McKim, Mead & White was an American architectural firm that came to define architectural practice, urbanism, and the ideals of the American Renaissance in fin de siècle New York. The firm's founding partners Charles Follen McKim (1847–1909), W ...
. The
Anacostia Community Museum The Anacostia Community Museum (known colloquially as the ACM) is a community museum in the Anacostia Anacostia is a historic neighborhood in Washington, D.C. Its downtown is located at the intersection of Good Hope Road and Martin Luther K ...
, an "experimental store-front" museum created at the initiative of Smithsonian Secretary S. Dillon Ripley, opened in the
Anacostia Anacostia is a historic neighborhood in Washington, D.C. Its downtown is located at the intersection of Good Hope Road and Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue. It is located east of the Anacostia River, after which the neighborhood is named. Like ...

Anacostia
neighborhood of
Washington, D.C. ) , image_skyline = , image_caption = Clockwise from top left: the Washington Monument The Washington Monument is an obelisk within the National Mall The National Mall is a Landscape architecture, landscaped ...
, in 1967. That same year, the Smithsonian signed an agreement to take over the Cooper Union Museum for the Arts of Decoration (now the
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum is a design museum A museum ( ; plural museums or, rarely, musea) is an institution that Preservation (library and archival science), cares for (conserves) a collection (artwork), collection of ar ...
). The National Portrait Gallery and the
Smithsonian American Art Museum The Smithsonian American Art Museum (commonly known as SAAM, and formerly the National Museum of American Art) is a museum in Washington, D.C. ) , image_skyline = , image_caption = Clockwise from top left: the Was ...

Smithsonian American Art Museum
opened in the
Old Patent Office Building The historic Old Patent Office Building in Washington, D.C. covers an entire city block defined by F and G Streets and 7th and 9th Streets NW in Chinatown. It served as one of the earliest United States Patent Office buildings. After undergoin ...
(built in 1867) on October 7, 1968. The reuse of an older building continued with the opening of the
Renwick Gallery The Renwick Gallery is a branch of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, located in Washington, D.C., and focuses on American craft and decorative arts from the 19th to the 21st century. It is housed in a National Historic Landmark building that wa ...

Renwick Gallery
in 1972 in the 1874 Renwick-designed art gallery originally built by local philanthropist William Wilson Corcoran to house the
Corcoran Gallery of Art The Corcoran Gallery of Art was an art museum in Washington, D.C., United States, that is now the location of the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design, a part of the George Washington University. Overview The Corcoran School, founded in 1878, hos ...
. The first new museum building to open since the National Museum of Natural History was the
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden is an art museum beside the National Mall, in Washington, D.C., the United States. The museum was initially endowed during the 1960s with the permanent art collection of Joseph H. Hirshhorn. It was desig ...
, which opened in 1974. The
National Air and Space Museum#REDIRECT National Air and Space Museum
{{Redirect category shell, 1= {{R from other capitalisation ...

National Air and Space Museum
, the Smithsonian's largest in terms of floor space, opened in June 1976. Eleven years later, the
National Museum of African Art The National Museum of African Art is the Smithsonian Institution The Smithsonian Institution ( ), also known simply as The Smithsonian, is a trust instrumentality of the United States composed as a group of museums and research centers. It ...

National Museum of African Art
and the
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery is an art museum An art museum is a building or space for the display of art, usually from the museum's own Collection (artwork), collection. It might be in public or private ownership and may be accessible to al ...

Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
opened in a new, joint, underground museum between the Freer Gallery and the Smithsonian Castle. Reuse of another old building came in 1993 with the opening of the
National Postal Museum The National Postal Museum, located opposite Union Station A union station (also known as a union terminal and, in Europe, a joint station) is a railway station Rail transport (also known as train transport) is a means of transferring ...

National Postal Museum
in the 1904 former
City Post Office
City Post Office
building, a few city blocks from the Mall. In 2004, the Smithsonian opened the
National Museum of the American Indian The National Museum of the American Indian is a museum in the United States devoted to the culture of the indigenous peoples of the Americas. It is part of the Smithsonian Institution group of museums and research centers. The museum has three ...

National Museum of the American Indian
in a new building near the
United States Capitol The United States Capitol, often called The Capitol or the Capitol Building, is the meeting place of the United States Congress The United States Congress is the legislature of the federal government of the United States. It is Bicame ...

United States Capitol
. Twelve years later almost to the day, in 2016, the latest museum opened: the
National Museum of African American History and Culture The National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) is a Smithsonian Institution museum located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., in the United States. It was established in December 2003 and opened its permanent home in S ...

National Museum of African American History and Culture
, in a new building near the
Washington Monument The Washington Monument is an obelisk within the National Mall The National Mall is a Landscape architecture, landscaped park within the National Mall and Memorial Parks, an official unit of the National Park Service#National Park System, Un ...

Washington Monument
. Two more museums have been established and are being planned for eventual construction on the mall: the National Museum of the American Latino and the Smithsonian American Women's History Museum.


Capital campaigns

In 2011, the Smithsonian undertook its first-ever capital fundraising campaign. The $1.5 billion effort raised $1 billion at the three-year mark. Smithsonian officials made the campaign public in October 2014 in an effort to raise the remaining $500 million. More than 60,000 individuals and organizations donated money to the campaign by the time it went public. This included 192 gifts of at least $1 million. Members of the boards of directors of various Smithsonian museums donated $372 million. The Smithsonian said that funds raised would go toward completion of the
National Museum of African American History and Culture The National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) is a Smithsonian Institution museum located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., in the United States. It was established in December 2003 and opened its permanent home in S ...

National Museum of African American History and Culture
building, and renovations of the
National Air and Space Museum#REDIRECT National Air and Space Museum
{{Redirect category shell, 1= {{R from other capitalisation ...

National Air and Space Museum,
National Museum of American History The National Museum of American History: Kenneth E. Behring Center collects, preserves, and displays the heritage of the United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or Ame ...

National Museum of American History
, and the
Renwick Gallery The Renwick Gallery is a branch of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, located in Washington, D.C., and focuses on American craft and decorative arts from the 19th to the 21st century. It is housed in a National Historic Landmark building that wa ...

Renwick Gallery
. A smaller amount of funds would go to educational initiatives and digitization of collections. As of September 2017, the Smithsonian claimed to have raised $1.79 billion, with three months left in the formal campaign calendar. Separately from the major capital campaign, the Smithsonian has begun fundraising through
Kickstarter Kickstarter is an American public benefit corporation Public-benefit corporation is a term that has different meanings in different jurisdictions. In some cases it is the technical term used for a traditional nonprofit charity or religious orga ...
. An example is a campaign to fund the preservation and maintenance of the
ruby slippers The ruby slippers are the magic pair of shoes worn by Dorothy Gale Dorothy Gale is a fictional character created by American author L. Frank Baum as the protagonist in many of his Land of Oz, ''Oz'' novels. She first appears in Baum's classic ...

ruby slippers
worn by
Judy Garland Judy Garland (born Frances Ethel Gumm; June 10, 1922 – June 22, 1969) was an American actress and singer. She is widely known for playing the role of Dorothy Gale Dorothy Gale is a fictional character created by American author L. Frank Baum ...
for her role as
Dorothy Gale Dorothy Gale is a fictional character created by American author L. Frank Baum as the protagonist in many of his Land of Oz, ''Oz'' novels. She first appears in Baum's classic 1900 children's novel ''The Wonderful Wizard of Oz'' and reappears in m ...
in the 1939 film ''
The Wizard of Oz ''The Wizard of Oz'' may refer to: *''The Wonderful Wizard of Oz'', a 1900 American novel by L. Frank Baum **Wizard of Oz (character), from the Baum novel series The Wizard of Oz may also refer to: Adaptations of the novel Film * The Wonderful ...
''.


Museums

Nineteen museums and galleries, as well as the National Zoological Park, comprise the Smithsonian museums.Facts about the Smithsonian Institution
. newsdesk.si.edu (Pressroom of the Smithsonian Institution). Retrieved February 19, 2011
Eleven are on the
National Mall The National Mall is a landscaped park within the National Mall and Memorial Parks National Mall and Memorial Parks (formerly known as National Capital Parks-Central) is an administrative unit of the National Park Service The National Park ...

National Mall
, the park that runs between the
Lincoln Memorial The Lincoln Memorial is a US national memorial built to honor the 16th president of the United States The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state and head of government of the United States of America. The pres ...

Lincoln Memorial
and the
United States Capitol The United States Capitol, often called The Capitol or the Capitol Building, is the meeting place of the United States Congress The United States Congress is the legislature of the federal government of the United States. It is Bicame ...

United States Capitol
. Other museums are located elsewhere in Washington, D.C., with two more in New York City and one in
Chantilly, Virginia Chantilly is a census-designated place A census-designated place (CDP) is a concentration of population defined by the United States Census Bureau The United States Census Bureau (USCB), officially the Bureau of the Census, is a princip ...
. The Smithsonian has close ties with 168 other museums in 39 states,
Panama Panama ( , ; es, link=no, Panamá ), officially the Republic of Panama ( es, República de Panamá), is a List of transcontinental countries#North America and South America, transcontinental country in Central America and South America, b ...

Panama
, and
Puerto Rico Puerto Rico (; abbreviated PR; tnq, Boriken, ''Borinquen''), officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico ( es, link=yes, Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico, lit=Free Associated State of Puerto Rico) is a Caribbean island and Unincorporated ...

Puerto Rico
. These museums are known as Smithsonian Affiliated museums. Collections of artifacts are given to these museums in the form of long-term loans. The Smithsonian also has a large number of traveling exhibitions, operated through the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES). In 2008, 58 of these traveling exhibitions went to 510 venues across the country.


Collections

Smithsonian collections include 156 million artworks, artifacts, and specimens. The
National Museum of Natural History The National Museum of Natural History is a natural history museum A natural history museum or museum of natural history is a scientific institution with natural history scientific collection, collections that include current and historica ...

National Museum of Natural History
houses 145 million of these specimens and artifacts, which are mostly animals preserved in Formaldehyde. The Collections Search Center has 9.9 million digital records available online. The Smithsonian Institution Libraries hold 2 million library volumes. Smithsonian Archives hold of archival material. The Smithsonian Institution has many categories of displays that can be visited at the museums. In 1912, First Lady
Helen Herron Taft Helen Louise Taft (née__NOTOC__ A birth name is the name of the person given upon their birth. The term may be applied to the surname, the given name or to the entire name. Where births are required to be officially registered, the entire nam ...
donated her inauguration gown to the museum to begin the First Ladies' Gown display at the
National Museum of American History The National Museum of American History: Kenneth E. Behring Center collects, preserves, and displays the heritage of the United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or Ame ...

National Museum of American History
, one of the Smithsonian's most popular exhibits. The museum displays treasures such as the
Star-Spangled Banner "The Star-Spangled Banner" is the national anthem of the United States. The lyrics come from the "Defence of Fort M'Henry", a poem written on September 14, 1814, by 35-year-old lawyer and amateur poet Francis Scott Key after witnessing the bom ...
, the stove pipe hat that was worn by President
Abraham Lincoln Abraham Lincoln (; February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865) was an American statesman and lawyer who served as the 16th president of the United States The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state and head of governme ...

Abraham Lincoln
, the ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in ''
The Wizard Of Oz ''The Wizard of Oz'' may refer to: *''The Wonderful Wizard of Oz'', a 1900 American novel by L. Frank Baum **Wizard of Oz (character), from the Baum novel series The Wizard of Oz may also refer to: Adaptations of the novel Film * The Wonderful ...
'', and the original Teddy Bear that was named after President
Theodore Roosevelt Theodore Roosevelt Jr. ( ; October 27, 1858 – January 6, 1919), often referred to as Teddy or his initials T. R., was an American politician, statesman, conservationist, naturalist, historian, and writer who served as the 26th president o ...

Theodore Roosevelt
. In 2016, the Smithsonian's Air & Space museum curators restored the large model ''Enterprise'' from the original ''
Star Trek ''Star Trek'' is an American science fiction media franchise created by Gene Roddenberry, which began with the Star Trek: The Original Series, eponymous 1960s series and quickly became a worldwide Popular culture, pop-culture Cultural influ ...
'' TV series.


Open access

In February 2020, the Smithsonian made 2.8 million digital items available to the public under a Creative Commons Zero Public Domain Dedication, with a commitment to release further items in the future.


Research centers and programs

The following is a list of Smithsonian research centers, with their affiliated museum in parentheses: *
Archives of American Art The Archives of American Art is the largest collection of primary resources documenting the history of the visual arts in the United States. More than 20 million items of original material are housed in the Archives' research centers in Washingto ...
*
California State Railroad Museum The California State Railroad Museum is a museum A museum ( ; plural museums or, rarely, musea) is an institution that Preservation (library and archival science), cares for (conserves) a collection (artwork), collection of artifacts and ...
* Carrie Bow Marine Field Station (Natural History Museum) * Center for Earth and Planetary Studies (Air and Space Museum) * Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage * Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce, Marine Station at Fort Pierce (Natural History Museum) * Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center (National Zoo) * Museum Conservation Institute * Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center * Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the associated Harvard–Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics * Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (National Zoo) * Smithsonian Environmental Research Center * Smithsonian Institution Archives * Smithsonian Libraries * Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press * Smithsonian Latino Center * Smithsonian Provenance Research Initiative (SPRI) * Smithsonian Science Education Center * Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (Panamá) * Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Also of note is the Smithsonian Museum Support Center (MSC), located in Silver Hill, Maryland (Suitland), which is the principal off-site conservation and collections facility for multiple Smithsonian museums, primarily the
National Museum of Natural History The National Museum of Natural History is a natural history museum A natural history museum or museum of natural history is a scientific institution with natural history scientific collection, collections that include current and historica ...

National Museum of Natural History
. The MSC was dedicated in May 1983. The MSC covers of land, with over of space, making it one of the largest set of structures in the Smithsonian. It has over of cabinets, and more than 31 million objects.


Smithsonian Latino Center

In 1997, the Smithsonian Latino Center was created as a way to recognize Latinos across the Smithsonian Institution. The primary purpose of the center is to place Latino contributions to the arts, history, science, and national culture across the Smithsonian's museums and research centers. The center is a division of the Smithsonian Institution. As of May 2016, the center is run by an executive director, Eduardo Díaz.


History

At the time of its creation, the Smithsonian Institution had other entities dedicated to other minority groups: National Museum of the American Indian, Freer-Sackler Gallery for Asian Arts and Culture, African Art Museum, and the National Museum of African-American Heritage and Culture. The opening of the center was prompted, in part, by the publishing of a report called "Willful Neglect: The Smithsonian and U.S. Latinos". According to documents obtained by ''The Washington Post'', when former Latino Center executive director Pilar O'Leary first took the job, the center faced employees who had "serious performance issues". No performance plans existed for the staff and unfulfilled financial obligations to sponsors existed. The website's quality was poor, and the center did not have a public affairs manager, a programs director, adequate human resources support, or cohesive mission statement. After difficult times in the first few years, the center improved. According to the Smithsonian, the center "support[s] scholarly research, exhibitions, public and educational programs, web-based content and virtual platforms, and collections and archives. [It] also manage[s] leadership and professional development programs for Latino youth, emerging scholars and museum professionals." Today, the website features a high-tech virtual museum.


Young Ambassadors Program

The Smithsonian Latino Center's Young Ambassadors Program (YAP) is a program within the Latino Center that reaches out to Latino high school students with the goal of encouraging them to become leaders in arts, sciences, and the humanities. Students selected for the program travel to Washington, D.C. for an "enrichment seminar" that lasts approximately five days. Afterwards, students return to their communities to serve in a paid, one-month internship. Pilar O'Leary launched the program when she served as executive director of the Smithsonian Latino Center. According to the Latino Center, O'Leary told the press in 2007: "Our goal is to help our Young Ambassadors become the next generation of leaders in the arts and culture fields. This program encourages students to be proud of their roots and learn more about their cultural heritage to inspire them to educate the public in their own communities about how Latinos are enriching America's cultural fabric."


Publications

The Institution publishes '' Smithsonian'' magazine monthly and ''
Air & Space ''Air & Space/Smithsonian'' magazine is a bimonthly magazine put out by the National Air and Space Museum based in Washington, D.C., United States. Its first publishing was in April 1986. Because the museum is a part of the Smithsonian Institution ...
'' magazine bimonthly. ''Smithsonian'' was the result of Secretary of the Smithsonian S. Dillon Ripley asking the retired editor of ''Life (magazine), Life'' magazine Edward K. Thompson to produce a magazine "about things in which the Smithsonian Institution is interested, might be interested or ought to be interested". Another Secretary of the Smithsonian, Walter Boyne, founded ''Air & Space.'' The organization publishes under the imprints Smithsonian Institution Press, Smithsonian Books, and Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press.


Awards

The Smithsonian makes a number of awards to acknowledge and support meritorious work. * The James Smithson Medal, the Smithsonian Institution's highest award, was established in 1965 and is given in recognition of exceptional contributions to art, science, history, education, and technology. * The James Smithson Bicentennial Medal, established in 1965, is given to persons who have made distinguished contributions to the advancement of areas of interest to the Smithsonian. * The Hodgkins Medal, established in 1893, is awarded for important contributions to the understanding of the physical environment. * The Henry Medal, established in 1878, is presented to individuals in recognition of their distinguished service, achievements or contributions to the prestige and growth of the Smithsonian Institution. * The Langley Gold Medal is awarded for meritorious investigations in connection with the science of aerodromics and its application to aviation.


Administration

The Smithsonian Institution was established as a Trust (property), trust instrumentality by act of Congress. More than two-thirds of the Smithsonian's workforce of some 6,300 persons are employees of the federal government. The Smithsonian Office of Protection Services oversees security at the Smithsonian facilities and enforces laws and regulations for National Capital Parks together with the United States Park Police. The president's 2011 budget proposed just under $800 million in support for the Smithsonian, slightly increased from previous years. Institution exhibits are free of charge, though in 2010 the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, Deficit Commission recommended admission fees. As approved by United States Congress, Congress on August 10, 1846, the legislation that created the Smithsonian Institution called for the creation of a Board of Regents to govern and administer the organization. This 17-member board meets at least four times a year and includes as ''ex officio'' members the Chief Justice of the United States, chief justice of the United States and the Vice President of the United States, vice president of the United States. The nominal head of the Institution is the Chancellor (education), chancellor, an office which has traditionally been held by the chief justice. In September 2007, the board created the position of Chair of the Board of Regents, a position currently held by Steve Case. Other members of the Board of Regents are three members of the U.S. House of Representatives appointed by the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, speaker of the House; three members of the Senate, appointed by the Senate of the United States#Officers, president ''pro tempore'' of the Senate; and nine citizen members, nominated by the board and approved by the Congress in a joint resolution signed by the president of the United States. Regents who are senators or representatives serve for the duration of their elected terms, while citizen Regents serve a maximum of two six-year terms. Regents are compensated on a part-time basis. The chief executive officer (CEO) of the Smithsonian is the secretary, who is appointed by the Board of Regents. The secretary also serves as secretary to the Board of Regents but is not a voting member of that body. The secretary of the Smithsonian has the Standing Rules of the United States Senate, Rule XXIII, privilege of the floor at the United States Senate. On September 18, 2013, Secretary G. Wayne Clough announced he would retire in October 2014. The Smithsonian Board of Regents said it asked regent John McCarter, Jr., to lead a search committee.Cooper, Rebecca. "Smithsonian Chief Will Retire in 2014." ''Washington Business Journal.'' September 18, 2013.
Accessed September 18, 2013.
On March 10, 2014, the Smithsonian Board selected David Skorton, a physician and president of Cornell University, as the 13th secretary of the Smithsonian. Skorton took the reins of the institution on July 1, 2015.Parker, Lonnae O'Neal Parker and Boyle, Katherine. "Smithsonian Institution Names Cornell President As Its 13th Secretary." ''Washington Post.'' March 10, 2014.
Accessed March 10, 2014.
Upon Skorton's announced resignation in 2019, the Board selected Lonnie Bunch, Lonnie Bunch III, the founding director of the Smithsonian's
National Museum of African American History and Culture The National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) is a Smithsonian Institution museum located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., in the United States. It was established in December 2003 and opened its permanent home in S ...

National Museum of African American History and Culture
, as the 14th secretary.


Secretaries of the Smithsonian Institution

*
Joseph Henry Joseph Henry (December 17, 1797 – May 13, 1878) was an American scientist who served as the first Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution The Smithsonian Institution ( ), or simply, the Smithsonian, is a group of museums and educat ...

Joseph Henry
, 1846–1878 * Spencer Fullerton Baird, 1878–1887 * Samuel Pierpont Langley, 1887–1906 * Charles Doolittle Walcott, 1907–1927 * Charles Greeley Abbot, 1928–1944 * Alexander Wetmore, 1944–1952 * Leonard Carmichael, 1953–1964 * Sidney Dillon Ripley, 1964–1984 * Robert McCormick Adams, Jr., 1984–1994 * Ira Michael Heyman, 1994–1999 * Lawrence M. Small, 2000–2007 * G. Wayne Clough, 2008–2015 * David J. Skorton, 2015–2019 * Lonnie Bunch, 2019–present


Controversies


''Enola Gay'' display

In 1995, controversy arose over the exhibit at the
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National Air and Space Museum with the display of the ''Enola Gay'', the Superfortress used by the United States to drop the first atomic bomb used in World War II. The American Legion and Air Force Association believed the exhibit put forward only one side of the debate over the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and that it emphasized the effect on victims without discussing its use within the overall context of the war. The Smithsonian changed the exhibit, displaying the aircraft only with associated technical data and without discussion of its historic role in the war.


Censorship of "Seasons of Life and Land"

In 2003, a
National Museum of Natural History The National Museum of Natural History is a natural history museum A natural history museum or museum of natural history is a scientific institution with natural history scientific collection, collections that include current and historica ...

National Museum of Natural History
exhibit, Subhankar Banerjee (photographer), Subhankar Banerjee's ''Seasons of Life and Land'', featuring photographs of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, was censored and moved to the basement by Smithsonian officials because they feared that its subject matter was too politically controversial. In November 2007, ''The Washington Post'' reported internal criticism has been raised regarding the institution's handling of the exhibit on the Arctic. According to documents and e-mails, the exhibit and its associated presentation were edited at high levels to add "scientific uncertainty" regarding the nature and impact of global warming on the Arctic. Acting Secretary of the Smithsonian Cristián Samper was interviewed by the ''Post'', and claimed the exhibit was edited because it contained conclusions that went beyond what could be proven by contemporary climatology. The Smithsonian is now a participant in the U.S. Global Change Research Program.


Copyright restrictions

The Smithsonian Institution provides access to its image collections for educational, scholarly, and nonprofit uses. Commercial uses are generally restricted unless permission is obtained. Smithsonian images fall into different copyright categories; some are protected by copyright, many are subject to license agreements or other contractual conditions, and some fall into the public domain, such as those prepared by Smithsonian employees as part of their official duties. The Smithsonian's terms of use for its digital content, including images, are set forth on the Smithsonian Web site. In April 2006, the institution entered into an agreement of "first refusal" rights for its vast silent film, silent and public domain film archives with Showtime Networks, mainly for use on the Smithsonian Channel, a network created from this deal. Critics contend this agreement effectively gives Showtime control over the film archives, as it requires filmmakers to obtain permission from the network to use extensive amounts of film footage from the Smithsonian archives.


See also

* 3773 Smithsonian * List of aircraft in the Smithsonian Institution * Smithsonian Ocean Portal * Smithsonian Theaters


Notes


References


Further reading

* Nina Burleigh, ''Stranger and the Statesman: James Smithson, John Quincy Adams, and the Making of America's Greatest Museum, The Smithsonian.'' New York: HarperCollins, 2003. * Heather Ewing, ''The Lost World of James Smithson: Science, Revolution, and the Birth of the Smithsonian.'' Bloomsbury, 2007. * United States. Congress. House of Representatives
Collections Stewardship at the Smithsonian: Hearing before the Committee on House Administration, House of Representatives, One Hundred Thirteenth Congress, First Session.
Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2013. * William S. Walker, ''A Living Exhibition: The Smithsonian and the Transformation of the Universal Museum.'' Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2013.


External links

*

* [https://www.si.edu/openaccess Smithsonian Open Access – nearly 3 million Free images now available]
video
1:40) {{Authority control Smithsonian Institution, 1846 establishments in Washington, D.C. Museums established in 1846 History of museums Members of the Cultural Alliance of Greater Washington Smithsonian Institution museums Science museums in Washington, D.C. Art museums and galleries in Washington, D.C. History museums in Washington, D.C. Museum organizations National museums of the United States