Smithsonian Institution

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Smithsonian Institution,

research and education center, mainly at Washington, D.C.; founded 1846 under the terms of the will of James Smithson of London, who in 1829 bequeathed his fortune to the United States to create an establishment for the "increase and diffusion of knowledge among men." The institution began as a museum and today "the nation's attic" is the largest museum complex in the world, with 20 museums, nine research centers, and the national zoo. The vast complex includes the Anacostia Community Museum; the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery; the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage; the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum (New York City); the Freer Gallery of Art; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture GardenHirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden,
Washington, D.C. Part of the Smithsonian Institution, the museum was designed by Gordon Bunshaft to house 6,000 pieces of the enormous art collection amassed by the industrialist Joseph H.
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; the National Air and Space Museum (both on the National Mall and at Dulles International Airport); the National Museum of African American History and CultureNational Museum of African American History and Culture,
Washington, D.C., a division of the Smithsonian Institution. Devoted to the collection, presentation, and preservation of the culture of African Americans, it was established in 2003 by an act of Congress and opened in
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; the National Museum of African Art; the National Museum of American History; the National Museum of Natural History; the National Museum of the American IndianNational Museum of the American Indian,
institution devoted to the collection, preservation, and presentation of the culture of the indigenous populations of the Western Hemisphere, a division of the Smithsonian Institution.
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 (including the George Gustav Heye Center, New York City); the National Portrait Gallery; the National Postal Museum; the National Zoological Park; the Smithsonian American Art Museum (including the separate Renwick Gallery); the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (Cambridge, Mass., where it forms part of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics); the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland); the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (based in Panama); and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is an independent bureau within the institution, and the National Gallery of ArtNational Gallery of Art,
Washington, D.C., an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, established by an act of Congress, 1937. Andrew W. Mellon donated funds for construction of the building as well as his own collection of 130 American portraits.
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 is an affiliate of the Smithsonian.


See The Official Guide to the Smithsonian (2002).

Smithsonian Institution

U.S. public institution that maintains collections of historic and cultural significant objects in various history and art museums; preserves its own historic public buildings; and administers document collections useful in research.

Smithsonian Institution


one of the largest scientific research and cultural centers in the USA. The Smithsonian Institution was founded in Washington, D.C., in 1846 by a special act of Congress to use the funds bequeathed by the British chemist and mineralogist J. Smithson (1765–1829) “for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men.” It includes the National Museum of Natural History and the National Museum of History and Technology, both founded in 1846, which house 60 million items in anthropology, botany, zoology, entomology, paleobiology, mineralogy, the history of science and technology, civil and military history, art, and folk art. Other bureaus include the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, the National Gallery of Art, the National Zoological Park, and other scientific institutions. The Smithsonian Institution conducts extensive publishing operations, and its bureaus publish yearly collections of scholarly works and monographs.

The Smithsonian Establishment consists of the president and vice-president of the US, the secretaries of state, the treasury, and defense, the chief justice, and other officials. The presiding officer ex officio is the president. [23–1831–]

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