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The Lost World of James Smithson

April 16, 2007 – February 6, 2008

Museum: Smithsonian Castle

Location: Schermer Hall, West Wing

In 1865, a terrible fire destroyed the top floor of the Smithsonian Castle building, and with it the mineral collections and most of the papers of James Smithson, the British chemist and mineralogist whose bequest to the United States created the Smithsonian Institution. Smithson's book collection and some of his mineralogical notes survived and are used -- along with objects from the National Museum of Natural History, National Museum of American History, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Libraries, and Smithsonian Archives -- to take a closer look at his life.

Related book: The Lost World of James Smithson: Science, Revolution, and the Birth of the Smithsonian