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Chemical Laboratory
woodcut from William J. Rhees, An Account of the Smithsonian Institution...

Smithsonian Institution, neg. 43807-E.

Separated from the lecture hall for fire safety by a thick wall and an iron door, the Chemical Laboratory and the Laboratory of Natural History were located from 1849 to 1872 in adjoining rooms on the first floor of the East Range.

The slender clustered columns with carved capitals and round arched doors and windows of these two rooms echoed James Renwick, Jr.'s exterior architectural details. Rounded forms for doors and windows were thought to harmonize better with a flat ceiling than the pointed gothic arch. Such attention to architectural detailing in rooms not open to the general public is indicative of the stature accorded the building and the Institution.

The Laboratory of Natural History was open for the study and examination of the Institution's natural history specimens while the Chemical Laboratory was used by qualified professionals. Research resulting from the use of the laboratories was to be published in the Smithsonian's Contributions to Knowledge.