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The Commons in the West Wing
Smithsonian Institution, neg. 92-16581.
The West Wing was converted to a dining hall, named the Commons, a term suggesting the traditional dining rooms in historic English colleges. It was to serve Smithsonian staff and their guests as well as Contributing Members. Of the numerous vaulted ceilings in the original building, only the West Wing retained its evocative Gothic character.
To heighten the Gothic effect of the room, shields representing the coat of arms of famous men of letters and science from England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. Were mounted in 1971. Exhibited in the British Pavilion at the 1939 World's Fair held in New York, these shields were left in the United States upon the outbreak of World War II and eventually given to the Smithsonian.
The coat of arms of Horace Walpole, William Penn, William Pitt, William Shakespeare, Sir Francis Drake, Edmund Burke, William Laud, Benjamin Disraeli, Sir Isaac Newton, Robert Blake, Geoffrey Chaucer, Charles Darwin were displayed.