SI 175

2021 represents a significant chapter in the Smithsonian’s history—its 175th anniversary. As we commemorate this milestone, it is important to not only look back at where we have been, but also look ahead to what is on the horizon.

Watch the special virtual event to kick off the Smithsonian’s 175th birthday commemoration! 

Kickoff to the Smithsonian’s 175th Birthday Commemoration

Kickoff to the Smithsonian’s 175th Birthday Commemoration

[drum cymbals plays]

[jazz ensemble plays]

MAN: Good afternoon.

Good afternoon.

Good afternoon. The show is about to begin.

I just want to let you know, at the end of the show,

you'll be doing a toast to wish that Smithsonian happy birthday.

We're going to ask you all to ring a bell.

You may have noticed there's a bell at the foot of your chair.

That's what those are for.

So when you're queued, please ring the bell.

Remember there is a virtual audience watching this online at the same time.

Enjoy the show. It will start shortly.

MAN: Please welcome the United States Marine Corps President's Own

playing Transit of Venus by John Philip Sousa

and commissioned for and first played at the Smithsonian in 1883.

[ensemble plays]

[ensemble stops]


[dramatic music]

MAN: America,

1846 an audacious idea

to grow and broadcast more knowledge

than the world had ever seen

with an eye to the future.

That dream was the Smithsonian, your Smithsonian.

Expanding the portrait of a people,

revealing the building blocks of life

to discover new species

and save those we already know.

A knowledge powerhouse with purpose,

and a community mindset,

inspiring a new generation to learn from the past,

speak up,

be civic,

serve in nation,

so that together we can step the future with optimism,

no dreams deferred.

MAN: Please welcome Steve Case chair of the Smithsonian Board of Regents.


STEVE CASE: Good afternoon. Even though I took my mask off to be safe,

we'd like everybody here to keep their masks on,

but we would like everybody here to turn their cell phones off,

or at least turn your beepers off so we can enjoy the presentation today.

On behalf of the Smithsonian Board of Regents,

I would like to welcome our friends here in the Great Hall,

which is the very first Smithsonian building,

The Castle, as well as those participating via

Together, we're kicking off a year of celebration, reflection,

and re-imagination as we mark the 175th anniversary

of the establishment of the Smithsonian.

175 years ago today, the United States of America did something extraordinary.

Despite still being in its own formative stages,

our fledgling democracy decided to put its full faith and credit

behind the wish of an unknown British scientist

who never set foot in the United States,

that a place dedicated to the increase

and diffusion of knowledge be established in Washington, DC,

and that it be called the Smithsonian institution.

Nothing like it existed then.

Nothing else like it exists today.

From 28 words in James Smithson's will

has come 21 museums that collectively host over 20 million visitors annually,

11 research and cultural centers, 155 million objects and specimens,

and a workforce of 6,200 staff and over 5,000 volunteers

all committed to that original compelling mission,

the increase, and diffusion of knowledge.

Over these past 175 years,

the Smithsonian has evolved to become an unparalleled platform

for research and discovery respected by all.

The Smithsonian has become a trusted presence

both on and off The Mall known for its revered museums.

And perhaps most important of all,

the Smithsonian has become a symbol to the world.

A symbol of learning, of exploration, of wonder, and of America.

But as we turn 175, I'm pleased to report that we're just getting started.

We can all agree that nothing beats

the experience of actually being in a Smithsonian museum,

being transformed by a physical object you encounter

that might inspire you to learn more, and for some,

might even trigger a lifelong pursuit of discovery.

We all know that we now live in an increasingly digital world.

In the past year, many of us learned that we can work from anywhere.

We've also learned we can learn from anywhere

and we've learned that the Smithsonian can inspire people anywhere and everywhere.

Even when our museums were closed,

the virtual Smithsonian was open,

serving the nation and inspiring the world.

We learned how important this digital presence can be,

especially to the many people who will never have the opportunity

to come visit us here in Washington, DC.

No longer will our reach and impact be defined solely

by the people able to visit our museums.

We're no longer just expecting people to come to us,

we're increasingly going to them.

The Smithsonian is more committed than ever to take our ideas,

our inspiration, our magic, to every classroom and every home.

We make this commitment in the very place where it all started,

the Smithsonian Castle, and we'll meet this challenge

because of the extraordinary leadership

of the 14th secretary of the Smithsonian Lonnie Bunch.

As the Founding Director of the National Museum

of African American History and Culture,

Lonnie was driven to create a museum that would be,

and I quote, a place that would make America better, and he did that.

Now as secretary of the Smithsonian,

Lonnie is doing the same thing for this great institution,

helping us lean into the future,

balancing tradition and innovation as we aspire to increase

and diffuse knowledge, and be an important voice

and inspiration for our country and our world.

So today, on our 175th anniversary of the establishment

of the Smithsonian Institution,

I'm proud to turn the stage over to a great historian,

a great innovator, a great secretary,

and my partner and friend, Lonnie bunch.



Lonnie Bunch: Thank you. Thank you.

What a grand and glorious day,

what a wonderful opportunity to remember

and to commemorate 175 years of the Smithsonian.

Steve, let me thank you for your leadership.

We all appreciate what you and the regents have done to help lead this institution.

All of our success and our ability to handle the last several years

is because of your leadership so thank you so much Steve.

I've got to be honest though,

initially, I wasn't all that excited about celebrating our 175th anniversary.

I mean, it's kind of like celebrating your 49th birthday.

Who cares but you, right?

But I realized after thinking about it how wrong I was,

because today, we celebrate 175 years of being a value,

of being of service, of being a trusted source of knowledge,

a site of education and inspiration.

We are an institution that holds America's collective memory.

An institution that is part of the zoo, yeah, the zoo as well,

but the glue that holds the country together,

a place like no other,

using our research and our reach to influence the world in astonishing ways.

All of that is worth celebrating.

I think about August 10th, 1846.

Few could have imagined the Smithsonian of today.

Few could understand what increase and diffusion of knowledge could come to mean.

Because think about 1846.

It's a time of real crisis in this nation.

It's a time of fights over slavery and freedom.

Over abolitionists.

It's a time where we soon go to war with Mexico

over acquiring land and acquiring slavery.

But in essence, out of that complicated time comes the Smithsonian

because what we realize is that the pursuit of knowledge

has continued to be our north star.

That pursuit has always pointed the Smithsonian towards the future.

In some ways, our greatest strength has been our willingness to evolve and change.

What has never changed, however, is our commitment to use our research,

our collections, and our educational offerings

to make America better and contribute to the greater good.

As a historian, I'm fascinated by our shared past.

For instance, I marvel at the creativity of so many of the secretaries.

Joseph Henry, the first secretary helped to define an institution

unlike any ever created in America,

and Spencer Baird recognized the importance of creating

a national museum that reflected and shaped our national identity,

all housed within the new then created Arts and Industries building.

And S. Dillon Ripley who I'm grateful for because he hired me,

S. Dillon Ripley radically transformed this institution,

undertaking a massive expansion by adding museums

from the Anacostia Museum, to Air and Space, to the Hirsh horn.

But candidly, I'm even more impressed and more humbled

by the work of the pioneering staff.

The women known as computers whose work was vital

to early astronomy and what is now SAO.

The staff whose concern about conservation

led to bison on The Mall and the eventual creation of the national zoo.

Officials who

when Wilbur Wright requested all the information the Smithsonian had about flight,

encouraged him, responded,

and made sure that we could help the Wright brothers

learn all that they could about ballooning and about flying.

Then I think of people like John Kennard,

who changed the way museums serve their communities

by creating the Anacostia community museum.

And the way his colleagues all felt in reimagined

the role of educators in museums.

And I think a lot about the acquisition of the freer collection

and how it would have brought American understanding

of the possibilities inherent in the arts.

And I remember the countless exhibitions that challenged

and enriched the public’s understanding;

paved ground breaking exhibitions at the American Museum of History,

a nation of nations and Spencer crews fill the factory

to the natural history museums more recent deep time.

Examples like this remind me how transformative our content can be

and how it can add to increase and diffusion of knowledge.

But candidly despite those moments we can point to with pride

we’ve also had times when weren’t as Enlighted.

When efforts to exclude people based on gender or race were accepted as normal.

The history of this Smithsonian is also a mirror of America

that reflects not just the best of the nation

but moments in which we failed to live up to our highest ideals.

I think so much about the great evolutionist,

Frederick Douglass being barred from speaking in this building

by Joseph Henry, the first secretary,

who also believed in the history of eugenics

that people of color were biologically inferior.

Or I think about qualified women like entomologist Dorson Brake

and anthropologist Joanna Colenshiar who were denied career advancement

because of gender.

One of the benefits of looking to history

even parts that are difficult and painful to confront

is that it offers much needed perspective.

We can use the lessons of history to measure how far we have come,

we can identify the mistakes we made

and recognize we continue to struggle to be that institution

that represents all and that is embraced by all and treats all with great fairness.

So today we honor our peers, we level in 175 years of good work,

but we acknowledge that we can always be better.

As a historian I know that there is nothing more important than remembering,

but is also crucial for us to look back but not be held captive back by that past.

We must continue to work in the here and now and really point towards the future.

And in some ways the past 16 months, have magnified that truth.

Returning to this great hall to celebrate this moment

with all of you is unbelievably joyous

but it’s reminder of what we have been through,

it’s been a traumatic time;

COVID, social and racial strife and economic life concerns have left us fearful,

anxious and trying to cope the best way we can.

But like so many times in the nation’s history,

the Smithsonian has persevered and helped the American people persevere.

Many of you juggle the responsibilities of home and family

with the demands of working.

Others due to the nature of your work down your masks

and brave the uncertainty of going into the world to take care for animals,

our buildings, our collections.

Let me thank you on behalf of the Smithsonian for all that you have done.

Because whether you worked in person from home,

I commend everyone on your resilience,

your compassion for others and your continued excellence.

I could not be prouder

because you set a standard for corporate institutions everywhere

and proved that no matter what we can continue to be there for our community,

for our nation and for the world.

In many ways throughout my whole career

I have been in all of the Smithsonian family

and your ability to find creative ways to continue to serve the public

even during the pandemic.

I was so touched by the Anacostia community museum

reimagine its mode of change exhibition,

taking that intended exhibition,

showing it in the streets of DCs

dean neighborhood providing a safer way for people to enjoy.

Have been struck by when the schools had to shut down,

education specialists throughout the Smithsonian worked closely

with the public schools to provide new pre-K to 12 distance learning resources

tailored to help them educate at the time of crisis.

And I was so moved by the Smithsonian science education center

who created a guide to help young people

protect themselves and their families and their communities from COVID.

And I was really taken by how we work with other cultural institutions

to create the vaccine website, a robust resource to help people understand

the importance of the vaccinations.

We all were made better by the Asian Pacific American center

who collected more than two hundred and sixty different resources

for teachers in the public to help address stereotypes and bias.

And more for me the excitement that is still growing

in the Smithsonian wide initiative a shared future,

reckoning with a racial past

which I hope will really allow us to help

participate and lead a national dialogue about race.

In this time of crisis, you have all proved your resolve.

In a moment when the country need the Smithsonian,

you showed how we could be a reservoir of possibility and hope.

Today’s kickoff event is just a beginning of the celebration.

We have numerous events over next five years

leading to the nations’ 250th anniversary.

That not only should we celebrate what we have done

but we have to celebrate what we hope to become.

While we have a common past it is important to move to a shared future.

So what will this future look like for the Smithsonian?

You have already given us a glimpse of what to expect in the years ahead.

When I became secretary I wanted to make sure we became a nimble institution,

one that use technology to attain a wider reach,

one that could use its trusted position

to help make our communities and our countries better.

And as the dual pandemics of COVID 19

and deeply rooted racism were shaping our nation, you showed you ready out.

Your actions proved you were already transforming this haloed institution.

One only needs to look at the today’s recreation of the 1927 museum director

photo to see how this museum has changed much for the better.

What was once a snapshot of homogeneity and privileged

is now a picture of diversity and the possibilities of inclusion.

That is the future of the Smithsonian.

That future demand opening up access,

creating more diverse content

and one of the great strengths of cultural institutions like Smithsonian

is our ability to provide complexity

and nuance and help the public embrace ambiguity.

But we can only do that by telling more honest,

more complete version of American history and American culture.

We must continue a sustainable path that the Smithsonian future must include stories

even if they are uncomfortable but all who helped to make this nation,

their stories must be told.

We must be able to engage important issues

like climate change even if people think they are controversial.

One of the ways to ensure that we can tell those stories

from diverse point of view is the correct contemporary items.

Future scholars and historians will need that raw material to paint the full picture.

That is why I am so proud of the American History Museum

and African American and others who have created rapid response

collecting teams to acquire the items that help us understand the COVID 19 crisis

or the black lives matter or installation of the capital.

This will ensure that history will not be forgotten

and it will ensure that future curators and scholars

and educators have the content they need.

And so towards the creation of the American Latino

and the Smithsonian American History museum.

As we’ll all work to integrate voices into our museums,

into our researchers, into our education centers.

Voices that reflect the amazing array of science,

history and art that is at Smithsonian.

Am encouraged by the desire many have shown

during this difficult time to get the unfurnished truth about complex objects.

The Smithsonian is clearly a place where the public can have conversations

about issues that are difficult because they trust us to provide safe space

and candid information.

In some ways as Steve said James Smithsonian would be amazed

at what this institution has become.

Like all of us he would have a hard time imagining a future still to be reached.

But throughout the history of our organization,

exceptional people have dared to look beyond their limited scope,

to look up to the starts, to envision the possibilities of what is to come.

And that is the focus of one of our signature events for our 175th anniversary,

the futures exhibitions festival, that will be at the arts and industries building.

We hope to open that in November and it will use technology, art, design,

interactive experiments and inventions to inspire discussion

and imagination about the host of futures.

One of the center pieces of that event will be an artificial intelligence

to use it to translate the spoken words

of visitors into a vibrant pulsating evolving sculpture of life.

In many ways that piece

represents what the Smithsonian has done throughout our history.

We bring together multiple disciplines,

we engage both the heart and the mind,

we inspire curiosity and wonder.

If there is anything I have learnt over the last few months

is that the possibilities are endless here at the Smithsonian because of you.

You have the talent, you have the desire,

you have the ability to find ways to use our expertise,

our research and our collections to help people attain a better shared future.

We are and will continue to be that reservoir of possibility and hope.

We are a place that yes are collections of museums and research centers,

what we really are, are a place for the world

where we can help the world find the tools to help them live better lives

and to find guidance in the face of contemporary challenges.

From our beginning the Smithsonian has always been an international institution

but we are also uniquely American.

It is something I have been thinking a lot about recently as we prepared

not only for the 175th anniversary

but also for the nation’s upcoming 215th anniversary.

When I think of Smithsonian role of America

and American role of the Smithsonian,

am drawn to a line of the poet Robert Browning

“Come grow old with me, the best is yet to be”.

As the gift that is Smithsonian grows older like America,

like my knees, I know that its future will be brighter than its past.

I'm confident that thanks this collection of amazing people,

who stand down the shoulders of the people who have worked here before.

I'm convinced that these folks

dedicated to the greater good

will use the resources of Smithsonian to live up to its best promise,

to be made better.

Truly, the best is yet to be,

Happy birthday


MAN: And now a message from the former Smithsonian secretaries.

LAWRENCE M. SMALL: Hi everyone, happy anniversary to the Smithsonian

and all the members of the team building on its 175 fantastic years of success.

The technological tools available today to do research,

to display collections and to communicate broadly are

expanding at an exponential rate.

So what a wonderful moment in time to work on the increase and diffusion of knowledge.

Warmest wishes to you all for every success as you move forward.

C. WAYNE CLOUGH: The Smithsonian is mainly known for its great museums

and the permanent exhibitions that they host.

For example; the hall of president of national of Portugal,

[inaudible] banner at the national museum of American history

the hope diamond of the national museum of national history

or the spirit of St. Louis at the national air and space museum.

What is least known is that the Smithsonian also celebrates small events

and birthdays that are important to America’s history.

For example, when I was secretary

we celebrated the 200 birthday of Abraham Lincoln,

the 40th anniversary of the man’s landing on the moon

with the three astronauts who went on that mission,

the 100th anniversy of the founding of the girls’ scouts

and the 200th anniversary of the pending of our national anthem.

Now we have a chance to do something different

and that celebrate the Smithsonian itself.

Because the Smithsonian is now 175 years old, it has been a great run.

And I want to join my colleagues in saying,

Happy birthday dear Smithsonian and we wish you many more.

DAVID J. SKORTON: Happy birthday Smithsonian.

I believe that Smithsonian’s magic and wisdom

had never been important than they are right now.

I send my best wishes to Lonie,

to the board and to the entire Smithsonian family.

Here is to another 175, happy birthday Smithsonian.

MAN: Please welcome Michelle Delane and Jennifer Zazo Brown,

Co-Chairs of the Smithsonian Material Culture Forum.

“We are delighted to share

in the commemoration of the Smithsonian institution's founding.

A lot has happened in the past 175 years to bring us to this moment today.

The Smithsonian has a history defined by its memorable successes

but it also has suffered from missteps

and times when we didn’t quite live up to our ideals.

These challenges are important moments to be acknowledged as well.

Our history is filled with people who have inspired our work

and helped to shape the institution into what it is today.

Now, some of these stories will be told

through a Smithsonian community curated list of 175 people, objects,

and moments that define the institution.

This project grew out of a charge from secretary Lonnie Bunch.

To celebrate this milestone anniversary,

lets bring the Smithsonian community together.

To think about 175 people, objects, and moments

that have been pivotal to the Smithsonian's history.

The material culture forum was proud to take the lead on this project,

organized in 1988 with a mission of maintaining a sense of scholarly community

throughout the Smithsonian museums, libraries, research, and cultural centers.

The material culture forum has been sharing important work

on the collection preservation, research, and presentation

of objects in Smithsonian collections for more than 30 years.

So many of you responded to call for collaboration,

2,700 people in all.

The recommendations came from regions, Smithsonian staff, alumni, volunteers,

board members, interns, and fellows.

Everyone who took part in the survey shared the thoughtful narratives,

outlining the reasons why they felt

their selections were an important part of the Smithsonian story.

We are especially grateful to our colleagues in the Smithsonian organization

and audience research office for their help.

With so many ideas from so many people, narrowing down the list was not easy.

There were many long, deliberative conversations

about what people, objects, and moments best tell the story

of where Smithsonian has been and where we are going.

Some of the choices will be familiar,

while others will highlight lesser known stories from the institutions history.

Over the next several months, we will continue to release

more of the 175 people, objects, and moments from the list

which will be featured on the material culture forum's website.

We are now proud to share the beginnings of this list

with the Smithsonian community and the public today.

We hope you will find them as thought provoking and inspiring as we do.

[upbeat music]

MAN: Please welcome Anthea Hartig,

Elizabeth MacMillan Director of the National Museum of American History.

Anthea Hartig: Good afternoon, Secretary Bunch, Chairman Case,

on behalf of the National Museum of American History,

I am so honored to be here with you all celebrating Smithsonian’s 175th birthday.

It’s an unmitigated joy to see so many of you in all of your dimensions

and to welcome our virtual party goers.

I also offer my gratitude to the Perscadway peoples

on whose ancestral lands the Smithsonian stands.

And I remember the many hands, enslaved and free,

who built this beloved icon as opened in 1855.

As we contemplate and celebrate this milestone,

I, too, reflect on the complicated year that was 1846

filled with the expansionist rhetoric of Manifest Destiny,

ongoing and increased contestations over the parallel expansion of slavery

and those who were advocating powerfully for its abolition.

Into this complicated world and after 10 years of debate,

the same congress that authorized war on Mexico that year

established the Smithsonian institution

for the increase in diffusion of knowledge for all men,

as you saw the photo montage, we have changed things, ladies.

But such a powerful, beautiful, and sustaining idea and ideal.

Since another crucial milestone in the nation’s history,

that of the United States Bicentennial,

the Smithsonian chamber music society

has explored the sonic world of the instruments

in broadcastings and recordings.

The museum is proudly home to two musical performing groups,

the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra

and ongoing partnership with Howard University,

whom you heard as part of the pre-recorded show.

But today, it is an esteem honor to introduce Dr. Ken Slowik,

curator and artistic director

of the Smithsonian Chamber Music Society.

joined by 5 of his present and former students from Oberlin,

the University of Maryland,

and the Peabody Institute of Music of Johns Hopkins University.

They are Titi Leo, Iyan Gende, Isaiah Chapman,

Ulndi Choi, Seneva Coli, and Wade Davis.

They will perform the Concerto in G minor for two cellos and strings

by the 18th century composer, Antonio Vivaldi,

entitled the Red Priest of Venice.

They will be using magnificent instruments from the collection by Antonio Stradivari,

Nicolo Amati, Francesco Rugeri, and Carlo Antonio Testore.

The instruments have a combined age of over 2,000 years.

In fact, some of the wood was already growing

before the 15th century European invasion of what we call the Americas.

The piece is in three short movements, enjoy,

and please take it away, Maestro Ken.

Thank you.”

[ensemble playing]


MAN: Please welcome Dwandalyn Reece,

Associate Director of the National Museum of African-American History & Culture,

Chair of Smithsonian Music.

Dwandalyn Reece: Good afternoon.

Today, we’ve had a couple examples of music at the Smithsonian.

Did you know that every facet of the world’s musical heritage

is represented at the Smithsonian’s museums, libraries, nine research centers,

a record label, and the national zoo?

The Smithsonian’s musical resources,

through collections, exhibitions, scholarship, and programs,

comprise the world’s largest music museum.

In 2010, a group of curators, educators, programmers,

and archivists came together to form Smithsonian Music.

A pan-institutional initiative dedicated to promoting interdisciplinary research,

programming, and interpretation of the Smithsonian’s music collections.

Over the last 11 years, some of the accomplishments of this group

include top level surveys of music collections and of audiences

across the institution.

A website,,

featuring objects from every Smithsonian collecting unit,

monthly thematic spotlights, essays, videos,

and a first ever calendar of music events at the Smithsonian.

A YouTube channel, Ask Smithsonian Music,

featuring more than 50 videos with SI staff

discussing objects and other music related themes.

Co-sponsoring a women’s music curator position,

as part of the American Women’s History Initiative

and partnering with the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage in 2019,

to produce the Smithsonian Year of Music

where we had an event for each day of the year,

ranging from concert performances, lectures, exhibitions,

K through 12 education programs, movie screenings, festival gatherings,

and symposiums.

Events were also complemented by the Smithsonian Music website

which included an institution-wide calendar of music-related events.

The Smithsonian Year of Music raised awareness of the scope, depth,

and breadth of SI’s musical resources, increased public engagement,

and demonstrated that music is a powerful theme to forge partnerships and alliances,

within and outside the Smithsonian.

Music is indeed an integral part of the Smithsonian’s connective tissue.

As we look to the future,

Smithsonian Music will work to enhance our visitors’ engagement with music

from a multidisciplinary perspective,

shaping conversations about music’s role and impact in our daily lives.

Please be on the lookout for more about Smithsonian Music.


MAN: Please welcome Kevin Young, Andrew W. Mellon Director

of the National Museum of African-American History & Culture.

Kevin Young: “Don’t push me, I’m close to the edge.

I’m the king of rock, there is none higher,

when I’m alone in my room, sometimes I stare at the walls,

and in the back of my mind, I hear my conscience call.

Now what you hear is not a test I’m rappin’ to the beat

just like a test, just like a test,

just like a test, I cram to understand you.

I’m only 19 but my mind is older.

Birthdays were the worst days, now we sip champagne when we thirsty.

Plus, nobody I know got killed in South Central LA,

today was a good day.

I recite chapter and verse,

the title of this recital is ladies first”.

Hi I’m Kevin Young,

the Director of the National Museum of African-American History & Culture,

and the lyrics of this recital speak

into being a self I’ve been thinking a lot about lately.

One who isn’t just a bystander, but a witness.

Someone who sees and then later says.

This we could call a historian, or an artist.

This is what hip-hop has long offered, a way of witnessing daily travails,

rapping about loss, love, or something like it,

growing up poor but dreaming rich, good times.

Born in the Bronx from disco and sound systems,

raised on Jamaican beats and beef patties, Puerto Rican sofrito and crazy legs,

hip-hop was sent down south for the summers

before it moved out west for the funky weather,

and brought its music with it.

It’s great today to be here to celebrate the 175th birthday of the Smithsonian,

and have a chance to just highlight a few of the lyrics and moments

of the amazing Hip-Hop Anthology, newly released,

which has been 7 years in the making.

We’re especially excited at the Museum

that this release coincides with the celebration of our 5th anniversary,

and as with the broader Smithsonian,

this has been a time for us to look back and to look forward.

Reflecting on our collective journey as a museum, an institution, a community,

and a country, and envisioning the future.

This new Hip-hop Anthology is just one of our innovative approaches

to helping folks continue to make meaningful connections and discoveries

through the living history around them.

In collaboration with Smithsonian Folklife,

the 9 CDs, 129 tracks, and 11 essays of the Hip-hop Anthology

takes in sorrow songs, testimonials, classic jams,

women’s voices, and even some surprises.

It is a book with music and music that writes a book,

we learn as we listen.

The Smithsonian can do this iteration of listening and learning

better than anyone else.

Who else can draw a direct line between Chuck Berry’s Cadillac,

which you saw earlier in the video, and the Funkadelic Mothership?

The lowriders in ‘Nuthin but a G Thang’

or Ice Cube’s ‘Today was a Good Day’

and connecting the dots and leading the conversation.

The Museum, the Folklife, and the Smithsonian

are well suited and well served by this bold project,

which will also be accompanied by robust programming throughout the year

and by exhibitions opening next month

could take us from reconstruction to our current reckoning.

Today is a good day,

one we are honored to commemorate as the Smithsonian looks back at 175 years,

providing crucial access to history, music, art, and thought.

Happy birthday.


[upbeat music]

Well, as we’ve discussed this afternoon,

our Smithsonian community extends far beyond the national mall.

Millions of people are touched by the Smithsonian every day,

and so many wanted to help us wish the Smithsonian a happy birthday.

From Alaska, to Panama,

we received birthday wishes for the Smithsonian.

So, on behalf of the Smithsonian, I would like to thank the staff,

the volunteers, the donors, the affiliate museums,

and even some future interns from the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center

for sending in greetings.

In fact, we received so many

that we’re only able to show a very small sample, now,

and we are posting all of them in their entirety

on the Smithsonian 175 website,

Now let’s hear from some of our Smithsonian friends.

[upbeat music]


Happy birthday, Smithsonian!

Happy birthday, Smithsonian! We love you!

Happy Birthday, Smithsonian.

Happy Birthday!

[party horn toots]

Happy birthday, Smithsonian,

from the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center.

Happy 175th birthday to the Smithsonian.

Happy birthday, Smithsonian!

Happy birthday, Smithsonian, from the National Civil War Museum!

Happy 175th birthday, Smithsonian institution!

Just wanted to give a shoutout to the Smithsonian,

happy 175th birthday.

175 years?

That’s amazing!

Happy birthday, Smithsonian!

I want to wish the Smithsonian a very happy birthday and many more to come.

[party horn toots]

Happy birthday, Smithsonian!

Happy birthday, Smithsonian!

Happy 175th birthday, Smithsonian!

Happy birthday, Smithsonian!

Happy birthday, Smithsonian!

Happy birthday, Smithsonian!

Happy birthday, Smithsonian!

Here’s to another 175 more!

Happy birthday, Smithsonian.

Here’s to another 175 trips around the sun.

Cheers from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory.

Part of the Center for Astrophysics.

Thanks for being such a big part of our American fabric and happy birthday.

On behalf of the National Museum of Natural History,

happy birthday, Smithsonian.

175 years of great science, art, history, and culture, here’s to the next century.

From the Smithsonian Asian-Pacific American Alliance, happy birthday!

Happy 175th anniversary, Smithsonian, from the National Museum of African Art.

Happy 17th birthday to the Smithsonian

from the staff at the Anacostia Community Museum.

Happy birthday!

Happy birthday, Smithsonian, from the National Zoo!

Happy birthday, Smithsonian!

Happy 175 years, Smithsonian. Happy birthday.

Happy birthday to the Smithsonian from the Chandra Operations Control Center.

Happy birthday, Smithsonian. 175 years young.

Happy birthday, from Smithsonian Gardens!


Happy birthday,

from the team at the Arts and Industries Building.

Happy 175th birthday, Smithsonian!

Feliz aniversário.

Happy birthday!

I’m Monique Chism, the Under Secretary for Education

and I just wanted to say, happy birthday, Smithsonian.

Looking forward to another 175 years.

Happy birthday, Smithsonian!



Happy birthday, Smithsonian!

On behalf of the retail staff here

at the National Museum of African-American History and Culture,

happy 175th birthday, Smithsonian!

Happy 175th anniversary, Smithsonian.

A toast to the institution

and here’s to 175 more years of increasing and diffusion of knowledge.

Happy birthday, Smithsonian!

Phoning in from Wisconsin Humanities,

we love you Smithsonian Institution Travelling Exhibit Services!

Yay 175 years!

Happy birthday, Smithsonian!

Happy 175th birthday, Smithsonian!

Happy birthday, Smithsonian Institution.

Happy birthday, Smithsonian!

Happy birthday!

[maracas rattling]

Happy birthday, Smithsonian!

Happy birthday!



Wishing the Smithsonian a happy 175th birthday

from the Tierras Observatory,

which is a part of the Center for Astrophysics.

Happy birthday, Smithsonian!

Happy birthday!

Happy birthday, Smithsonian!

Happy 175th birthday, Smithsonian.

From Valerie and Bill Anders.

And keep up the good work.

Happy birthday!

Happy 175th anniversary, Smithsonian!


[party horns toot]

From the office of the Under Secretary for Museums & Culture,

happy birthday, Smithsonian!

Happy 175th anniversary, Smithsonian.

I am Elliot Gruber,

the Director of the Smithsonian National Postal Museum,

and on behalf of the entire National Postal Museum team,

happy birthday, Smithsonian.

Happy birthday to you!

Happy birthday, Smithsonian!

Happy 175th birthday, Smithsonian.

Happy birthday, Smithsonian!

Happy birthday to the Smithsonian institution,

from the great lone star state of Texas!


Happy birthday to the Smithsonian.

Happy, happy birthday to the amazing and unique Smithsonian institution.

Happy 175th birthday, Smithsonian!

On behalf of the Smithsonian Asian-Pacific American Center,

happy birthday, Smithsonian.

Happy 175 years, you look marvelous!


Those were a lot of fun and they remind you a lot of people got very creative

during this Zoom-land we’ve been living in.

Now, I’d like everybody who is herein the castle with us

who has a little bell next to them to pick it up.

I’d also like to ask Lani to join me up here on the stage

as we bring some festive cheer to once again celebrate our 175th.

Thanks for being with us!

[bells ringing]

[bell tolls]

[bells ringings]

[upbeat brass music]

[applause, bells ringing]


Birthday Wishes from the Smithsonian Community

More Featured Events

Futures exhibition illustration

To celebrate the Smithsonian’s 175th anniversary in 2021, we’ll be reopening the Arts and Industries Building for the first time in two decades with a groundbreaking new experience that looks forward. Part exhibition, part festival, FUTURES will be the first building-wide exploration of the future on the National Mall. What do you imagine when you think of the future? We’ll invite you to dream, debate, delight, and discover not just one but many possible futures on the horizon: exosuits, underwater homes, lab-grown meals, experiments, prototypes, and more. Open November 2021–July 2022, FUTURES is your guide to a vast array of interactives, artworks, tech, and ideas that are glimpses into humanity’s next chapter.

Smithsonian 175th Film Fest

Grab some popcorn! To celebrate the Smithsonian Institution’s 175th anniversary in 2021, the Smithsonian Libraries and Archives will host monthly programs featuring films from the collections of the Smithsonian Institution Archives. The series will be hosted virtually between August 2021 and August 2022. 

What makes this series so special? In addition to the film screenings, archivists, conservators, and subject experts will also provide some context to the videos, share a little about their work, and answer questions from the audience during the one-hour programs. These screenings will also be the first instance that the films have ever been made available online to the public.

Present History Activity Guide

Present History

As the Smithsonian celebrates its 175th anniversary, lifelong learners and their families can enjoy highlights of significant, game-changing milestones that inspire, excite, and offer moments of reflection. Through stories of innovation, movements, inspiration, and reflection in an ongoing quest to better understand the American experience, readers are introduced to a sampling of the breadth and depth of the Smithsonian. Games throughout the guide offer opportunities to test your knowledge, learn something new, and connect with family and friends.

Download Present History »

From the Collections