Mission

For the increase and diffusion of knowledge...

Our Mission

The Institution was founded in 1846 with funds from the Englishman James Smithson (1765-1829) according to his wishes “under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men.” 

Smithsonian Badge of Office
Smithsonian Badge of Office

Our Vision

Shaping the future by preserving our heritage, discovering new knowledge, and sharing our resources with the world

Our Values

Discovery: Explore and bring to light new knowledge and ideas, and better ways of doing business

Creativity: Instill our work with imagination and innovation

Excellence: Deliver the highest-quality products and services in all endeavors

Diversity: Capitalize on the richness inherent in differences

Integrity: Carry out all our work with the greatest responsibility and accountability

Service: Be of benefit to the public and our stakeholders

Our Priorities

Five Grand Challenges: Focus on the grand challenges outlined in the Smithsonian Strategic Plan (PDF)

Broadening Access: Digitizing our collections, exploring next-generation technologies, and improving the visitor experience

Revitalizing Education: Serve as a laboratory to create models and methods of innovative informal education that link to the formal education system

Crossing Boundaries: Interdisciplinary consortia spark innovative research and educational programs around each of the five grand challenges

Strengthening Collections: Develop collections plan to support Institution-wide initiatives

Organizational Excellence: Strengthen organizational services that allow us to deliver on our mission

Measuring Performance: Establish performance indicators that will specifically and annually measure progress toward our goals

Grand Challenges

Magnifying the Transformative Power of Arts and Design
Every day, through our museum exhibitions and collections, research, and education and outreach programs, our staff explores the arts and their impact on our world. We ask how artists are able to pose trenchant questions about the meaning of life, how the arts and design improve the lives of individuals and communities, how the arts have served and continue to serve as means for people and communities to express and share values and ideas, and how the creative process can help all people experience our shared humanity.

Unlocking the Mysteries of the Universe
We will continue to lead in the quest to understand the fundamental nature of the cosmos, using next-generation technologies to explore our own solar system, meteorites, the Earth's geological past and present, and the paleontological record of our planet.

Understanding and Sustaining a Biodiverse Planet
We will use our resources across scientific museums and centers to significantly advance our knowledge and understanding of life on Earth, respond to the growing threat of environmental change, and sustain human well-being.

Valuing World Cultures
As a steward and ambassador of cultural connections, with a presence in some 100 countries and expertise and collections that encompass the globe, we will build bridges of mutual respect, and present the diversity of world cultures and the joy of creativity with accuracy, insight, and reverence.

Understanding the American Experience
America is an increasingly diverse society that shares a history, ideals, and an indomitable, innovative spirit. We will use our resources across disciplines to explore what it means to be an American and how the disparate experiences of individual groups strengthen the whole, and to share our story with people of all nations.