From Smithson to Smithsonian: The Birth of an Institution

July 2, 1996 – January 10, 1997

National Museum of American History
1300 Constitution Ave., NW
Washington, DC

1st Floor, West Wing, SI Libraries Exhibition Gallery

See on Map Floor Plan

This exhibition recounts the origin and early years of the Smithsonian Institution—from British scientist James Smithson's last will and testament of 1826 through the administrations of the Institution's first 2 Secretaries, Joseph Henry and Spencer Fullerton Baird.

Included are several of Smithson's books, notes, publications, and documents relating to the bequest; 19th-century scientific apparatus; early photographs, watercolors, and engravings; gold sovereigns; samples of smithsonite, a mineral named after Smithson; a model of the Smithsonian Castle; an original Regent's chair designed by James Renwick, Jr.; and objects and specimens from the Institution's formative years.