Frequently Asked Questions

Washington, D.C. museums are open every day except December 25. For complete information on admission and hours go to Visit on this website or call 202-633-1000 (voice/tape).

Admission is free for all Smithsonian museums and the zoo in Washington, D.C., and the American Indian Museum's George Gustav Heye Center in New York. Tickets are not used for general admission with the exception of the African American History and Culture Museum; visit the museum's website for details.

fee is required at the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in New York (Members and children under age 12 are admitted free); visit the museum's website for details.

The Smithsonian acquires thousands of objects and specimens each year for its collection holdings through donation, bequest, purchase, exchange, and field collecting. Each museum and curatorial department decides on a case-by-case basis which objects to add to its collections. Donations are accepted only when the item truly complements the collection. We also consider whether we can properly care for an intended donation, as our collections are held in trust for the American people.

In order to make such decisions, our curators will need a few images of the objects you wish to donate, along with as much background information as you have. Please submit your donation request with the images included as attachments in one single e-mail to info@si.edu. If you wish to sell your item to the Smithsonian, you must also include your asking price. Once you provide the images and information in a single e-mail, we will forward your offer to the appropriate staff for consideration. Museum staff will contact you directly if they are interested in your offer.

Under no circumstances should you send us your object without prior written curatorial approval.

Smithsonian staff is unable to comment on (e.g., speculate on value, intended use, authenticity, age, or materials) or to do research on items outside our own collections. Smithsonian policy prevents us from recommending a specific appraiser or dealer. You can ascertain the current range of prices for items exchanged at sales and auctions by consulting the price guides available in bookstores, public libraries, or online. Also, dealers actively engaged in buying and selling antiques, professional appraisers attached to sales galleries, and official appraisers for local probate courts usually can give prevailing values. Information on providers of these services can be found in collectors' magazines, in the yellow pages of telephone directories, or in other sources available from the reference librarian in your area library. For general information on object appraisals, see the Smithsonian’s website here.

The Smithsonian does not maintain a centralized mailing list; each membership program maintains its own membership database. Please contact the appropriate membership program:

Staff specialists at the Smithsonian Center for Materials Research and Education (SCMRE) are asked questions on a wide variety of subjects relative to caring for and preserving artifacts and heirlooms. Broad guidelines and strategies for artifact and collections care have been compiled into guideline pamphlets.

For general information on using Smithsonian content, please visit our Terms of Use webpage. Each museum and office grants rights to reproduce objects and images in its collections. To determine which museum holds the object or image you are interested in, search our Collections database. For information on how to contact the appropriate office to request rights, please see our Rights, Restrictions, and Security Contacts webpage.

The Smithsonian holds nearly 154 million objects in its collections, distributed among its 19 museums, the National Zoo, libraries, research centers, and storage facilities. Many artifacts are donated to the Smithsonian by individuals, private collectors, and federal agencies; others come to the collections through field expeditions, bequests, exchanges with other museums and organizations, and purchases.

Only a small percentage of the Smithsonian’s vast holdings are on view. Many artifacts not on display are stored in collection study areas in the museums and are available to researchers by appointment. Air- and spacecraft are conserved and stored at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, part of the National Air and Space Museum, in Chantilly, Virginia. Other research collections are housed in Landover and Suitland, Maryland, facilities.

Most of our collections have been catalogued in our Collections database. If you don’t find the object you are interested in listed there, please send as much information about the object as you have to info@si.edu; such information as a complete description of the item, its history, how and when it came to the Smithsonian, who donated it, and the museum or facility to which it was donated can help us refer your inquiry to the appropriate collections staff.