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From Smithson to Smithsonian: The Birth of an Institution

July 2, 1996 – January 10, 1997

American History Museum
14th and Constitution Ave., NW
Washington, DC

Location: 1st Floor, West Wing, SI Libraries Exhibition Gallery

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.

Online exhibition