Smithsonian Institution

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Smithsonian Institution
Smithsonian logo color.svg
purpose Foundation, endowment
Chair: Lonnie G. Bunch
Establishment date: August 10, 1846
Seat : Washington, DC

The Smithsonian Institution ( Smithsonian for short ) is a major US research and educational institution based in Washington, DC that operates numerous museums .


The Smithsonian was founded on August 10, 1846 by a law of the US Congress with funds from the bequest of the English scientist James Smithson, who died in 1829, for the benefit of the United States of America with the mission of "the increase and dissemination of knowledge" and is located in Washington, DC settled. At the same time as the foundation, the United States National Museum was established, which was later divided into various sub-museums of the Smithsonian Institution. Initially it was in the Smithsonian Institution Building (called the Smithsonian Castle ), with an exhibition hall opened in 1858. In 1881 the National Museum Building (now the Arts and Industries Building ) was opened to accommodate the growing collection. 1910 opened its own Natural History Building (later the National Museum of Natural History ). The historic Patent Office Building was taken over under Leonard Carmichael (1953–1964). From 2000 to 2007, the banker Lawrence M. Small was the head of the Smithsonian. He resigned on March 28, 2007 for criticizing expense reports. Acting secretary was then the biologist Cristián Samper until the Smithsonian reached calmer waters again.


The Smithsonian's information center, usually just called "The Castle"

With 19 museums and galleries as well as the national zoo , the Smithsonian is the largest museum complex in the world. The Smithsonian Institution manages over 142 million objects of human or natural origin for the American people. The institute, which is also an important research center, sees its mission in educating the general public, serving the nation and awarding scholarships in the fields of art , science and history . The Smithsonian Institution supports expeditions and excavations , promotes research in particular in the fields of astronomy , astrophysics , ethnology and environmental research . It has its own observatory , the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (together with the Harvard College Observatory it forms the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics ), the Smithsonian Biopark and the "Archive of American Art". The Smithsonian Institution operates, inter alia, the National Museums of American History , American Art, and the National Museum of Aerospace .

The Smithsonian Institution publishes the standard work on the Indians of North America, the Handbook of North American Indians .

The Smithsonian's nine museums and galleries are located on either side of the National Mall - a long strip of green space - between the Washington Monument and the Capitol . A three-story, underground complex houses two museums and the S. Dillon Ripley Center, which includes the International Gallery, offices and lecture halls or seminar rooms. Five other museums and the National Zoo are located elsewhere in Washington, DC The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum and the George Gustav Heye Center of the National Museum of the American Indian are located in New York .

After the death of Moses Asch in 1986, the Smithsonian Institution took over the record company Folkways Records to secure its extensive documentation of folk music, and now operates it under the name Smithsonian Folkways . Other record companies later joined the label, such as Arhoolie Records by the Silesian Chris Strachwitz, who emigrated in 1947 . The music can be purchased as a vinyl record , MP3 file or CD-On-Demand for a fee.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture was founded in 2003 and officially opened on September 24, 2016. It shows the history of African American America from slavery in the 16th century to racial segregation after the Civil War and the citizens' movement of the 1960s to the election of the first black US President Barack Obama .

Since 2019, the Smithsonian has gradually made its entire collection available to everyone free of charge for distribution and modification in electronic form (2D and partially 3D) under the free CC0 license (Smithsonian Open Access).

Secretaries of the Smithsonian Institution

The Smithsonian Institution is chaired by the respective Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, who is elected by the Board of Regents:

Museums and research institutes in detail

The National Mall in Washington, with the participation of eleven of the most famous museums of the Smithsonian are
Entrance to Smithsonian Castle

Web links

Commons : Smithsonian Institution  - collection of images, videos, and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Eddy about the head of the Smithsonian Institution , NZZ on March 28, 2007.
  2. see Smithsonian Folkways Archives
  3. Arndt Peltner (USA correspondent of the Nürnberger Zeitung ) in the blog on May 1, 2018, archived as Happy Birthday Folkways ( memento from October 13, 2019 in the Internet Archive )
  4. In principle, the costs depend on the effort; only a processing fee is charged for recordings that have already been digitized ; but there is also a separate shop .
  5. ^ The Secretaries of the Smithsonian Institution , accessed August 10, 2016

Coordinates: 38 ° 53 ′ 19 ″  N , 77 ° 1 ′ 34 ″  W.