The Smithsonian Institution is a national treasure. It is the world’s largest museum, education, and research complex. In Washington D.C., there are 17 Smithsonian Institution museums and galleries, 11 of which are on the National Mall, in addition to the National Zoo.
The Smithsonian Institution holds approximately 154 million artifacts and specimens in trust for the American people.
The Smithsonian Institution’s “Grand Challenges” are to:
- Magnify the Transformative Power of Arts and Design
- Understand and Sustain a Biodiverse Planet
- Understand the American Experience
- Unlock the Mysteries of the Universe
- Value World Cultures
The Smithsonian Institution receives funding from federal government appropriations, other governmental entities, and private sources.
Establishment of the Smithsonian Institution
English chemist and mineralogist, James Smithson, died in 1829. His will provided that if his nephew and sole heir died without heirs, his estate should go to the United States “to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men.” After Smithson’s nephew died in 1835 without an heir, the United States was notified of the bequest. The estate’s funds, totaling totaled $508,318.46, were delivered to the United States in September 1838. A CPI inflation calculator based on the U.S. Inflation Rate from 1838 to 2019 translates that amount into about $13.75 billion.
As the culmination of over a decade of debate over the unusual bequest, in 1846 Congress enacted a law that established the Smithsonian Institution as a “trust instrumentality” of the United States initially funded by James Smithson’s bequeath. The law established a Board of Regents to govern the Institution. “Since 1846, public laws, judicial decisions, court cases, procedures of the Board of Regents, executive orders, and government reports” have shaped the Institution.
Smithsonian Institution Statistics
The Smithsonian Institution’s 2019 FY Annual Performance Plan reflects the following statistics for its 2018 FY:
- Number of physical visits to SI museums and the National Zoo: 28.8 million
- Number of people served by Smithsonian education programs: 11.1 million
- Number of unique visitors to SI websites: 160 million
- Number of Facebook followers: 6.6 million
- Number of Twitter followers: 5.7 million
Smithsonian Institution Venues in Washington DC:
The array of Smithsonian museums and galleries in Washington D.C. is truly awesome. It includes:
- Anacostia Community Museum
- Arthur M. Sackler Gallery (Part of the National Museum of Asian Art)
- Archives of American Art
- Arts and Industries Building
- Freer Gallery of Art (Part of the National Museum of Asian Art)
- Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
- National Air and Space Museum
- Smithsonian American Art Museum
- National Museum of American History
- National Museum of the American Indian
- National Museum of African American History and Culture
- National Museum of African Art
- National Museum of Natural History
- National Portrait Gallery
- National Postal Museum
- National Zoological Park
- Renwick Gallery
- S. Dillon Ripley Center
- Smithsonian Castle
- Smithsonian Gardens
For a lot of information about each of these museums, galleries and the National Zoo, click HERE.