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On August 10, 1846, the Smithsonian Institution was chartered by Congress

August 10, 2023

On August 10, 1846, the Smithsonian Institution was chartered by Congress after James Smithson, a British scientist, willed the United States $500,000 for “an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge.”

And increase and diffuse  knowledge it did! Today the Smithsonian comprises 21 museums, the National Zoological Park, and several research facilities. The institute preserves and displays not only historical artifacts, but art and scientific specimens. There is something for everyone, from pop culture fans to space aficionados.

Did you know? Believe it or not, James Smithson never visited the United States during his lifetime. After his heir died at a young age, his wealth was to be passed to the still-new country. Smithson’s reasoning for the generous gift is still unknown. Though initially buried in Italy, he has since been reinterred at the Smithsonian Complex that he made possible.

Birthday Party on the Mall – Crowd Enjoying Concert, Eric Long, 1996

-Written by Anna Zemaitaitis, Communications and Design Officer

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August 10, 2023
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