Smithsonian Institution, research and education center, mainly at Washington, D.C.; founded 1846 under the terms of the will of James Smithson of London, who in 1829 bequeathed his fortune to the United States to create an establishment for the "increase and diffusion of knowledge among men." The institution began as a museum and today "the nation's attic" is the largest museum complex in the world, with 19 museums, nine research centers, and the national zoo. The vast complex includes the Anacostia Community Museum; the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery; the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage; the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum (New York City); the Freer Gallery of Art; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden; the National Air and Space Museum (both on the National Mall and at Dulles International Airport); the National Museum of African Art; the National Museum of American History; the National Museum of Natural History; the National Museum of the American Indian (including the George Gustav Heye Center, New York City); the National Portrait Gallery; the National Postal Museum; the National Zoological Park; the Smithsonian American Art Museum (including the separately housed Renwick Gallery); the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (Cambridge, Mass., where it forms part of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics); the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland); the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (based in Panama); and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is an independent bureau within the institution, and the National Gallery of Art is an affiliate of the Smithsonian.
See The Official Guide to the Smithsonian (2002).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.