Smithsonian Institution

aka Smithsonian   |   Washington, DC   |  www.si.edu

Mission

The Smithsonian's mission is "the increase and diffusion of knowledge." It was established in 1846 with funds bequeathed to the United States by James Smithson. The Institution is as an independent trust instrumentality of the United States and holds more than 137 million artifacts and specimens in its collections. It is a center for scientific research and scholarship in the arts, history and culture.

Ruling year info

1924

Secretary

Dr. David J. Skorton

Main address

P. O. Box 37012 MRC 035

Washington, DC 20013 USA

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EIN

53-0206027

NTEE code info

Museum & Museum Activities (A50)

Science, General (includes Interdisciplinary Scientific Activities) (U20)

Educational Services and Schools - Other (B90)

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Programs and results

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Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Anacostia Community Museum

The Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum documents and interprets the impact of social and cultural issues on contemporary urban communities. Established in 1967 as the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum, it served first as a Smithsonian outreach museum situated in one of Washington, D.C.’s largely African American neighborhoods and later evolved into a museum which documented, preserved and interpreted African American history from local and community history perspectives. In 2006, the name of the institution was changed to reflect the expansion from ethnic themes to broader cultural issues that resonate within communities.

Population(s) Served

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum is the only museum in the nation devoted exclusively to historic and contemporary design. Based in New York City, Cooper Hewitt educates, inspires and empowers people through design by presenting exhibitions and educational programs and maintaining active publications.

Cooper Hewitt’s collections include more than 210,000 design objects and a world-class design library. Its exhibitions, in-depth educational programs, and on-site, degree-granting master’s program explore the process of design, both historic and contemporary. As part of its mission, Cooper Hewitt annually sponsors the National Design Awards, a prestigious program which honors innovation and excellence in American design. Together, these resources and programs reinforce Cooper Hewitt’s position as the preeminent museum and educational authority for the study of design in the United States.

Population(s) Served

The Smithsonian Institution has two museums of Asian art: the Freer Gallery of Art, which opened to the public in 1923, and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, which welcomed its first visitors in 1987. Both are physically connected by an underground passageway and ideologically linked through the study, exhibition and sheer love of Asian art. In addition, the Freer Gallery contains an important collection of nineteenth century American art punctuated by James McNeill Whistler's Peacock Room, perhaps one of the earliest (and certainly one of the most controversial) art installations on record.

The Freer is designed in a classical style whose architectural nexus is a courtyard that used to house live peacocks in the museum's early days. It was Charles Lang Freer's goal to facilitate the appreciation of world cultures through art, a noble undertaking as important today as it was more than a century ago, when he first willed his artwork and archives to the nation. The Sackler is home to Dr. Arthur Sackler's incomparable collection of art, including some of the most important ancient Chinese jades and bronzes in the world.

Population(s) Served

The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden is one of the world’s leading museums of international modern and contemporary art. The museum was established as a result of the efforts and generosity of American entrepreneur and philanthropist Joseph H. Hirshhorn (1899–1981), who donated his collection to the Smithsonian in 1966. Designed by architect Gordon Bunshaft, the museum has 60,000 square feet of exhibition space inside its elevated circular building and nearly four acres outside in its multilevel Sculpture Garden and Plaza.

The permanent collection of roughly 12,000 artworks includes pieces by leading artists from the late 19th century to the present day and comprises paintings, sculptures, photographs, mixed media installations, works on paper and new media works. The Hirshhorn has one of the most comprehensive collections of modern sculpture in the world, with many examples on view indoors and in the Sculpture Garden.

In-depth holdings include works by Josef Albers, Francis Bacon, John Baldessari, Alexander Calder, Joseph Cornell, Willem de Kooning, Jean Dubuffet, Thomas Eakins, Alberto Giacometti, Barbara Hepworth, Ellsworth Kelly, Morris Louis, Henry Moore, Louise Nevelson, Isamu Noguchi, Salvatore Scarpitta, David Smith, Clyfford Still and Hiroshi Sugimoto.

Population(s) Served

The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum is one of the world’s most popular museums with more than 8.5 million visitors in 2015. Its mission is to commemorate, educate and inspire visitors by preserving and displaying aeronautical and spaceflight artifacts. The museum maintains the world’s largest collection of historic aircraft and spacecraft among more than 66,000 objects and serves the public through exhibitions, public programs, educational activities, publications and electronic outreach. It is also a vital center for historical research on aviation and spaceflight and related science and technology, and home to the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies, which performs original research and outreach activities in planetary sciences.

The museum has two public display facilities. The flagship building on the National Mall in Washington DC, which opened in 1976, houses many of the icons of flight, including the original 1903 Wright Flyer, Charles Lindburgh’s Spirit of St. Louis, Chuck Yeager’s Bell X-1, John Glenn’s Friendship 7 spacecraft and a lunar rock sample that visitors can touch. The museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, in Chantilly, Va., opened in 2003 and houses many more artifacts in an open, hangar-like setting, including a Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, a Concorde, the Boeing B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay, the Dash 80 prototype for the Boeing 707, the sole-surviving Boeing 307 Stratoliner and space shuttle Discovery.

Population(s) Served

Opened on September 24, 2016, the National Museum of African American History and Culture is the Smithsonian’s 19th museum. Located on the National Mall between the Washington Monument and the National Museum of American History, it is the only national museum devoted entirely to the documentation of African American life, art, history and culture. At 36,000 objects and counting, the museum’s collection is designed to illustrate the major periods in African American history, beginning with the origins in Africa and continuing through slavery, reconstruction, the civil rights era, the Harlem Renaissance and into the 21st century.

Population(s) Served

The National Museum of African Art began as a private educational institution in 1964 to promote cross-cultural understanding in the social sciences and arts. Founded by Warren M. Robbins, a former U.S. Foreign Service officer, it was known as the Museum of African Art and located on Capitol Hill in a townhouse that had been the home of Frederick Douglass, the African American abolitionist and statesman. In 1979 the museum became part of the Smithsonian Institution.

The museum, formally renamed the National Museum of African Art in 1981, opened to the public in a new facility on the National Mall in 1987. Initially focused on the traditional arts of sub-Saharan Africa, the museum broadened its collecting scope and programs to include both modern and contemporary artworks, distinguishing itself as the first museum in the United States to include a sustained focus on modern and contemporary African art in its mission. Through its collections research facilities, state-of-the-art conservation lab, groundbreaking exhibitions, educational outreach and public programs, the museum has expanded the parameters of the field of African art history and presented to the public a rich diversity of artistic traditions from throughout continent.

Population(s) Served

Opened in January 1964 as the National Museum of History and Technology, the museum was renamed the National Museum of American History in 1980 to more accurately reflect its scope of interests and responsibilities. The museum collects and preserves more than 3 million artifacts, representing the nation’s heritage in the areas of science, technology, sociology and culture. The collections include the Star-Spangled Banner, First Ladies’ gowns, a Samuel Morse telegraph, locomotives, tools, Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers, an Alexander Graham Bell telephone, American-made quilts, Muhammad Ali’s boxing gloves, Duke Ellington’s sheet music and presidential artifacts. Exhibitions explore major themes in American history and culture, from the War of Independence to the present day.

Population(s) Served

Established in 1989 through an act of Congress, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian is an institution of living cultures dedicated to advancing knowledge and understanding of the life, languages, literature, history and arts of the Native peoples of the Western Hemisphere. The museum includes the National Museum of the American Indian on the National Mall; the Gustave Heye Center, a permanent museum in lower Manhattan; and the Cultural Resources Center, a research and collections facility in Suitland, Md.

Fifteen years in the making, the museum is the first national museum in the country dedicated exclusively to Native Americans and the first to present all exhibitions from a Native viewpoint. A diverse and multifaceted cultural and educational enterprise, the museum cares for one of the world's most expansive collections of Native artifacts, including objects, photographs, archives, and media covering the entire Western Hemisphere, from the Arctic Circle to Tierra del Fuego.

Population(s) Served

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History is the most visited natural history museum in the world. Opened in 1910, the museum is dedicated to maintaining and preserving the world’s most extensive collection of natural history specimens and human artifacts. It fosters significant research and produces educational programs and exhibitions that present the work of its scientists to the public.

Whether looking at the history and cultures of Africa, describing our earliest mammalian ancestor or primate diversity around the world, examining ancient life forms including the ever popular dinosaurs, or exploring the beauty of rare gemstones such as uniquely colored diamonds, the museum’s temporary and permanent exhibitions serve to educate, enlighten and entertain millions of visitors each year. At the center of the museum’s exhibition and research programs are its expertly documented collections: more than 145 million natural science specimens and cultural artifacts. Additionally, in 2015 alone the museum’s scientific staff conducted research in 67 countries and published 827 scientific papers and seven books. During this year, the museum’s scientists contributed to the discovery and description of three new families, 56 new genera and 454 new species.

Population(s) Served

The National Portrait Gallery is the only museum of its kind in the United States to reflect the connection between American history, biography and art. It tells the multifaceted story of America through the individuals who have shaped its culture. Through the visual arts, performing arts, and new media, the National Portrait Gallery portrays poets and presidents, visionaries and villains, actors and activists whose lives tell the American story.

The museum was established by an act of Congress in 1962 and opened to the public in 1968. Its charter was to collect and display images of “men and women who have made significant contributions to the history, development and culture of the people of the United States.”

Population(s) Served

The Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum is dedicated to the preservation, study and presentation of postal history and the collection and study of postage stamps, postmarks and stamped envelopes. The museum uses exhibits, educational public programs and research to showcase the largest and most comprehensive collection of stamps and philatelic material in the world, including postal stationery, vehicles used to transport the mail, mailboxes, meters, cards and letters.

The museum is located in the historic City Post Office Building, which was constructed in 1914 and served as the Washington, D.C., post office from 1914 through 1986. The museum also houses a 6,000-square-foot research library—among the world’s largest postal history research facilities, with more than 40,000 volumes and manuscript holdings.

Population(s) Served

The Smithsonian’s National Zoo is one of Washington D.C.’s, and the Smithsonian’s, most popular tourist destinations, with more than 2 million visitors from all over the world each year. Today, the Zoo sits on 163 acres in the heart of Rock Creek Park and is home to more than 1,500 animals across 300 different species.

The Zoo’s commitment to conservation, research and education extends to the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, located in nearby Front Royal, Va. SCBI scientists and animal care experts conduct veterinary and reproductive research to save wildlife and habitats for some of the world’s most endangered animals on the sprawling 3,200-acre campus.

The National Zoo leads the Smithsonian’s global effort to save species, better understand ecosystems and train future generations of conservationists. Scientists from the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute also work in field stations around the world. More than 200 scientists and their partners in more than 30 countries create and share knowledge to aid in the survival and recovery of species and their habitats. Findings from these studies provide critical data for the management of captive populations and valuable insights for the conservation and management of wild populations.

Population(s) Served

The Smithsonian American Art Museum, the nation's first collection of American art, is an unparalleled record of the American experience. The collection captures the aspirations, character and imagination of the American people over three centuries. Representing more than 7,000 artists, the museum is the home to one of the largest and most inclusive collections of American art in the world. Its artworks reveal key aspects of America's rich artistic and cultural history from the colonial period to today.

The museum's main building, a National Historic Landmark located in the heart of Washington's downtown cultural district, has been meticulously renovated with expanded permanent-collection galleries and innovative public spaces. The Luce Foundation Center for American Art, the first visible art storage and study center in Washington, allows visitors to browse thousands of artworks from the collection. It adjoins the Lunder Conservation Center, which is shared with the National Portrait Gallery, the first art conservation facility to allow the public permanent behind-the-scenes views of the preservation work of museums. The Renwick Gallery, a branch of the museum that showcases the best craft objects and decorative arts from the 19th century to the present, reopened in November 2015 after a two year renovation.

Population(s) Served

The Archives of American Art is the world’s pre-eminent and most widely used research center dedicated to collecting, preserving and providing access to primary sources that document the history of the visual arts in America. Its vast holdings—more than 20 million letters, diaries and scrapbooks of artists, dealers and collectors; manuscripts of critics and scholars; business and financial records of museums, galleries, schools and associations; photographs of art world figures and events; sketches and sketchbooks; rare printed material; film, audio and video recordings; and the largest collection of oral histories anywhere on the subject of art—are a vital resource to anyone interested in American culture over the past 200 years.

Founded in Detroit in 1954 by Edgar P. Richardson, then Director of the Detroit Institute of Arts, and Lawrence A. Fleischman, a Detroit executive and active young collector, the initial goal of the archives was to serve as microfilm repository of papers housed in other institutions. This mission expanded quickly to collecting and preserving original material and, in 1970, the archives joined the Smithsonian Institution, sharing the Institution’s mandate—the increase and diffusion of knowledge.

Population(s) Served

The Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage promotes the understanding and sustainability of the world’s diverse cultures through research and educational activities. It is responsible for the annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, the Ralph Rinzier Folklife Archives and Collections and other cultural heritage research, education and policy projects.

The annual Folklife Festival, which began in 1967, highlights grassroots cultures across the nation and around the world through performances and demonstrations of living traditions. Smithsonian Folkways is a nonprofit record label of the Smithsonian Institution that aims to document community-based music and to preserve historical recordings of both music and the spoken word.

Population(s) Served

The Smithsonian’s Museum Conservation Institute is the center for specialized technical collection research and conservation for all Smithsonian museums and collections. The Museum Conservation Institute combines knowledge of materials and the history of technology with state-of-the-art instrumentation and scientific techniques to provide technical research studies and interpretation of artistic, anthropological, biological and historical objects.

Population(s) Served

Originally founded in 1890, the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) moved its headquarters to Cambridge, Ma., in 1955 and then formalized a relationship with the Harvard College Observatory in 1973. The combined Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics created the first satellite-tracking network, establishing the organization as a pioneer in space science research.

In the past two decades, new discoveries by the Center for Astrophysics have improved the understanding of other planetary systems. By measuring the brightness and motions of nearby stars, astronomers have detected more than 2,000 planets and 1,330 planetary systems. SAO scientists also study the sun to learn about the day-to-day behavior of an ordinary star; the birth of planets; black holes, pulsars, and supernovae; and much more.

Population(s) Served

The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) plays a leading role in the Smithsonian’s global efforts to save wildlife species from extinction and train future generations of conservationists. SCBI spearheads research programs at its headquarters in Front Royal, Va., the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and at field research stations and training sites worldwide. SCBI scientists tackle some of today’s most complex conservation challenges by applying and sharing what they learn about animal behavior and reproduction, ecology, genetics, migration and conservation sustainability.

Population(s) Served

The Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) leads the nation in discovering the links between land and water ecosystems in the coastal zone. Researchers investigate questions related to fisheries, climate change, invasive species, mercury pollution, water quality, ozone depletion and more. SERC leads research on coastal ecosystems—where the land meets the sea—to inform real-world decisions for wise policies, best business practices and a sustainable planet.

Located on Chesapeake Bay, the nation’s largest estuary, SERC sits just 25 miles from the nation’s capital. Its 2,650-acre campus spans forests, wetlands, marshes and 12 miles of protected shoreline. The site serves as a natural laboratory for long-term and cutting-edge ecological research. SERC research also extends to other sites around the world. In addition to the Romberg Tiburon Center on San Francisco Bay, a branch of SERC’s Marine Invasions Laboratory, SERC ecologists have worked in places such as Alaska, Florida, Belize, Panama, the United Arab Emirates and the Ross Sea off the coast of Antarctica.

Population(s) Served

The Smithsonian Institution Archives captures, preserves and makes available to the public the history of this extraordinary Institution. From its inception in 1846 to the present, the records of the history of the Institution—its people, its programs, its research and its stories—have been gathered, organized and disseminated so that everyone can learn about the Smithsonian. The history of the Smithsonian is a vital part of American history, of scientific exploration and of international cultural understanding.

Population(s) Served

The network of 20 specialized research libraries that make up the Smithsonian Libraries provide the Institution’s museums and research centers with resources and services that are as diverse and deep as the collections, exhibits and scholarship they support. They span the range of scientific and cultural pursuits of humanity from aerospace, anthropology and art history to business history and botany, cultural history, design, philately, zoology and much, much more.

Individually each of these libraries is among the world’s greatest repositories of knowledge for the specialized fields they support. Collectively they are among America’s greatest scientific and cultural treasures. They belong to the nation, and through their expanding online presence and digitization initiatives more and more people from across the country and around the world are able to access their vast resources.

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Headquartered in the Republic of Panama, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) is the world’s premier tropical biology research organization, dedicated to increasing understanding of the past, present and future of tropical biodiversity and its relevance to human welfare.

STRI’s basic research is conducted primarily in tropical forest and coral reef ecosystems. STRI scientists discover new organisms, test scientific explanations for ecological adaptation and evolutionary innovation, develop methods to restore degraded lands, train students, and promote conservation of tropical ecosystems.

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The Office of Fellowships and Internships has central management and administrative responsibility for the Smithsonian Institution’s programs of research, internships, fellowships and other scholarly appointments. One of its primary objectives is the facilitation of the Institution’s interactions with students and scholars at universities, museums and other research institutions around the world. The office administers Institution-wide research support programs, and encourages and assists other Smithsonian museums, research institutes and research offices in the development of additional fellowships and visiting appointments.

Population(s) Served

Smithsonian Affiliations is a national outreach program that develops long-term, high quality partnerships with museums and educational organizations in order to share collections, exhibitions, learning opportunities and research expertise. Visitors to affiliated organizations experience the Smithsonian in their neighborhood where they may view major works of art, historic objects of flight, wonders of nature, icons of American history, and other artifacts, artworks and scientific specimens from the national collections. Smithsonian Affiliations also reaches across the country with special educational programs designed for museums, schools and centers serving pre-school, K-12 students and adult learners. The Smithsonian Affiliations network provides new and unforeseen avenues for regional, cultural, topical and audience-oriented types of support and collaboration.

Population(s) Served

The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center works to present the history, art and culture of Asian Pacific Americans through research, exhibitions, outreach and education programs. Since 1997, the Asian Pacific American Center has created, coordinated and partnered with hundreds of Asian Pacific American initiatives across the Smithsonian Institution, including collections, exhibits, cultural festivals, public programs, research, fellowships and internships.

Population(s) Served

Smithsonian Associates offers unparalleled access to the Smithsonian's world of knowledge through innovative and engaging programming that promotes learning, enrichment and creativity for people of all ages.

The largest museum-based educational program in the world, Smithsonian Associates annually offers more than 750 seminars, performances, lectures, studio art classes, and local and regional study tours. Performances at Discovery Theater and more than 80 educationally focused summer camps are among the programs that foster the joys of learning for young people and their families.

Population(s) Served

The Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access (SCLDA) provides extensive digital access to Smithsonian collections, programs and learning resources. SCLDA enables users to explore and expand their interests and create their own learning experiences, partners with other education-minded organizations to spread promising practices to benefit more learners, and shares innovations through rigorous open-access digital research and publication.

Population(s) Served

The Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) began developing and circulating exhibitions based on Smithsonian collections and scholarship in 1952. Since then, it has put more than 1500 exhibitions on the road, making it the world's largest traveling exhibition service. SITES takes exhibitions not only to museums, but also to libraries, science centers, historical societies, community centers, botanical gardens, schools, and shopping malls.

Population(s) Served

The Smithsonian Latino Center was created in 1997 to promote Latino presence within the Smithsonian. The Center is not represented in one physical location; rather, it works collaboratively with the Institution's museums and research centers, ensuring that the contributions of the Latino community in the arts, history, national culture and scientific achievement are explored, presented, celebrated and preserved. The center supports scholarly research, exhibitions, public and educational programs, web-based content and virtual platforms, and collections and archives. The center also manages leadership and professional development programs for Latino youth, emerging scholars and museum professionals.

Population(s) Served

The Smithsonian Science Education Center (SSEC) is dedicated to formal K-12 science education reform. The SSEC was established in 1985 as the National Science Resources Center (NSRC) under the sponsorship of two prestigious institutions: the Smithsonian Institution and the National Academy of Sciences. In 2012, our name changed to the Smithsonian Science Education Center to reflect our mission: to transform and improve the learning and teaching of science for K-12 students. We are dedicated to the establishment of effective science programs for all students. To contribute to that goal, the SSEC has developed and published a comprehensive K-8, research-based science curriculum program: Science and Technology ConceptsTM (STC Elementary and Secondary). We support the systemic needs of schools, districts and states through our Leadership and Assistance for Science Education Reform (LASER) model.

Population(s) Served

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Financials

Smithsonian Institution
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Smithsonian Institution

Board of directors
as of 10/4/2016
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

John W. McCarter

The Chief Justice of the United States

Ex officio, Chancellor

John McCarter

Citizen of Illinois, Chair

Shirley Ann Jackson

Citizen of New York, Vice Chair

The Vice President of the United States

Ex officio

John Boozman

Senator from Arkansas

Patrick Leahy

Senator from Vermont

David Perdue

Senator from Georgia

Xavier Becerra

Representative from California

Tom Cole

Representative from Oklahoma

Sam Johnson

Representative from Texas

Barbara Barrett

Citizen of Arizona

Steve Case

Citizen of Virginia

John Fahey

Citizen of Washington, D.C.

Robert Kogod

Citizen of Washington, D.C.

Risa Lavizzo-Mourey

Citizen of Pennsylvania

Michael Lynton

Citizen of California

David Rubenstein

Citizen of Maryland