The Smithsonian Institution's early development coincided with a growing sense of nationalism and independence from Europe. Congress turned to the new Institution as the place to preserve and exhibit the nation's relics and icons.
A Growing National Museum
At the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, Smithsonian exhibits
prepared by Assistant Secretary Baird made Smithsonian a household word.
When the exposition closed, 42 boxcars full of artifacts were donated to
the Smithsonian by the exhibitors. Built in large part to accommodate
those objects, the United States National Museum (now known as the Arts
and Industries Building) opened in 1881.
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