Graphical timeline from Smithson to Smithsonian
From Smithson to Smithsonian - The Birth of an InstitutionAn Institution Emerges

Who Was James Smithson?
Sccepting Smithson's Gift
All-American Compromise
The Smithsonian Building
An Institution Emerges
A National Collection
Smithson's Legacy

"To Stimulate the Talent
of Our Country"

Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge
Ancient Monuments... Title Page
Smithsonian Contributions
Volume I.


Through funding the research report series Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge, Secretary Henry aimed to overcome what he considered one of the greatest obstacles to American science: the high cost of scientific publication. The series' first volume, Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley, was a landmark American archaeological monograph.
Ancient Monuments… Frontspiece
Ancient Monuments…


Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge is still published today and distributed free of charge to research institutions and scholars.

books received through international exchange
Smithsonian books received through
international exchange

International Exchange Service

To keep the high cost of transatlantic transportation from hampering the work of American scientists, Secretary Henry in 1850 set up a low-cost system for international exchange of scholarly publications. The International Exchange Service enhanced the reputations of both American science and the Smithsonian for nearly 150 years. The service played an important role in shaping the Smithsonian Institution Libraries' collections.

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