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

Educating the People of Washington

Public Opportunities

"Invitations have been given to a number of distinguished gentlemen in different parts of the United States to favor us with courses of lectures… We shall not seek mere popular lecturers… but chiefly those who are entitled… to speak with authority on the subjects of their discourse, and whose character will tend to give due importance to their communications."
—Secretary Joseph Henry,
Smithsonian Institution Annual Report, 1849

The Lecture Room
"The Lecture Room"


Public lectures were a regular part of early Smithsonian activities as a result of Congress' insistence on public access to the Smithsonian. The Smithsonian Building originally had one of Washington's largest public lecture halls. Secretary Henry discontinued the lectures after a fire in the Smithsonian Building in 1865 destroyed the lecture hall.
The Apparatus Room
"The Apparatus Room"


The Apparatus Room

Part exhibit gallery, part product demonstration facility, the Apparatus Room, which Secretary Henry opened in 1854, captured the interest of Smithsonian researchers and visitors alike.

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