Architects Adolf Cluss and Paul Schulze shared their earliest vision for a National Museum building, which would become the Arts and Industries Building, in this 1878 sketch. They kept many of the elements seen here—high windows, skylights and a central rotunda—in the final design.
Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution Archives, 1878, Negative Number: AI-1315
Inside, Cluss envisioned a large hall filled with light; as Smithsonian archivists note, this 1878 sketch captures visitors strolling through the building but doesn’t show any trace of exhibits.
Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution Archives, 1878, Negative Number: 76-8437
The National Museum building, now known as the Arts and Industries building, wouldn’t open to the public until October 1881, but made an exception for a big debut: President James A. Garfield’s inaugural ball on March 4, 1881. The building’s West Hall, which faces the central Rotunda, was decorated with “festive buntings, state flags and seals.” Workers constructed a temporary wooden floor for the event’s 7,000 guests (and 10,000 bins for their hats and coats).
Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution Archives, 1881, Negative Number: MAH66045
Anatomy Hall debuted in the new National Museum building shortly after it opened in 1881. Here, workers are captured raising a whale skeleton to the ceiling, lifting the bones with a pulley system. Other skeletons lie in cases on the floor.
Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution Archives, c. 1881, Negative Number: 2002-12146
A natural history exhibit began to sprawl across the National Museum building’s South Hall shortly after it opened in 1881. Archivists note the image must depict the building in its earlier days—neither the Rotunda’s iconic “Statue of Freedom” nor the balconies are visible.
Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution Archives, c. 1881-1887, Negative Number: mnh-279
By the 1890s, visitors began to crowd the National Museum building’s lecture hall, where they could sit in on demonstrations and discussions with curators. In this image, archivists say, the crowd is likely gathered to see the Catlin Indian Gallery, which showcased George Catlin’s 1830s drawings of Indians and life in the Plains. An Eskimo mannequin and stuffed animals line the front of the hall, perhaps for another demonstration.
Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution Archives, c. 1890s, Negative Number: 2002-10632.
Curators installed the Water Transportation Hall in 1881 in the Northeast Range of the National building museum. The gallery, known as “Boat Hall,” showcased models and designs of boats from a number of regions and time periods, from steam boats to canoes and sailing vessels. The hall, pictured here in in the 1890s, featured smaller models along the hall’s perimeter; Haida canoes, used along America’s Northwest coasts, hung from the ceiling. The hall would go on to become one of the building’s longest standing exhibits—it remained in the space for more than 70 years, through the late 1960s.
Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution Archives, c. 1890s, Negative Number: MAH-2964.
Soon, curators needed more room in the National Museum building for exhibits and lectures. Between 1898 and 1906, workers laid cement for the building’s balconies, which offered more gallery space.
Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution Archives, 1898, Negative Number: NHB-11478.
Visitors exit and enter the National Museum building through glass doors around the turn of the century. Two years later, in 1902, DC architects Hornblower and Marshall redesigned the front entryway of the building that would come to be known as the Arts and Industries Building.
A postcard printed sometime between 1915 and 1930 shows the front of the National Museum building, now known as the Arts and Industries Building. The back of the postcard tells visitors "the National Museum contains the Government collections, comprising millions of objects of scientific and artistic interest, collected from all quarters of the globe."
One of the Smithsonian Institution’s most famous exhibits—The First Ladies — first found a home in the Arts and Industries Building. The First Ladies Hall, shown here in 1955, first showcased the gowns of (left to right) Edith Bolling Wilson, Ellen Axson Wilson, Helen Herron Taft, Edith Kermit Roosevelt, Ida Saxton McKinley and Frances Folsom Cleveland.
Before the National Air and Space Museum was built, air and space craft found a home on the west side of the Arts and Industries building. “Rocket Row,” shown here in the 1960s, showcased four missiles. From left to right: the Jupiter C, which launched Explorer I, the first U.S. satellite; the Vanguard; the Polaris, the first U.S. submarine-launched Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM); and the Atlas, the Mercury launch vehicle.
Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution Archives, 1960s, Negative Number: 2002-12168.
As part of the Charles Eames exhibit ‘Photography and the City: The Evolution of an Art and a Science,’ workers hung a hot air balloon from the inside of the Rotunda of the Arts and Industries Building. The balloon illustrated how photographers took the first aerial photograph in the United States, archivists say.
the opening of "1876: A Centennial Exhibition," which celebrated the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. In this photograph, behind the scaffolding in West Hall, bunting garland is already being strung along the ceiling.
Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution Archives, 1975, Negative Number: 76-1157-18A.
As part of the bicentennial celebration of the American Revolution, the Arts and Industries Building debuted “1876: A Centennial Exhibition,” which recreated the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, on May 10, 1976. This photograph captures the display devoted to industrial materials from companies such as Reed & Barton and Meriden Britannia Co.
Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution Archives, 1976, Negative Number: 77-3205.
In 1971, the Arts and Industries Building was named a National Historic Landmark. The building shut down from 1974 to 1976 for renovations; Joseph Forrest (left) and Eldrey Bell of the Craft Services Division are pictured hanging the National Historic Landmarks' plaque near the building’s west entrance in 1977, after it reopened.
Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution Archives, Negative Number: 77-14343-17.
In what would become a long tradition of films on and around Smithsonian buildings and the National Mall, Jill Clayburgh and Walter Matthau are pictured filming outside the Arts and Industries Building in 1981. For two days in January of 1981, makeup artists, lights, cameras and wardrobes took over the building’s Rotunda as the stars filmed "First Monday in October.”
Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution Archives, 1981, by Jeff Tinsley, Negative Number: SIA81-73-29
The Arts and Industries Building was renovated again in 1983; here, plastic covers part of the building as repairs are made on the roof.
Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution Archives, 1983, by Jeffery Ploskonka, Negative Number: SIA83-230-29A.
Three statues comprise the "Columbia Protecting Science and Industry" display atop the roof of the Arts and Industries Building. In this 1994 photograph, two of them—Science and Industry—are loaded onto a flat-bed truck and carried away for refurbishing.
Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution Archives, 1994, by Nathan Mountjoy, Negative Number: 94-5247-15A.
Despite many renovations, the Arts and Industries building began to show its age in the mid-2000s. The National Trust for Historic Preservation named it one of the most endangered places in America; in 2006, after several leaks and a failing HVAC system, the Arts and Industries Building was shut down. The future of the building, pictured here in 2007, was unclear for several years. But funding for renovations was eventually secured through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The building is expected to reopen in 2014.
Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution Archives, by Eric Long, August 2, 2006, Negative Number: 2006-20033
The Smithsonian Arts and Industries building is the second oldest building on the National Mall; it opened its doors in 1881 as the National Museum, seeking to act as the first property for storage and public display of the Smithsonian Institution's growing collection of artifacts. Designed by architects Adolf Cluss and Paul Schulze, the building was the site of President James A. Garfield's inagural ball. In 1971, the building was officially recognized as a National Historic Landmark.
After years of renovation, thhe building will reopen to the public in 2014 as the Smithsonian Innovation Space, serving as a place for visitors to experience the Smithsonian through a lense of innovation.