History of the Smithsonian

Smithsonian Secretary S. Dillon Ripley, in 1978, stands before a portrait of a predecessor—Joseph Henry, the first Secretary.

Secretary Lonnie Bunch on What It Takes to Lead the Smithsonian

A successful Secretary must acknowledge the Institution’s failures as well as successes—and celebrate its capacity for change

The document, which had been stored in a folded shape for more than 200 years, is composed of parchment pages that offer new insight into the Smithsonian founder's family history.

New Analysis Reveals More Details About Smithsonian Founder's Illegitimate Family Tree

The newly recovered 1787 Hungerford Deed, detailing a contentious squabble over property and prestige, can now be viewed in a new virtual exhibition

In 1891, Samuel P. Langley began experiments with large, tandem-winged models powered by small steam and gasoline engines that he called aerodromes. After several failures with designs that were too fragile and under-powered to sustain themselves, Langley had his first genuine success on May 6, 1896.

This Odd Early Flying Machine Made History but Didn't Have the Right Stuff

Aerodrome No. 5 had to be launched by catapult on the Potomac River on May 6, 1896, but it flew unpiloted 3,300 feet

Michael Collins' NASA astronaut portrait.

Remembering Michael Collins

As the third director of the National Air and Space Museum, the former astronaut campaigned for a museum on the Mall in time for the nation’s bicentennial

After George Floyd’s death, Jason Allende, 13, and his family joined protesters in Junction City, Kansas, on May 29, 2020.

Secretary Lonnie Bunch: Learning From Americans' Past Ordeals

Looking to history can help find healing and hope

“We call ourselves the Great Convener,” says the new Secretary Lonnie G. Bunch III, “but really we’re a Great Legitimizer. And I want the Smithsonian to legitimize important issues."

Lonnie Bunch Sizes Up His Past and Future at the Smithsonian

Bunch’s new memoir details the tireless work it took to build NMAAHC and offers insights into his priorities as Smithsonian Secretary


How Lonnie Bunch Built a Museum Dream Team

An exclusive excerpt from the Smithsonian Secretary’s new book, ‘A Fool’s Errand’

By day the members of the Megatherium Club, united by youth, ambition, intelligence and a deep and abiding love of the natural world, hunched over jars of marine worms in alcohol or endless trays of fossils…At night they were ready to cut loose.

The Hard-Drinking Early Smithsonian Naturalists of the Megatherium Club

William Stimpson created a fraternity of young scientists and named it for an extinct North American sloth

Smithson and Hungerford family members scanned a geneology treee, searching for their place among the clan.

Mr. Smithson’s Family Goes to Washington

A contingent of descendants, related to the founder of the Smithsonian Institution, embarked on a tour of the museums

David Skorton, Kirk Johnson, Doris Matsui and David Rubinstein discuss the Smithsonian's future at the Arts and Industries Building in Washington, D.C.

Smithsonian Unveils a Bold New Action Plan, Grounded in Unity and Outreach

A fresh philosophy aims to touch the lives of a billion people every year

A hyalotype photo printed and mounted as a glass lantern slide, by William and Frederick Langenheim.

This is the First Known Photo of the Smithsonian Castle

On the Smithsonian's 175th birthday, a glimpse into the iconic Castle's construction

Smithsonian Secretary David Skorton and his wife, Robin Davisson, greet Marie Dieng at the Institution's staff picnic on the National Mall. Skorton begins his tenure as the 13th Secretary on July 1.

On His First Day on the Job, Smithsonian Secretary David J. Skorton Discusses the Past and the Future

The new Smithsonian leader says he wants to emphasize the arts and humanities at a time when they are being deemphasized nationally

Is the Smithsonian Castle haunted? The Institution's founder, James Smithson, is said to be among the otherworldly visitors.

Learn the Truths Behind These Smithsonian Urban Legends

Ever since its inception, the Smithsonian has been the subject of wild rumors, crazy tales and amusing myths


Smithsonian Science

Extending a Recording Discoveries and Innovation

Page 1 of 1