The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
Category: Smithsonian History
On October 20, 2014, the Smithsonian officially launched a National Capital Campaign, the first of its kind in the Institution's history. However, this is not the Smithsonian's first attempt at a national fundraising effort.
In 1925, the Institution's fourth Secretary, Charles Doolittle Walcott, started developing a strategic plan that included a capital campaign to supplement federal funds allocated to the Smithsonian. In the early stages of the campaign, before the actual launch was to occur in 1927, Walcott began soliciting contributions from the general public and prospective large donors, including members of the Smithsonian's Board of Regents.
The campaign goal was to raise one million dollars, with the hopes of raising the first $50,000 from within (Regents and associates of Board members). Not all were capable, or perhaps willing, to contribute a suggested amount of $1,000. The Board's Chancellor, William Howard Taft, offered $250.
The first money to arrive for the Capital Campaign, though, came from an unlikely source. On December 5, 1925, Taft received the following letter:
Dear Mr. Taft:
At school in the current events we read that the Smithsonian Institute [sic] needed money. Our teacher talked about it and asked how many would send money. I decided I would. The dollar enclosed is money I earned today. I hope it will help. Yours truly, Orrin F. Nash
Taft forwarded the money to Walcott with the tongue-in-cheek missive, "My Dear Dr. Walcott: Here is the foundation for your $10,000,000. It is only one dollar, but I hope that it will prove to be a good beginning."
Walcott replied to Master Nash with a very sweet note of thanks.
It was most generous of you to make this contribution, which was the first received in response to the public announcement of the Institution’s need for additional funds. It is particularly appreciated because, having been a boy myself, I know how many alluring things they always have in mind on which to spend their dollars, and I do not believe that many boys would have been unselfish enough to send it for such a purpose. I hope the consciousness that you have made this sacrifice of some pleasure of your own for the benefit of others will more than repay you, for no one can tell what part your dollar may play in the ferreting out of some secret of Nature, and thus add its share to the sum of human knowledge for the enlightenment of other boys and girls and men and women for generations to come.
What became of Walcott's campaign? Well, it did not end as sweetly as it's one dollar beginning. On February 11, 1927, Walcott planned a "Conference on the Future of the Smithsonian" to kick off the campaign with scientists, politicians and prominent prospective donors in attendance. Unfortunately, two days before the conference, Walcott died. His successor, Charles Greeley Abbot, hosted the conference in his stead, but timing was not on the side of the campaign. Just as Abbot was completing the strategic plan and preparing to launch the capital campaign, the stock market crashed in 1929.
- Contribute to today's Smithsonian Campaign!
- Orrin F. Nash, Urbana Daily Courier, December 30, 1925, Illinois Digital Newspaper Collections, University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
- Press Release announcing Smithsonian's 2014-2017 National Capital Campaign, Chronology of Smithsonian History, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Secretary Charles Doolittle Walcott, Smithsonian Institution Archives
Thanksgiving is gone and over
The Turkey is in the stew
When the pot is empty
What then, will you do?
Mayhap, glance at the calendar
And conceive with joyful delight
That the furious little snowflakes are here
And Christmas is almost in sight
The bearded man will soon take leave
To make place for the young
And soon we'll all be gaily caroling
A happy Easter song.
By Leroy Wells, Biological Sciences International Exchange
From The Torch, December 1956 - Record Unit 371 - Office of Public Affairs, The Torch, 1955-1960, 1965-1988, Smithsonian Institution Archives
HAPPY THANKSGIVING FROM THE SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION ARCHIVES!
Last week the Smithsonian announced a new plan for the South Mall side of the National Mall, which includes the Smithsonian Castle, the Arthur M. Sacker Gallery, the National Museum of African Art, the S. Dillon Ripley International Center, the Enid A. Haupt Garden, the Arts & Industries Building, and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.
Historically the area has played host to a variety of functions and buildings, specifically the South Yard, located behind the Smithsonian Castle, lies in between the Arts and Industries Building and the Freer Gallery of Art and has been the location for a variety of things over the years. In the late 19th century, one could find several small buildings for the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Taxidermy Studio, National Zoological Park, and Aerodrome Studio. After World War I, a Quonset hut housed the National Air Museum (today, the National Air and Space Museum), next to the Radiation Biology Laboratory (today, the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center) greenhouses. In 1976, the South Yard was converted to a Victorian Garden to welcome visitors. In the 1980s, the area was excavated to create the Quadrangle Complex, with underground buildings for the National Museum of African Art, the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, and the S. Dillon Ripley International Center. Pavilion entrances to these buildings are nestled within the Enid A. Haupt Garden.
Adapted from The South Yard online exhibition, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Cost - $73.2 million (including $36.6 million in federal appropriations)
- From Start to Opening - From formal groundbreaking on June 21, 1983 to formal opening, September 28, 1987: 1560 days
- Dimensions - Garden: 4.2 acres; Total complex: 360,000 square feet, including the above-ground pavillions; 96% of the complex is below ground.
- The South Yard, online exhibition, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Historic Images of the South Yard of the Smithsonian Institution Building from the Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Accession 89-136 - Smithsonian Institution, Deputy Assistant Secretary for External Affairs, Quadrangle Records, 1984-1987, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Accession 95-025 - Smithsonian Institution, Office of Development, Quadrangle Campaign Records, 1979-1986, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Accession 93-097 - Visitor Information and Associates' Reception Center, Public Inquiry Mail Service, Quadrangle Funding Project Patrons' Register, 1987-1991, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Accession 88-145 - Office of Facilities Services, Project Files, 1984-1987, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Accession 09-161 - Office of Facilities Services, Project Files, 1965-1984, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Accession 03-026 - Office of Telecommunications, Productions, 1982-1983, 1987, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Record Unit 410 - Office of Public Affairs, Publicity Records, circa 1965-1974, 1987, Smithsonian Institution Archives