Museums

Explore the history of the Smithsonian’s nineteen museums and the National Zoo, located in Washington, DC, Maryland, New York City, and Virginia, and covering the arts, culture, history, and science.

The Guide to Smithsonian Architecture provides additional information on Smithsonian buildings.

National Museum of African American History and Culture

National Museum of African American History and Culture, by Unknown, 2011, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, nma_a100621or nma_a100621_f.

In 2003, the National Museum of African American History and Culture was established to preserve and present the history and culture of African Americans. Its building will open in 2015 adjacent to the Washington Monument.More

National Museum of African Art

NMAfA Pavilion Viewed from the top of Smithsonian Institution Building, by Tinsley, Jeff, 1987, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 87-7812-36 or 87-7812.36.

In 1964, a private Museum of African Art opened in Washington, DC, and in 1979, became part of the Smithsonian. In 1987, the National Museum of African Art moved to the Quadrangle Complex behind the Smithsonian Institution Building (the Castle).  More

National Air and Space Museum and Udvar-Hazy Center

National Air and Space Museum, by Long, Eric, May 3, 2006, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 2006-7806.

The Air and Space Museum opened in 1976 as part of the nation’s Bicentennial of the American Revolution celebration, and maintains the largest collection of historic air and spacecraft in the world. Its Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center opened in Virginia in 2003, to showcase modern airliners and space shuttles.More

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture, by Rahaim, Ken, August 2, 2006, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 2006-20991.

A print collection was the Smithsonian's first acquisition and formed the core of its art collections. The recently renovated Smithsonian American Art Museum shares the Donald W. Reynolds Center with the National Portrait Gallery, and collects and displays early and modern American art. The Renwick Gallery which is part of the American Art Museum showcases American Crafts.More

National Museum of American History

National Museum of American History, by Tinsley, Jeff, December 10, 2002, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 2002-32162.

Part of the Smithsonian's original US National Museum, the National Museum of American History opened in 1964. The museum collects and preserves more than three million artifacts documenting American history and culture.More

National Museum of the American Indian

National Museum of the American Indian, by Hansen, Carl C, September 21, 2004, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 2004-53062.

A procession of Native Americans down the National Mall in 1999 opened the National Museum of the American Indian, dedicated to preserving and teaching the history and culture of the indigenous populations of the Americas. The Mall building is complemented by the George Gustav Heye Center in New York City, the museum’s exhibition and education facility in New York where the museum’s collections originated in the 1920s; and a Cultural Resources Center in Maryland where Native Americans can study and use artifacts from the collection.More

Anacostia Community Museum

Anacostia Museum Building, by Phillips, Charles, 1989, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 89-4080-2A or 89-4080.2A.

Founded in 1967 as a “storefront museum” to reach out to underserved communities, the Anacostia Community Museum has evolved into a center for the documentation and study of African American and other minority communities.More

Arts and Industries Building

Arts and Industries Building, by Long, Eric, August 2, 2006, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 2006-20035.

In 1881, the US National Museum building opened as the first national museum of the United States. Known today as the Arts and Industries Building, it is currently closed for renovation.More

Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum

Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, by Flynn, Matt, c. 2000, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, Cooper-Hewitt-MattFlynnAAHP.

The first Smithsonian museum located outside of Washington, DC, the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, located in New York City, was based on the design collections amassed by the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art and transferred to the Smithsonian in 1968.More

Freer Gallery of Art

Freer Gallery of Art, by Unknown, 2011, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, freer-gallery.jpg.

With strong encouragement from President Teddy Roosevelt, in 1904 the Smithsonian Board of Regents accepted James Lang Freer’s donation of his Asian and Impressionist art collections. Known for its iconic “Peacock Room,” created by James McNeill Whistler, the Freer is linked to the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery by staff and exhibits.More

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

Hirshhorn Family Day, by Dorwin, Harold, May 8, 2004, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 2004-24332.

In 1974, the first modern art museum opened on the National Mall in a building that contrasted sharply with the more classical architecture of official Washington. Donor Joseph H. Hirshhorn amassed an unparalleled collection of modern art and sculpture that formed the basis of this Museum.More

National Zoological Park

National Zoological Park, by Murphy, Mehgan, 2010, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 20100708-278MM.

In the 1880s, a collection of living animals in the South Yard behind the Smithsonian Castle led to the founding of the National Zoological Park in Rock Creek Park, Washington, DC. Dedicated to the study and preservation of animal life, as well as display and education, the zoo still retains the landscape plan developed by Frederick Law Olmsted in the 1890s.More

National Museum of Natural History

National Museum of Natural History, by Unknown, 2011, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, natural-history.

Housing the Smithsonian’s oldest collections, the National Museum of Natural History holds over 126 million objects in anthropology, geology, and natural history. Its displays include living organisms in an Insect Zoo and Butterfly Pavilion, as well as meteorites over four billion years old.More

National Portrait Gallery

Opening day at the Reynolds Center, July 1, 2006

Although portraits were on display in the Smithsonian Castle as early as the 1850s, the National Portrait Gallery was not established as a separate museum until 1962. In 1968, it moved into the renovated Patent Office Building, which it shares with the Smithsonian American Art Museum.More

National Postal Museum

National Postal Museum, by Unknown, 2011, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, postal-museum.

The National Philatelic Collection dates to 1886 as part of the former US National Museum. A 1990 agreement with the US Postal Service established the National Postal Museum. It relocated to the renovated Washington Post Office in 1993.More

Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, by Unknown, 2011, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, sackler-gallery.jpg.

Complementing the Freer Gallery of Art adjacent to it, the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery opened as part of the Quadrangle Complex in 1987, after a gift of over one thousand Asian art works by Dr. Arthur M. Sackler.More

Smithsonian Institution Building, The Castle

Smithsonian Institution Building, by Tinsley, Jeff, 1990, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 90-6258.

The Smithsonian’s first building opened in 1855 on the National Mall and serves as administrative offices today.More