In many cases, after photography was introduced to the public in 1839, if an event seemed like it might be unique, it is likely that someone (or, more recently, something) was there to photograph it. Even today, when cameras are positioned to photograph repetitious things or situations—cars at traffic lights, luggage at airports, shoppers lingering around merchandise on display—the goal is to capture an image of something out of the ordinary. Commemorating “specialness” is photography’s primary job requirement. And so, to celebrate the first day of this new year, here’s a selection of photographs of historic “firsts” selected from various Smithsonian collections. Click on the image to begin the slideshow.