New History App: "Castle of Curiosities"

Castle of Curiosities Postcard

We are pleased to announce a new mobile experience produced by the Archives, Castle of Curiosities

The Smithsonian's first building, the Castle, opened its doors in 1855. While the Norman architectural style evoked "learned university," it was bordered by fetid canals and rather isolated from the rest of Washington D.C. However, it did not disappoint visitors with all it had to offer: an "apparatus room" with live demonstations of electrical machines, a lecture room with thought-leaders of the day, a library, a picture gallery with paintings and sculpture, and exhibits of varied natural history specimen. It also was home to the Smithsonian's first leader, Joseph Henry, and his family. 

 Smithsonian Institution Building and The Mall, 1855, Image ID 2004-10647.

Today people are still drawn to the Castle. It stands out amongst the white buildings surrounding it as it is distinctly of another era. With Castle of Curiosities, we hope you get a sense of some of the things that happened there which signify moments in American and scientific history. The 11 featured stories are accompanied by music from the Portland group, Black Prairie (they coincidently wrote a song about a letter we have in the Archives!). 

Aerial view of National Mall and surrounding buildings, September 14, 1992, by Jeff Tinsley, Color s

You can listen from the comfort of your home by downloading the Smithsonian Mobile app or accessing the mobile website. You can also listen on-site if you are enjoying the Smithsonian history exhibit at the Castle, Welcome to Your Smithsonian. 

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