First Item Accessioned in National Institute Collections

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  • The National Institute accessioned its first objects which are bird specimens collected out West by John Kirk Townsend (1809-1851). See his "Narrative of a Journey across the Rocky Mountains to the Columbia River and a Visit to the Sandwich Islands" published in 1839 for details of his collecting trip.
  • When the National Institute collections were transferred to the Smithsonian in 1858, the Smithsonian followed the order of the National Institute accessions when it created the accessions for the US National Museum.


  • Townsend, John Kirk 1809-1851
  • National Collections
  • United States National Museum
  • National Institute
  • National Institute for the Promotion of Science


Chronology of Smithsonian History


  • The first objects acquired by the Smithsonian, but not accessioned into the National Museum were electrical apparatus donated by Dr. Robert Hare of the University of Pennsylvania on August 1, 1848, to be used for public demonstrations, and the George Perkins Marsh art and library were purchased by the Smithsonian on September 11, 1849, but were part of the Library collection, not the National Museum collection.
  • Smithsonian Institution Archives, Accession Records, Record Unit 305, Box 1, Folder 1.

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20024-2520,




  • Animals
  • Accessions
  • Collectors and collecting
  • Specimens
  • Birds
  • Collection and preservation
  • Birds--Collection and preservation


  • Rocky Mountains
  • Hawaii

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