The Laboratory of Natural History

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First Smithsonian Secretary Joseph Henry long held the view that the Smithsonian Institution and the National Museum should be separate bodies, but he also realized that separating the museum from the Institution would harm the cause of natural history. He did somewhat accomplish his goal in 1871, however, by separating them within the Smithsonian Building. Henry's living quarters were housed in the East Wing's second floor, with the remainder of the east wing and the east range used for the Institution's administrative offices. The National Museum occupied the rest of the building, except for the natural history laboratory, which was relocated to the Smithsonian Building's west wing basement. The author describes the fireproofing of the west wing prior to the 1871 space rearrangements.


  • Elliott, Henry W
  • Henry, Joseph 1797-1878
  • Smithsonian Institution Building (Washington, D.C.)
  • United States National Museum


Smithsonian Institution History Bibliography


Article includes illustration from June 1, 1878 Harper's Weekly, "General Laboratory of Natural History," based on sketches and photographs by Henry W. Elliott, a naturalist, artist, and Smithsonian employee

Contained within

Smithsonian Preservation Quarterly (Newsletter)

Contact information

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


Winter 1994


  • Museum buildings
  • Laboratories
  • Secretaries
  • Smithsonian Institution
  • Personnel management
  • SI, Early History
  • Employees
  • Smithsonian Institution--Employees


Washington (D.C.)

Physical description

p. 4

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