The Case for a National Museum

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Summary

Article traces the history of how the Smithsonian Institution Building's West Wing has functioned since first envisioned by architect James Renwick, Jr. In 1847 Renwick requested that special cabinets be made to house the Smithsonian Library in that section of the building. After the 1865 fire, the library was transferred to the Library of Congress and the area became museum exhibition space. In 1871, a specific style of cabinet was installed to house mineral, then ceramic and, later, marine invertebrate displays; after 1912, the exhibition cases displayed graphic arts. West Wing modifications in 1956 brought yet another change in cabinet style and purpose, but the author states that the space continues to serve as a museum-quality exhibit of both architectural constancy and change.

Subject

  • Renwick, James 1818-1895
  • Smithsonian Institution Building West Wing
  • United States National Museum
  • Smithsonian Institution Building (Washington, D.C.)
  • Smithsonian Institution Libraries (SIL)
  • Library of Congress
  • Centennial Exhibition (1876 : Philadelphia, Pa.)

Category

Smithsonian Institution History Bibliography

Notes

Article includes a stereoview of meteorites in the West Wing, ca. 1871.

Contained within

Smithsonian Preservation Quarterly (Newsletter)

Contact information

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

Date

Winter 1994

Topic

  • Museum buildings
  • Architects
  • Architecture
  • Libraries

Place

Washington (D.C.)

Physical description

p. 5

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