The Case for a National Museum

Usage Conditions Apply
The Smithsonian Institution Archives welcomes personal and educational use of its collections unless otherwise noted. For commercial uses, please contact
Request permissions Download image Print

Narrow Your Results


Filter Your Results

Smithsonian Secretaries Information

Close Browse records and papers of the Smithsonian Secretaries, from 1846 until today. Pre-set filters help narrow searches by individuals who have held that office.

Expeditions Information

Close Browse records and papers documenting scientific and collecting expeditions either affiliated with the Smithsonian, or with which Smithsonian researchers participated. Pre-set filters help narrow searches by geographic regions predominantly represented in expedition records.

Professional Societies Information

Close Browse records of professional societies closely associated with the Smithsonian, that focus on areas of scientific research and museum studies. Pre-set filters help narrow searches by major topics and disciplines.


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.


  • 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.)


Smithsonian Institution History Bibliography


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,


Winter 1994


  • Museum buildings
  • Architects
  • Architecture
  • Libraries


Washington (D.C.)

Physical description

p. 5

Full Record

View Full Record