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The charter of the National Institute (1840-1862) expires, and in accordance with its act of incorporation, the remainder of its library and museum is delivered by the Secretary of the Interior to the Smithsonian Institution. Before the organization of the Smithsonian, the National Institute held the personal effects of James Smithson with a view to its gaining control of the Smithson bequest. The transfer also includes the collections of John Varden's museum, including art works.


  • Smithson, James 1765-1829
  • Varden, John c. 1790-1865
  • National Institute
  • National Institution for the Promotion of Science
  • United States Dept. of the Interior
  • United States National Museum


Chronology of Smithsonian History


  • In Goode, 1897, True states that the National Institute charter expired in 1861.
  • Goode, George Brown, ed. The Smithsonian Institution, 1846-1896, The History of Its First Half Century. Washington, D.C.: De Vinne Press, 1897, p. 38-48, 305-306, 837.
  • Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution for the year 1862. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1863, p. 16.
  • Guide to Smithsonian Archives. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1983, Archives and Special Collections of the Smithsonian Institution Number 4, p. 292.
  • Holmes, William Henry. Smithsonian Institution, National Gallery of Art, Catalog of Collections, II. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1926, p. 2.

Contact information

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


July 27, 1862


  • Smithson Bequest
  • Art
  • Interagency Transfers
  • Libraries
  • National Collections
  • Art objects

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