Explore the history of the Smithsonian’s nineteen museums and the National Zoo, located in Washington, DC, Maryland, New York City, and Virginia, and covering the arts, culture, history, and science.
The Guide to Smithsonian Architecture provides additional information on Smithsonian buildings.
National Museum of African American History and Culture In 2003, the National Museum of African American History and Culture was established to preserve and present the history and culture of African Americans. Its building opened to the public September 24, 2016 adjacent to the Washington Monument.
National Museum of African Art In 1964, a private Museum of African Art opened in Washington, DC, and in 1979, became part of the Smithsonian. In 1987, the National Museum of African Art moved to the Quadrangle Complex behind the Smithsonian Institution Building (the Castle).
National Air and Space Museum and Udvar-Hazy Center The Air and Space Museum opened in 1976 as part of the nation’s Bicentennial of the American Revolution celebration, and maintains the largest collection of historic air and spacecraft in the world. Its Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center opened in Virginia in 2003, to showcase modern airliners and space shuttles.
Smithsonian American Art Museum A print collection was the Smithsonian's first acquisition and formed the core of its art collections. The recently renovated Smithsonian American Art Museum shares the Donald W. Reynolds Center with the National Portrait Gallery, and collects and displays early and modern American art. The Renwick Gallery which is part of the American Art Museum showcases American Crafts.
National Museum of American History Part of the Smithsonian's original US National Museum, the National Museum of American History opened in 1964. The museum collects and preserves more than three million artifacts documenting American history and culture.
National Museum of the American Indian A procession of Native Americans down the National Mall in 2004 opened the National Museum of the American Indian, dedicated to preserving and teaching the history and culture of the indigenous populations of the Americas. The Mall building is complemented by the George Gustav Heye Center in New York City, the museum’s exhibition and education facility in New York where the museum’s collections originated in the 1920s; and a Cultural Resources Center in Maryland where Native Americans can study and use artifacts from the collection.
Anacostia Community Museum Founded in 1967 as a “storefront museum” to reach out to underserved communities, the Anacostia Community Museum has evolved into a center for the documentation and study of African American and other minority communities.
Arts and Industries Building In 1881, the US National Museum building opened as the first national museum of the United States. Known today as the Arts and Industries Building, it is currently closed for renovation.
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum The first Smithsonian museum located outside of Washington, DC, the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, located in New York City, was based on the design collections amassed by the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art and transferred to the Smithsonian in 1968.
Freer Gallery of Art With strong encouragement from President Teddy Roosevelt, in 1904 the Smithsonian Board of Regents accepted Charles Lang Freer’s donation of his Asian and Impressionist art collections. Known for its iconic Peacock Room, created by James McNeill Whistler, the Freer is linked to the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery by staff and exhibits.
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden In 1974, the first modern art museum opened on the National Mall in a building that contrasted sharply with the more classical architecture of official Washington. Donor Joseph H. Hirshhorn amassed an unparalleled collection of modern art and sculpture that formed the basis of this Museum.
National Zoological Park In the 1880s, a collection of living animals in the South Yard behind the Smithsonian Castle led to the founding of the National Zoological Park in Rock Creek Park, Washington, DC. Dedicated to the study and preservation of animal life, as well as display and education, the zoo still retains the landscape plan developed by Frederick Law Olmsted in the 1890s.
National Museum of Natural History Housing the Smithsonian’s oldest collections, the National Museum of Natural History holds over 126 million objects in anthropology, geology, and natural history. Its displays include living organisms in an Insect Zoo and Butterfly Pavilion, as well as meteorites over four billion years old.
National Portrait Gallery Although portraits were on display in the Smithsonian Castle as early as the 1850s, the National Portrait Gallery was not established as a separate museum until 1962. In 1968, it moved into the renovated Patent Office Building, which it shares with the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
National Postal Museum The National Philatelic Collection dates to 1886 as part of the former US National Museum. A 1990 agreement with the US Postal Service established the National Postal Museum. It relocated to the renovated Washington Post Office in 1993.
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Complementing the Freer Gallery of Art adjacent to it, the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery opened as part of the Quadrangle Complex in 1987, after a gift of over one thousand Asian art works by Dr. Arthur M. Sackler.