This Day in SI History

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November 1, 1848

Circular on Meteorology, by Secretary Joseph Henry and James P. Espy is published. They announce the establishment of a system of meteorological observations, focusing on American storms, and request those interested in volunteering as observers to contact the U.S. Navy Department.  Secretary Henry proposes to use the magnetic telegraph to notify distant observers of approaching storms. The system of telegraphic dispatches of weather conditions will begin the next year. This program leads to the foundation of the National Weather Service.

November 1, 2019

Lonnie G. Bunch III was installed as the fourteenth Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution on November 1, 2019 at 3:00 p.m. in the Arts and Industries Building. Bunch is the first African American leader in the institution's 173-year history. Bunch is also the first historian to take the position.

Library, Lower Main Hall, Smithsonian Institution Building

November 2, 1951

The librarian's office in the Smithsonian Building or Castle is physically merged with all other Smithsonian library functions. The consolidated library, called the Smithsonian Library, is now housed in the Natural History Building.

Ralph Becker Receives Smithson Award

November 3, 1975

Washington, D.C., attorney Ralph E. Becker is presented the silver James Smithson Medal at a ceremony in the National Museum of History and Technology, now the National Museum of American History, in recognition of Becker's donation of his collection of over 30,000 items of political campaign materials.

President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan, Inauguration Ball

November 4, 1981

Nancy Reagan officially presents the gown she wore at the presidential inaugural balls held on January 30, 1981 to the National Museum of American History's collection of First Ladies' gowns. On the same day, she announces a plan to establish a First Ladies' Fellowship, an annual Smithsonian award to be offered at the Museum for the study of costume in America.

Mamie Eisenhower and Queen Mother at SI

November 5, 1954

The Queen Mother of England, Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, visits the Smithsonian Institution. Accompanied by First Lady Mamie Eisenhower and Secretary Leonard Carmichael, the Queen Mother visits the First Ladies’ Collection, which was then located in the Arts and Industries Building.

Entrance to Philatelic Rarities Vault at National Postal Museum

November 6, 1990

Secretary Robert McC. Adams and Anthony M. Frank, postmaster general of the U.S. Postal Service, sign an agreement to relocate the National Philatelic Collection to the new National Postal Museum.

Mayor Washington and Joseph Hirshhorn

November 7, 1966

Congress accepts Joseph H. Hirshhorn's gift, authorizes a site for the construction of the museum, and provides statutory authority for the appropriation of construction and operating funds (P.L. 89-788). The gift includes nearly 5,000 paintings and drawings, more than 1,500 pieces of sculpture, and $1 million for future acquisitions. President Lyndon B. Johnson approves legislation to establish the Joseph H. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.

Gellatly Collection in the United States National Museum

November 8, 1931

Art collector John Gellatly dies two years after donating his collection of 1,640 art works to the United States under the care of the Smithsonian Institution.  The collection is a major addition to the collections of what is now the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Victoria-Transvaal Diamond, by Unknown, 1997, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 97-35715.

November 9, 1977

The Victoria-Transvaal Diamond, at that time the largest and most valuable gem gift to the Smithsonian since the Hope Diamond, goes on display. It was the gift of Leonard and Victoria Wilkinson.  The  pear-shaped gem weighs 67.89 carats, and is set into a yellow gold necklace containing 108 diamonds. The Wilkinsons also donated seven other large diamonds.

Hope Diamond Presentation

November 10, 1958

The Hope Diamond is presented to the Smithsonian by Harry Winston, a New York gem merchant. The stone was acquired by Winston in 1949 from the estate of Mrs. Evalyn Walsh McLean, who received it from her husband, Edward B. McLean, in 1911. The diamond's known history dates to 1830 when David Eliason, a noted gem dealer, sold the stone to Henry Thomas Hope.

Natural History Building, as seen from The Mall

November 11, 1921

All the exhibition halls and offices of the U.S. National Museum are closed on November 11, 1921, in honor of the burial of America's unknown soldier at Arlington Cemetery.

Voyager Spacecraft, Courtesy National Air and Space Museum

November 12, 1980

Live video coverage, special lectures, and extended hours are part of An Evening with the Planets at the National Air and Space Museum to mark the encounter of the Voyager I spacecraft with the planet Saturn.

Centennial Exposition, Smithsonian Exhibit

November 13, 1876

Over the signature of Secretary Joseph Henry, the National Academy of Sciences asks the U.S. President to recommend to Congress the transfer to the Smithsonian at Washington of the Government collection at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia as well as the continued support of the collection. Eventually some twenty railroad cars of materials from the exhibition will be transferred to the Smithsonian.

Museum of the American Indian/Heye Foundation Courtesy National Museum of the American Indian Archive Center (N02171)

November 14, 1922

The Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation is opened in New York City to showcase the collections of George Gustav Heye.

Georgia O'Keeffe with Magritte Sculpture

November 15, 1977

Artist Georgia O'Keefe visits the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. She tours the collection, and is able to admire some of her own pieces.

Space Shuttle "Enterprise" Comes to NASM

November 16, 1985

National Air and Space Museum's Space Shuttle Enterprise flies into Washington Dulles International Airport atop a modified Boeing 747 carrier aircraft. Using cranes, the Enterprise is removed from the top of the 747 and lowered to the tarmac at Dulles on November 17. On December 6, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration transfers title of the Enterprise to the National Air and Space Museum at a black tie gala at the airport.

Bell 206L-1 LongRanger II "Spirit of Texas," Courtesy National Air and Space Museum

November 17, 1982

The Spirit of Texas, the first helicopter to fly around the world, is placed on display at the National Air and Space Museum. The pilots, Jay Coburn and H. Ross Perot, Jr., later received the Samuel P. Langley Medal for their pioneering flight.

Letter from Sammy Ray to Alexander Wetmore, November 18, 1944

November 18, 1944

Sammy M. Ray, a Pharmacist's Mate 1st/C in the U.S. Navy, from 1942-1945, writes a seven page letter to then Acting Smithsonian Secretary Alexander Wetmore. Ray and Wetmore maintained an active correspondence throughout Ray's tour of duty, discussing Ray's activities collecting birds in the Pacific Islands during World War II. Additionally, Ray tells Wetmore about living conditions, battling disease, and war engagements in the Pacific. Ray was one of the many of the soldiers who collected specimens for the U.S. National Museum during the war. Ray's specimens are housed in the National Museum of Natural History.

Aerial View of Chesapeake Bay Center for Environmental Studies (CBCES)

November 19, 1987

Ground is broken for the new Smithsonian Environmental Research Center laboratory at the Center's site in Edgewater, Maryland. The building, to be named the Charles McC. Mathias, Jr., Laboratory, is scheduled for completion in the fall of 1988. The Center is named in honor of Mathias, former U.S. Senator from Maryland, because of his many years of championing legislation to protect the Chesapeake Bay from overdevelopment and pollution.

National Air and Space Museum Groundbreaking

November 20, 1972

Secretary S. Dillon Ripley and the Honorable Warren E. Burger break ground for the new National Air and Space Museum on the National Mall.

Aerial View of Arthur M. Sackler Pavilion

November 21, 1993

Contemporary Porcelain from Japan opens at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. The exhibition of thirty vessels by thirty Japanese artists celebrates The Japan Foundation's gift of these masterworks to the Sackler Gallery. The exhibition emphasizes the crafting of porcelain as a living art.

Radiation Biology Lab in Rockville, Maryland

November 22, 1986

The Environmental Research Center, formerly known as the Radiation Biology Laboratory, closes in Rockville, Maryland. Some of the Lab's functions will continue at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center facility in Edgewater, Maryland.

Rare, Unusual and Popular Mammals of the World, Exhibit

November 23, 1959

As part of an Exhibits Modernization Program, the World of Mammals opens at the National Museum of Natural History. Henry W. Setzer is the curator in charge of the hall, Rolland Hower supervises the exhibits staff of the Natural History Laboratory, and Thomas Baker is the designer. The taxidermy work is supervised by Watson M. Perrygo, the mural is painted by Art Smith, and Robert C. Hogue painted the backgrounds of the habitat groups.

NZP's Orangutans, Bonnie and Baby Kiko

November 24, 1987

Bonnie, one of the National Zoological Park's eight orangutans, gives birth to Kiko, her first infant.

David L. Wolper and the Hope Diamond

November 25, 1974

The first in a series of television specials produced by the David L. Wolper Organization in association with the Smithsonian is broadcast by CBS. MONSTERS! Mysteries or Myth debuts at 8 p.m., and covers the Abominable Snowman, the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot. It is narrated by The Twilight Zone's Rod Serling. The program draws a national rating of 31.8 (45% share of the market), approximately 50 million people. The film is shown in the Carmichael Auditorium (as part of the Free Film Theater series) on 8 and 9 January 1975.

Mayan Mound in Guatemala

November 26, 1940

Smithsonian Assistant Secretary Alexander Wetmore, an ornithologist studying the birds of the Isthmus of Panama, visits Maya ruins at Quirigia in Guatemala.

View of Quadrangle from Top Forrestal Building

November 27, 1989

More than one hundred Associates from twenty-six states participate in the Smithsonian National Associate Program's "Update: Eastern Europe and the U.S.S.R." Journalists Hedrick Smith and Peter Jennings, Assistant Secretary for Research Robert Hoffmann, Kennan Institute staff, and visiting scholars provide background and varied opinions on the dramatic changes taking place in these nations.

Opening of NMAI with Elders on Mall

November 28, 1989

President George Bush signs legislation to establish the National Museum of the American Indian, to be located on the National Mall between the National Air and Space Museum and the U.S. Capitol. The Museum is scheduled to open in the mid- to late 1990's. The legislation also describes Smithsonian policy on the repatriation of American Indian human remains and associated funerary objects. The legislation also establishes the George Gustav Heye Center in the Alexander Hamilton Customs House in New York City and provides for a storage, conservation, and research facility at the Museum Support Center in Suitland, Maryland.

People in the Sun, by Edward Hopper

November 29, 1972

Modern American Art opens at the National Collection of Fine Arts, now the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The special installation contains some fifty contemporary paintings and sculptures, including part of the S. C. Johnson collection.

South Facade, Smithsonian Institution Building

November 30, 1846

The Building Committee of the Board of Regents reports on their efforts to select an appropriate plan for a building to accommodate the functions of the newly established Smithsonian. After visiting buildings in a number of cities and reviewing plans submitted by various architects, the committee selected a plan submitted by James Renwick, Jr., in the later Norman, or more strictly Lombard style, as it prevailed in Germany, Normandy, and Southern Europe in the 12th century.