Removal of James Smithson's Coffin, by Bell, Mabel, 1903, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, The coffin containing the remains of James Smithson is being carried out of the Genoa, Italy cemetery where his body had been buried. Notified that the cemetery was to be destroyed, Smithsonian Regent Alexander Graham Bell and his wife Mabel went to Italy to oversee the exhumation of Smithson's remains and their transfer to Washington, D.C. Smithson's grave was opened on December 31, 1903..