Barro Colorado Island from Gatun Lake, by Unknown, 1950, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, View of the Barro Colorado Island Biological Laboratory buildings and dock from Gatun Lake in the Panama Canal, Panama. The tramway to the top of the island is visible; it leads to the main laboratory building. Established in 1924 as a natural history laboratory, it eventually became the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute..