About Us

The Smithsonian Institution

The Smithsonian Institution is comprised of 21 museums and galleries and the National Zoological Park.  Its core mission, “the increase and diffusion of knowledge," is also accomplished through extensive public outreach and education programs, as well as the diverse study and field work of Smithsonian scientists at its nine research centers around the globe.

The products offered by SmithsonianStore.com reflect the vast collections in our museums and the National Zoo. All products, including jewelry, apparel, fine gifts, beautiful decor and toys, are reproductions or adaptations of the Smithsonian Institution’s artifacts, archives, collections and exhibitions.

All of the revenue from your purchase directly supports the Smithsonian. Through your investment in the Institution, we are able to mount new exhibitions and allow them to travel to communities across the country; we can launch exciting public programs and innovative educational outreach initiatives; and we can continue to strive to accomplish our mission. None of the public accomplishments of the Smithsonian are possible without your private support. Although we receive significant annual support from Congress, the support we receive from private individuals like you makes our programs possible.

Smithsonian at a Glance

21 Museums + 1 Zoo
29.3M Visits by Public

154.8M Museum Objects & Specimens
2.1M Library Volumes

134M+ Website Visitors
11M+ Social Media Followers

6,675 Employees
771 Research Fellows
13,096 Volunteers:
6,223 On-Site and 6,873 Digital

Smithsonian History

In 1826, James Smithson, a British scientist, drew up his last will and testament, naming his nephew as beneficiary. Smithson stipulated that, should the nephew die without heirs, the estate should go "to the United States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men."

Smithson died in 1829. Six years later, in 1835, his nephew died without heirs and President Andrew Jackson announced the bequest to the nation. On July 1, 1836, Congress accepted the legacy bequeathed to the nation and pledged the faith of the United States to the charitable trust. In September 1838, Smithson’s legacy, which amounted to more than 100,000 gold sovereigns, was delivered to the mint at Philadelphia. Recoined in U.S. currency, the gift amounted to more than $500,000.

After eight years of sometimes heated debate, an Act of Congress signed by President James K. Polk on Aug. 10, 1846, established the Smithsonian Institution as a trust to be administered by a Board of Regents and a Secretary of the Smithsonian.

Today, the Smithsonian Institution houses over 154 million objects, artworks and specimens in its 21 museums and galleries and 9 research centers. Creating lifelong memories of discovery for visitors is one of the principle goals of the Smithsonian. In communities across the nation, our programs offer the Smithsonian experience to adults and young people alike. Work of Smithsonian scientists around the globe contributes to what we know and what we will continue to learn about myriad subjects.