Welcome to the Smithsonian

Places To Tour
Live Theaters
Art Galleries
Phone Numbers
What's New
Books And Videos

When you visit any of the Smithsonian's 16 museums or the National Zoo, you are entering the world's largest museum complex. The Smithsonian Institution, an independent trust instrumentality of the United States, holds some 139 million artifacts and specimens in its trust "for the increase and diffusion of knowledge." The Institution, also a center for research, is dedicated to public education, national service and scholarship in the arts, sciences and history.

The Smithsonian was established in 1846 with funds bequeathed to the United States by James Smithson, an English scientist.

Nine Smithsonian museums are located on the National Mall between the Washington Monument and the Capitol. A three-level underground building that opened in 1987 houses two museums and the S. Dillon Ripley Center, which includes the International Gallery, offices and classrooms. Five other museums and the Zoo are elsewhere in Washington, and both the Cooper-Hewitt, National Museum of Design and the new National Museum of the American Indian are in New York City.

The Institution also includes three entities, separately administered by their own boards of trustees: the National Gallery of Art, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

In addition to museums and objects, the Smithsonian offers an exciting schedule of "living exhibits." Each summer the Festival of American Folklife brings musicians and craftspeople to the Mall to demonstrate traditional skills. Concerts, lectures, film programs and other presentations are held in museums through the year.

As a national institution, the Smithsonian reaches out to people across the country with programs of cultural and educational value. These programs include the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, which develops and organizes exhibitions on art, history and science and circulates more than 100 at a time to museums, galleries, colleges and other public centers worldwide.

Among other outreach activities are Smithsonian magazine, a monthly publication with lively features on art, history and science; Air & Space/Smithsonian, a bimonthly magazine dealing with popular air and space topics; The Smithsonian Associates travel programs, lectures, and research expeditions, as well as regional events in 25 U.S. cities annually; Smithsonian Institution Press, the publishing arm that annually produces more than 100 books and scholarly monographs, as well as recordings relating to Smithsonian collections and research interests; and the Office of Telecommunications, which creates documentaries for cable and public television, home video and educational media, as well as music and documentary series for more than 400 public radio stations nationwide.

The Smithsonian Associates offers Smithsonian membership at several levels: Washington area, National and Contributing. Membership is also offered by the National Air and Space Museum. Benefits include Smithsonian or Air & Space/Smithsonian magazines. Information: (202) 357-2700. The Smithsonian Associates welcomes visitors to their after-hours performances, lectures, films and tours listed in The Associate monthly, free in museum shops or call (202) 357-3030.

Financial contributions to support the Institution's activities are always welcome. For more information, contact the Office of Development, (202) 357-2359.

Hours: The Washington museums are open daily, except Dec. 25, from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., unless otherwise noted. The Smithsonian Information Center, in the Castle, is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Extended spring/summer hours are determined annually.

Admission: Free, unless otherwise noted.

Free Publications: For information on publications and services available to visitors with disabilities, call (see the phone numbers below) or write Smithsonian Information, Smithsonian Institution, SI Building, Room 151 MRC 010, Washington, D.C. 20560.

Visitor Information: Call (202) 357-2700 (voice) [persons with communication impairments call TTY (202) 357-1729] Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For recorded information, call Dial-A-Museum at (202) 357-2020 (English); (202) 633-9126 (Spanish).

© Copyright Thaddeus O. Cooper 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000