The Smithsonian Institution must be the eighth wonder of the world with its vast collection of absolutely everything from ancient times throughout modern times. When visiting the D.C. you can’t and shouldn’t miss out on the Smithsonian. The Mall is lined with wonderful themed museums (11 of them), so you pick and choose which ones you want to visit. I know I could spend weeks in the museums, but alas our vacation was about to reach its end. The Smithsonian is good excuses to return to this wonderful city though!
But what is the Smithsonian Institution really? It is a group of museums and research centers administered by the Government of the United States. It was established in 1846 “for the increase and diffusion of knowledge”. And best of all – it is free! (If you want to contribute, make a donation or shop ‘til you drop in the museum stores)
Why is it called the Smithsonian Institution and not “United States National Museum”? Actually that was the original name up ‘til 1967. Henry James Hungerford was the nephew of British scientist James Smithson who left him most of his wealth in 1829. Then when Hungerford, who had no heirs, died in 1835 the estate was willed “to the United States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an Establishment for the increase & diffusion of knowledge among men”
The Castle is the Institution’s first building and is still its headquarters, housing he administrative offices and information center. The Castle was designed by James Renwick Jr, and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1965.
So here we were, in the rain, with so many great museums to choose from, all within walking distance. What to choose? As Europeans visiting the US, it seemed natural to us to visit the National Museum of American History. This is a really educational and fun museum to visit, with great exhibitions!
Where to next? Our second choice came to us just as natural as the first one: The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. (Those of you that have followed my blog for a while are aware that I live – and travel – with Sir Nerdalot) As we were getting tired, we concentrated mostly on the “space”-side of the museum. Oh my! We all thoroughly enjoyed it! I will admit – we did have a hard time agreeing on what show to catch in the Planetarium. As I had just enjoyed the gowns of the first Ladies in the American History Museum, I let the boys have final say in the Air and Space Museum. They chose “Dark Universe” narrated by Neil deGrasse Tyson. And a good choice it was!
A day well spent. Make sure you schedule in some of the Smithsonian museums on your next travel to Washington D.C!