Smithsonian's First Photographer
Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1843, Thomas William Smillie immigrated to the United States with his family when he was five years old. After studying chemistry and medicine at Georgetown University, he took a job as a photographer at the Smithsonian Institution, where he stayed until his death in 1917. Smillie’s duties included documenting important events and research trips, photographing the museum’s installations and specimens, and creating reproductions for use as printing illustrations. He also served as the head and curator of the photography lab. Smillie’s documentation of each Smithsonian exhibition and installation resulted in an informal record of all of the institution’s art and artifacts and also serves as a visual history of the Institution. The majority of these photographs are housed in the Smithsonian Institution Archives.

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