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The Smithsonian Institution, 1855

Allyn Cox

Oil on Canvas


Great Experiment Hall

Cox Corridors


The Smithsonian Institution, which today includes approximately two dozen museums and research centers, was founded in 1846. It was named for English scientist James Smithson, who bequeathed his estate to the United States to create an establishment "for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men." This mural shows the Smithsonian's red sandstone "castle," which opened in 1855.


Left: American author John Lloyd Stephens and English illustrator Frederick Catherwood explore Central American ruins in 1839. This vignette and the one at the right symbolize the spirit of scientific inquiry that the Smithsonian Institute would embody.

Right: Charles Willson Peale excavates a mastodon skeleton near Newburg, Pennsylvania, in 1802.


This official Architect of the Capitol photograph is being made available for educational, scholarly, news or personal purposes (not advertising or any other commercial use). When any of these images is used the photographic credit line should read “Architect of the Capitol.” These images may not be used in any way that would imply endorsement by the Architect of the Capitol or the United States Congress of a product, service or point of view. For more information visit www.aoc.gov.


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Taken on December 7, 2011