Behind the scenes at the Smithsonian, which was founded Aug 10, 1846
© Mark Kauffman/Getty Image
Assembling the Smithsonian
Today’s photo–taken in 1953–depicts the dedication required to keep the Smithsonian Institution going and growing. This national treasure is made up of 19 museums and galleries and the National Zoo, as well as several research facilities. Admission to all Smithsonian museums in Washington is free, so that anyone can visit to learn about the US, and the world beyond it. It was this day in 1846 that President James K. Polk signed the legislation establishing the Smithsonian. Getting there took some doing, as Englishman James Smithson had donated the funds for an educational institution to the US in his will 20 years earlier. After the deaths of Smithson and his last surviving relative, Congress inherited 104,960 gold sovereigns as start-up money for the museum that would later bear Smithson’s name.