The Smithsonian is 19 world-class museums and a zoo—plus 9 research centers. These museums and the zoo are free to enter which is fantastic. They are so well run and staffed with very helpful people willing to impart their knowledge – they are definitely assisting with the increase and diffusion of knowledge.
British scientist James Smithson (d. 1829) left most of his wealth to his nephew Henry James Hungerford; however, when Hungerford died childless in 1835, the estate passed “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.”, in accordance with Smithson’s will. Congress officially accepted the legacy bequeathed to the nation, and pledged the faith of the United States to the charitable trust on July 1, 1836. The American diplomat Richard Rush was dispatched to England by President Andrew Jackson to collect the bequest; Rush returned in August 1838 with 105 sacks containing 104,960 gold sovereigns (about $500,000 at the time).
Once the money was in hand, eight years of Congressional haggling ensued over how to interpret Smithson’s rather vague mandate “for the increase and diffusion of knowledge.” Unfortunately the money was invested by the US Treasury in bonds issued by the state of Arkansas which soon defaulted. After heated debate, Massachusetts Representative (and ex-President) John Quincy Adams persuaded Congress to restore the lost funds with interest and, despite designs on the money for other purposes, convinced his colleagues to preserve it for an institution of science and learning. Finally, on August 10, 1846, President James K. Polk signed the legislation that established the Smithsonian Institution as a trust instrumentality of the United States, to be administered by a Board of Regents and a Secretary of the Smithsonian.
We decided to go and check out the National Museum of American History which preserves about 3 million pieces.
These bought back memories of the shows I used to watch when I was at primary school and just between you and me I wouldn’t say no to an episode of The Flintstones these days either. WILMAAAAA….
They had an exhibition of Food – Transforming the American Table which mainly showcased production methods etc… My thoughts when I read the sign were more about the amount of fast food places not only in the USA but the world over and the damage they are doing to the population. On a more positive note Julia Childs featured in the exhibition and they had her kitchen set up.
I thought the transport exhibition was really well done and again it was quite cool to see all these methods of transport which again we’ve only ever seen on TV in old movies and TV shows.
The other thing we have noticed over here is all the coins you accumulate – they really are behind the times when it comes to getting rid of the smaller
coins. Apparently it costs more than a penny to produce a penny!
We also went through the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) which is the United States’ official memorial to the Holocaust. The USHMM provides for the documentation, study, and interpretation of Holocaust history. It is dedicated to helping leaders and citizens of the world confront hatred, prevent genocide, promote human dignity, and strengthen democracy.
When you go in you take an identity card of someone that was affected by the holocaust – as you progress through the museum you read a bit more of their story. It helps to make it a bit more real. The museum covers three floors and is in chronological order. It was really interesting but boy oh boy a very sobering memorial.