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Smithsonian Institution

The Smithsonian Institution is the world’s largest museum and research complex, endowed by the British scientist, James Smithson, who provided money as a bequest in his will when he died in 1829. Located in Washington, D.C., the institution was created by an act of Congress in August 1846, under the management of a board of regents. Its first secretary and director was Joseph Henry, a scholar and physicist. Henry continued to guide the institution through the next 32 years. The Smithsonian Institution is an imposing establishment with 18 museums and galleries, 138 affiliate organizations, nine research centers, and 247 traveling exhibition service locations under its auspices. The affiliates share artifacts, programs, and expertise with cultural institutions around the United States. Smithsonian researchers have conducted their work at 57 sites around the globe. The Smithsonian Institution enjoys the reputation of providing more museum experiences than any other institution in the world. With more than 20 million visitors from across the world, the institution has shared some of America’s most celebrated and significant objects, including pieces from Amerindian culture. The National Museum of the American Indian, located in the institution, is the first national museum in the U.S. dedicated exclusively to Native Americans. It presents a 10,000-year history with representation from more than 1,000 indigenous cultures. Among the IMAX theaters in the institution, the Albert Einstein Planetarium and the Discovery Theater provide a spectacular astronomical adventure. The Archives of American Art, which are a part of the complex, have the world’s largest collection of primary-source documents on American visual arts. The institution also showcases the portraits of distinguished Americans through the National Portrait Gallery. The Smithsonian Institution's other museum complexes include, but are not limited to, the National Museum of Natural History, National Design Museum, Freer Gallery of Art, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, National Air and Space Museum, National Museum of African Art, the National Postal Museum, and the National Zoological Park. The institution also operates a Kid’s Farm to educate children about domestic animals and show how food originates on American farms.