The Smithsonian Institution, established in 1846 "for the increase and diffusion of knowledge", is a group of museums and research centers administered by the United States government. Termed "the nation's attic" for its eclectic holdings of 137 million items, the Institution's Washington, D.C. nucleus of nineteen museums, nine research centers, and zoo—many of them historical or architectural landmarks—is the largest such complex in the world. Additional facilities are located in Arizona, Maryland, New York City, Virginia, Panama and elsewhere, and 168 other museums are Smithsonian affiliates.
- Of all the foundations of establishments for pious or charitable uses, which ever signalized the spirit of the age, or the comprehensive beneficence of the founder, none can be named more deserving of the approbation of mankind than this. Should it be faithfully carried into effect, with an earnestness and sagacity of application, and a steady perseverance of pursuit, proportioned to the means furnished by the will of the founder, and to the greatness and simplicity of his design as by himself declared, “the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men,” it is no extravagance of anticipation to declare, that his name will be hereafter enrolled among the eminent benefactors of mankind…. Whoever increases his knowledge, multiplies the uses to which he is enabled to turn the gift of his Creator.
- John Quincy Adams, House Report 181, pp. 2, 3, January 19, 1836, and William J. Rhees, The Smithsonian Institution: Documents Relative to Its Origin and History, 1835–1899, vol. 1, pp. 131–32 (1901). This passage, in a slightly altered form, is inscribed on the exterior of the National Museum of American History, Washington, D.C.: “Of all the foundations of establishments for pious or charitable uses which ever signalized the spirit of the age or the comprehensive beneficence of the founder none can be named more deserving of the approbation of mankind than the Smithsonian Institution. Should it be faithfully carried into effect with an earnestness and sagacity of application … proportioned to the means furnished by the will of the founder and to the greatness and simplicity of his design as by himself declared, ‘The increase and diffusion of knowledge among men,’ his name will be hereafter enrolled among the eminent benefactors of mankind … whoever increases knowledge multiplies the uses to which he is able to turn the gift of his creator.
- There are seductions that should be in the Smithsonian Institute, right next to The Spirit of St. Louis.
- Richard Brautigan, Trout Fishing In America (1967), epigram at the end of the table of contents. (Underlining in source.)
- I worked at the Smithsonian for a number of years. I had a very low-level job. I didn't have much responsibility, but I did have a Smithsonian ID badge that gave me access to all of the museums on the mall, and also the National Gallery of Art. In those days, you could go anywhere, which you can't do now. You could get in behind the scenes and wander along these tunnels. There is a scene in "Prince of Flowers" where the characters are in the Paleontology Department of the Museum of Natural History where they really do have this Raiders of the Lost Ark-type vast space filled with all of these unopened cartons. ... I was really entranced with the idea of living in a museum. In Winterlong there are two parallel storylines and the one for Raphael takes place among this guild or tribe of curators who live in the ruins of the Smithsonian Institution.
- Traditionally, art has been for the select few. We have been brainwashed to believe that Michaelangelo had to pat you on the head at birth. Well, we show people that anybody can paint a picture that they're proud of. It may never hang in the Smithsonian, but it will certainly be something that they'll hang in their home and be proud of. And that's what it's all about.