Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Celebrating 100 Years

Photographs of the Natural History Museum over the past 100 years. (c) Smithsonian Institution

The Smithsonian experienced tremendous growth in its early years.  The Smithsonian Castle was completed in 1855 and the Arts and Industries Building opened in 1881. With the influx of thousands of specimens from scientific expeditions and government collections crowding these two buildings, officials quickly made a case to Congress for even more space.

President Theodore Roosevelt authorized the construction of a third Smithsonian building in 1903, and construction started in 1904.  When it opened to the public on March 17, 1910, the new building was called the "U.S. National Museum" and contained exhibitions on art, culture, history, and the natural world—as well as space for collections research and storage.  

Over the years, our building has expanded to meet the need for increased space for collections, research, and staff—with the addition of two large wings, two enclosed multi-story courtyards, and a facility in Suitland, Maryland.  In 1967, the U.S. National Museum divided into several separate Smithsonian museums, including the current National Museum of Natural History.

Today, the Museum runs like clockwork because of the dedicated staff who work behind the scenes. As we move into our next 100 years, high-tech security systems, Wi-Fi Internet access for visitors, and state-of-the-art information technology for staff must keep pace with the latest technological advances.

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