The Smithsonian Museums in D.C. is run by the Smithsonian Institution. It was established back in 1846 "for the increase and diffusion of knowledge" and is made up of a group of museums and research centers. Today, it operates 19 museums, 21 libraries, 9 research centers among other things.

Most of the museums are located in and around the District of Columbia. The museums are all free to enter and many of them are among the largest and most popular museums in the world. Taken together, they cover American history and prehistory in remarkable detail and from many perspectives. Without a doubt, Washington D.C. is home to the nation's best museums.


Fast Facts

  • Naming: Named After British Scientist James Smithson, Formerly United States National Museum
  • Publications: Publications Include Air & Space And Smithsonian Magazines
  • Admission Fees: Admission To Its Museums Is Free

Some of the Smithsonian's top Museums include:

  • National Museum Of African American History And Culture
  • National Museum Of African Art
  • National Air And Space Museum
  • Smithsonian American Art Museum
  • National Museum Of American History
  • National Museum Of The American Indian
  • National Museum Of the American Indian George Gustav
  • Anacostia Community Museum
  • National Museum Of National History

This is not a full listed of Smithsonian museums and there are plenty more for students of America, culture, and history to discover. There are too many to consider here, but we will consider some of the more popular museums.

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National Museum of National History

This is the world's most popular natural history museum and is dedicated to understanding the natural world. It offers an opportunity to delve into the history of our planet from its formation billions of years ago.

  • Size: Larger Than 18 Football Fields
  • Largest: Largest Natural History Collection In The World
  • Most: 185 Professional Natural History Scientists - The Most In The World

Admission is free and it is open 364 days every year. In 2016 it received 7.1 million visitors making it the 11th most popular in the world and the most popular natural history museum. It was opened back in 1910 and contains over 145 million specimens. They include animals, plants, fossils, rocks, meteorites, human remains, human cultural artifacts, and more.

This museum is massive and impossible to do justice to. But one of their notable exhibits is that of their Hall of Dinosaurs. The centerpiece of this dino exhibit is the Tyrannosaurus Rex cast facing off against a Triceratops cast. The hall consisted of an amazing 46 "complete and important specimens" of dinos.

The exhibit has been recently upgraded at a cost of $45 million and reopened in 2019.

  • Fun Fact: The T. Rex Fossil Skeleton Is Owned By The United States Army Corps Of Engineers

National Air And Space Museum

Everyone knows that the American Wright Brothers were the first to fly and the Americans were also the first to the moon (not the first into space, however - that was the Soviets). Today the National Air and Space Museum is one of the world's most visited museums and the second most visited museum in the United States. It was first opened in 1946 just after the war.

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Notable collections in the museum include the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia, the Bell X-1 (which first broke the sound barrier), and the Wright brother's Wright Flyer airplane (the first to fly). For Sci-Fi nerds, perhaps one of the coolest is a model of the starship Enterprise from the Star Trek: The Original Series.

It is perhaps the best museum to learn about the history and science of aviation and spaceflight - in addition to planetary science.

The museum is currently considering options costing around a billion dollars in a major renovation project.

National Museum of African American History and Culture

This museum is one of the youngest of the major Smithsonian museums. It is located on the National Mall in D.C. and was first established in 2003 and only opened in its permanent location in 2016 by a ceremony led by the then-President Barack Obama. Approval for the museum was granted in 2003 and construction on its premises began in 2012.

Today it is the largest museum in the world dedicated to African-American history and is one of the most popular of the Smithsonian museums. It houses some 40,000 objects of which 3,500 are on display.

Smithsonian American Art Museum

The Smithsonian American Art Museum includes its branch - the Renwick Galley and is one of the largest and most inclusive collections of art anywhere in the world from the colonial period. Over 7,000 artists are represented in its collections.

The Smithsonian Museums are a testament to America's dedication to enhance education and pass on important artifacts to the next generation. They are some of Washington D.C.'s best highlights.

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