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Life IS history in the making. Every word we say, everything we do becomes history the moment it is said or done. Life void of memories leaves nothing but emptiness. For those who might consider history boring, think again: It is who we are, what we do and why we are here. We are certainly individuals in our thoughts and deeds but we all germinated from seeds planted long, long ago.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Nation's Attic

This Day in History: August 10, 1846


The increase and diffusion of knowledge

More than a century and a half after its inception, the Smithsonian Institution has become the world's largest museum and research complex. Termed "the nation's attic", its eclectic holdings consist of 137 million items, 19 museums and galleries, the National Zoological Park, and nine research facilities.

What is the skinny on the Smithsonian?

James Smithson-1816
One would certainly suspect its establishment to come from someone somewhere in the United States. Not the case. In fact, the founder never once set foot on American soil.  

James Smithson (1765-1829), the illegitimate child of a wealthy Englishman, 1st Duke of Northumberland, traveled extensively throughout Europe most of his life, never married, had no children. He maintained a sizable inheritance from his mother and other relatives. So, why leave his estate to a country foreign to himself?
In 1829, James Smithson died in Italy, leaving behind a will with a peculiar footnote. In the event that his only nephew died without any heirs, Smithson decreed that the whole of his estate would go to "the United States of America, to found at Washington, DC, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an Establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge." Smithson's curious bequest to a country that he had never visited aroused significant attention on both sides of the Atlantic.
Noteworthy Note: Smithson's estate totaled half a million dollars, which was 1/66 of the United States' entire federal budget at the time.

The Smithsonian's Castle
Photo courtesy of the DC SHPO
 History is so fascinating filled with so much wonder and awe. While it may not be feasible to drop everything for a visit to the Smithsonian, at least within our age of advanced technology lies a plethora of resources without even leaving the house! 
Let your fingers do the walking...

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