US institution of scientific and artistic culture, located in Washington, DC, and sponsored by the US Government. Founded with money left by James Smithson (1765–1829), a British chemist and mineralogist, it was established by Congress in 1846. It is governed by a board of regents comprising the US Vice-President and Chief Justice, three Senators, three Representatives, and six private citizens appointed by Congress. Although it undertakes considerable scientific research, it is best known as the largest US collection of museums, the "nations's attic:" these include the United States National Museum, the National Air and Space Museum, the National Gallery of Art, the Freer Gallery of Art, the National Portrait Gallery, and the National Collection of Fine Arts.
Related category SCIENTIFIC SOCIETIES AND INSTITUTIONS
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