This Day in History: Smithsonian Institute created

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This Day In History: 08/10/1846 - Smithsonian Created

On August 10, 1846, James K. Polk, the 11th President of the United States signed the Smithsonian Institution Act into law.

The institution was established as a result of the funds from James Smithson, a British scientist. Smithson left his estate to the U.S. to found "at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge."

Smithson died in 1829, and six years later, President Andrew Jackson announced the bequest to Congress.

Since the institution's founding, more than 164 years ago, the Smithsonian has become the largest museum and research complex in the world. The Smithsonian Institution includes 19 museums, the National Zoo, and nine research facilities.


See the gallery below for a glimpse into the amazing exhibits at the Smithsonian Institute:

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Smithsonian Exhibits
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This Day in History: Smithsonian Institute created
With AFP Story by Shaun TANDON: US-India-minorities-museum A woman is reflected as she explores an exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History February 27, 2014 in Washington, DC. The Natural History Museum is featuring a special exhibit called, 'Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation', which celebrates Indian American culture, history and experiences. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 14: First Lady Michelle Obama's second inaugural gown on exhibition at Smithsonian Museum on January 14, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 21: Visitors examine the art exhibit called 'Perspectives' that is on display at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, August 21, 2014 in Washington, DC. Perspectives transforms over 400 shoes attached to red yarn and handwritten notes into a dramatic and emotionally charged installation. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Workers put finishing touches on the 'The Great Inka Road: Engineering an Empire,' an exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian June 24, 2015 in Washington, DC. The Great Inka Road: Engineering an Empire, explores the foundations of the Inka Road in earlier Andean cultures, technologies that made building the road possible, the cosmology and political organization of the Inka world, and the legacy of the Inka Empire during the colonial period and in the present day. The exhibit will be available to the public from June 26, 2015June 1, 2018 AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Tourists look at a fossil exhibit at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum on the National Mall on October 17, 2013 in Washington, DC. The US federal government reopened after a 16-day forced shutdown. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
The American Enterprise exhibit at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History on the National Mall, Tuesday, June 16, 2015, in Washington. A wide variety of materials have been pulled together in this exhibit, which opens July 1st, to tell the story of American business, capitalism and innovation from the mid-1700 to the present. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
The American Enterprise exhibit at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History on the National Mall, Tuesday, June 16, 2015, in Washington. A wide variety of materials have been pulled together in this exhibit, which opens July 1st, to tell the story of American business, capitalism and innovation from the mid-1700 to the present. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
One of Ruth Handler's first Barbie dolls is displayed at the American Enterprise exhibit at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History on the National Mall, Tuesday, June 16, 2015, in Washington. A wide variety of materials have been pulled together in this exhibit, which opens July 1st, to tell the story of American business, capitalism and innovation from the mid-1700 to the present. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
A member of the media looks at graphics of Chicano and Puerto Rican artists during a press tour of the "Our America: The Latino Presence in America Art" exhibit, Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013, at the Smithsonian's American Art Museum in Washington. The museum is exhibiting works by 72 modern Latino artists, hoping to showcase talent that has long been considered isolated and alien. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
Bill Kelso, director of archaeology at Jamestown Discover, poses with bone fragments four high-status leaders who helped shape the future of America during the initial phase of the Jamestown colony on display at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in Washington, Tuesday, July 28, 2015. Archaeologists have uncovered human remains of four of the earliest leaders of the English colony that would become America, buried for more than 400 years near the altar of what was America's first Protestant church in Jamestown, Virginia. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Children paint on a graffiti wall at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, Wednesday, June 24, 2015. Peru's artists, cultures and famous foods are being featured in the Smithsonian Folklife Festival this year on the National Mall as the South American nation aims to boost tourism and cultural exchange.. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)
Peru program participant Quintina Huanca weaves fabric at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, Wednesday, June 24, 2015. Peru's artists, cultures and famous foods are being featured in the Smithsonian Folklife Festival this year on the National Mall as the South American nation aims to boost tourism and cultural exchange. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)
IMAGE DISTRIBUTED FOR SMITHSONIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAN INDIAN – Dr. Jose Barreiro (Taino) co-curator, describes a ceramic and painted Inka arybalos, ca. AD 1450-1523 on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian press preview of "The Great Inka Road: Engineering an Empire" on Tuesday, June 24, 2015 in Washington, DC. The exhibition opens June 26, 2015. (Paul Morigi/AP Images for Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian)
Oprah Winfrey, left, and Condoleeza Rice, are pictured in portraits by artist Mickalene Thomas, part of "Eye Pop: The Celebrity Gaze," at the National Portrait Gallery, Monday May 18, 2015, in Washington. Brad Pitt, Barbra Streisand, Michelle Obama, and Katy Perry all make the cut. Curators at the National Portrait Gallery are taking a close look at how celebrity images are cultivated and how they've evolved in the new exhibition "Eye Pop: The Celebrity Gaze." (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
A painting of Brad Pitt by Colin Davidson is among the work on display in "Eye Pop: The Celebrity Gaze," at the National Portrait Gallery, Monday May 18, 2015, in Washington. Brad Pitt, Barbra Streisand, Michelle Obama, and Katy Perry all make the cut. Curators at the National Portrait Gallery are taking a close look at how celebrity images are cultivated and how they’ve evolved in the new exhibition “Eye Pop: The Celebrity Gaze.” (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Objects, costumes, props, sketches and a script from the AMC and Lionsgate TV series, "Mad Men" that were donated to the National Museum of American History in Washington, Friday, March 27, 2015. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
“Mad Men,” cast member Jon Hamm who played Donald Draper, poses beside Don's charcoal grey suit and some objects AMC and Lionsgate TV series, "Mad Men" that were donated to the National Museum of American History, Friday, March 27, 2015, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Some objects, costumes, props, sketches and a script from the AMC and Lionsgate TV series, "Mad Men" that were donated to the National Museum of American History in Washington, are displayed, Friday, March 27, 2015. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
A picture taken on June 2, 20158 shows two pieces of iron ballast lie in a display, one of several recovered artefacts, which a joint American-South African diving team have brought up from the sunken slave ship, the Sao Jose-Paquete de Africa, at the Slave Lodge Museum, on June 2, 2015, in Cape Town. The discovery of a wrecked slave ship off the South African coast in which more than 200 captives drowned marks a milestone in the study of the slave trade, the Smithsonian Institution said on June 1. About 400 slaves captured in the southeast African nation of Mozambique were on board when the ship foundered on submerged rocks about 100 metres (yards) from shore on its way to Brazil in 1794. The crew and some of the captives were rescued. AFP PHOTO / RODGER BOSCH (Photo credit should read RODGER BOSCH/AFP/Getty Images)
Artist Darren Waterston's immersive art interior installation, 'Filthy Lucre,' a reinterpretation of James McNeill Whistler's Peacock Room, during a press preview of 'Peacock Room REMIX' at the Smithsonian Sackler Gallery in Washington, DC, May 12, 2015. Waterston reimagines the Peacock Room, a 19th century dining room and icon of American art, as a resplendent ruin, an aesthetic space overburdened by its own excesses with images of destruction. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB 'MANDATORY MENTION OF THE ARTIST UPON PUBLICATION' (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
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