The Smithsonian Institution (/smɪθˈsniən/ smith-SOH-nee-ən), or simply the Smithsonian, is a group of museums and education and research centers, the largest such complex in the world, created by the U.S. government "for the increase and diffusion of knowledge".[2][3] Founded on August 10, 1846, it operates as a trust instrumentality and is not formally a part of any of the three branches of the federal government.[4] The institution is named after its founding donor, British scientist James Smithson.[5] It was originally organized as the United States National Museum, but that name ceased to exist administratively in 1967.[6]

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Smithsonian Institution
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Location within Central Washington, D.C.
Smithsonian Institution (the United States)
EstablishedAugust 10, 1846; 176 years ago (1846-08-10)
LocationWashington, D.C.; Chantilly, Virginia; New York City
Coordinates38°53′20″N 77°01′34″W
DirectorLonnie Bunch, Secretary of the Smithsonian
Employees6,375 (as of 28 March 2020)[1]
Websitewww.si.edu
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Flag of the Smithsonian Institution.

Called "the nation's attic"[7] for its eclectic holdings of 154 million items,[5] the institution's 19 museums, 21 libraries, nine research centers, and zoo include historical and architectural landmarks, mostly located in the District of Columbia.[8] Additional facilities are located in Maryland, New York, and Virginia. More than 200 institutions and museums in 45 states,[note 1] Puerto Rico, and Panama are Smithsonian Affiliates.[9][10] Institution publications include Smithsonian and Air & Space magazines.

The institution's 30 million annual visitors[11] are admitted without charge. Its annual budget is around $1.25 billion, with two-thirds coming from annual federal appropriations.[12] Other funding comes from the institution's endowment, private and corporate contributions, membership dues, and earned retail, concession, and licensing revenue.[5] As of 2021, the institution's endowment had a total value of about $5.4 billion.[13]

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