James Smithson was a rich English scientist that was famous for his expertise in geology and chemistry.  He died in Genoa, Italy, on June 27, 1829, at the age of 64, after a long illness.

   Smithson's will left the bulk of his estate to his nephew, Henry James Hungerford. But should his nephew die without children—legitimate or illegitimate—a contingency clause stated that the estate would go to "the United States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an Establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge…"

When Smithson's nephew died in 1835 without any heirs, the founding of the Smithsonian Institution—and a rousing national debate—were set in motion.

Smithson did not explain his donation in his public or private writings. Smithson's motives in leaving $508,308 to the United States are unknown. He drafted his own will.  The money was used to create what is now the Smithsonian Institution.  The largest museum complex in the world, comprising 16 museums.


     Use the "Smithsonian" web-link below to find one object, artifact or item that you could possibly see somewhere in a Smithsonian Museum.  There are 16 museums.  You only need to choose one of millions of things you might see.  The museums we most commonly visit are the American History Museum, Natural History, and Air & Space.

Once you have chosen an item, complete the following...

     1)  print a picture of the item.  Attach the picture to the top of a small (81/2"-11") piece of paper or oaktag.

     2)  Write 2 paragraphs...
            paragraph 1:  Explain the history behind the item you have chosen.  Why is it important?  Where does it come from?  Who created or discovered it?  What is it's significance to science, U.S. history, air-travel, etc.? 

            paragraph 2:  In what museum is it housed?  Why did you choose this object?  Why is it important to you?  Out of the millions of objects or items in the Smithsonian, why did you decide to write about this one?

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Last updated  2008/09/28 03:52:23 EDTHits  133