Blue Line Orange Line
Souvenir Nation: Relics, Keepsakes, and Curios
Schermer Hall, West Wing
Follow the stories of some of the diminutive and personal objects that Americans have taken, made, and saved as historical mementos from the early Republic to the present. Explore how souvenirs give meaning to the past and learn about the American preservation movement in the 19th century and the origins of the modern museum in which some of these objects now reside.
Related book: $24.95
Note: This exhibition may be closed to the public occassionally for special events.
LEGO Model of the Smithsonian Castle
Now - August 5, 2014
Children's Room, South Entrance
This Smithsonian Castle model, constructed of more than 45,000 LEGO® bricks, was built to celebrate the origins of the Smithsonian's National Zoological Park. It is displayed in the Children's Room in the spirit of the room’s early use as a museum designed to inspire wonder in children. While the Castle model is built to scale, the Mall landscape and the animals situated on it are imaginatively depicted.
Views from the Tall Tower
In 1863, artist Titian Ramsey Peale took a series of 8 photographs from the roof of the Castle’s tall north tower that form a panoramic view of Washington. A corresponding set of 8 images, taken from the exact same vantage points in 2012, shows a much changed city.
North Entrance (Jefferson Drive)
The final resting place of the Institution's benefactor, James Smithson (1765-1829), is a small chapel-like room located at the north entrance to the Castle. An exhibit cases contain a few of Smithson's personal effects. A panel explains how Smithson's remains came to the United States in 1904 and the Smithsonian's plans to build a memorial to him.
For more information about James Smithson, click here.
Smithsonian Information Center
- An information desk, serving the public and Smithsonian Associate members, which is staffed by volunteers from 8:30 AM-4 PM daily.
- A scale model of Washington's monumental core.
- Smithson's Gift showcase (provides information on the history of the Institution).
- A tactile map of the Washington's monumental core with Braille labels
For a brief history of the Great Hall, click here.
Exhibit Panels: The West Wing: A Chronology
Schermer Hall, West Wing
This panel display reveals the history of the west wing of the Castle—from its first use as the Institution's library to its use as The Commons dining room (through June 20, 2004). The text is adapted from The Castle, An Illustrated History of the Smithsonian Institution Building by Cynthia R. Field, Richard E. Stamm, and Heather P. Ewing.
Featured Areas: Children's Room, The Commons, and Schermer Hall
• Children's Room: (South Entrance, Independence Avenue)
The Children's Room—with the theme "Knowledge Begins in Wonder"—was installed in the south tower of the Castle in 1901 and featured natural history exhibitions for children. The original decorative scheme by designer Grace Lincoln Temple, featuring wall stencils of interlaced birds and leaves, gold leaf moldings, and trompe l'oeil ceiling paintings of vines, clouds, and exotic birds, was restored in the mid-1980s.
• The Commons: (West Wing; closed through September 30, 2013)
The Commons, in the 19th-century Gothic Revival architectural style, features a soaring, groin-vaulted ceiling, elaborate corbels, a ribbed-vaulted apse, and a rose window on the south wall. Encircling the room are 28 walnut exhibit cases built in 1871 and refurbished in July 2004 with selected objects representing the Smithsonian's collections (for details, see permanent exhibition The Smithsonian Institution: America's Treasure Chest). A dining facility operated in the room for many years; it closed in June 2004. For a brief history of the room, click here.
• Schermer Hall: (West Wing)
Schermer Hall, named for Smithsonian donors Lloyd G. and Betty A. Schermer, is in the Romanesque Revival style with clerestory windows, rounded arches, and a barrel-vaulted ceiling. Furnishings from the Castle Collection include a pair of Rococo Revival gilded mirrors that belonged to Simon Cameron, Secretary of War (1860-1862) under President Lincoln; a pair of Renaissance Revival armchairs (c. 1860) that belonged to Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War (1862-1867) under Presidents Lincoln and Grant; and Georgian Revival tables (c. 1910) in mahogany and verdi marble with classically carved motifs, including anthemion and acanthus leaves and guilloche (running dog) borders. Also in this room is a small panel display on the history of the west wing; for details, see the permanent display The West Wing: A Chronology. For a brief history of the room, click here.
• Great Hall: See Smithsonian Information Center.
• Smithson's Crypt: See separate listing.