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On August 10, 1846, the United States Congress granted a charter to the Smithsonian Institution, today the largest museum complex in the world. A large donation from British chemist James Smithson made what was first called “the United States Museum” possible.
 
The Smithsonian Institution includes 19 museums and research centers. Most of these museums are a short walk from the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. The Smithsonian also has more than 150 affiliates across the U.S., Panama, and Puerto Rico.
 
The Smithsonian Institution is sometimes called the “nation’s attic” due to its diverse, eccentric collection of more than 137 million items. Visitors can see the iconic stovepipe hat worn by President Abraham Lincoln at the National Museum of American History; the Hope Diamond, one of the largest diamonds in the world, at the Museum of Natural History; and the actual Apollo 11 command module—which guided the first trip to the Moon—at the National Air and Space Museum.
 
The most popular items held by the Smithsonian, however, are probably Mei Xiang, Tian Tian, and Bao Bao—the giant pandas at the National Zoo!  
affiliate
Noun

subsidiary or branch of a larger organization.

attic
Noun

room or part of a building directly under the roof, often used for storage.

Capitol
Noun

official building used by the U.S. Congress in Washington, D.C.

charter
Noun

document that outlines rules for how a state or other organization will be organized.

chemist
Noun

person who studies the theory and application of atoms and molecules, and their relationships and interactions.

complex
Noun

group of structures or parts that are somehow related.

Congress
Noun

legislative branch of the government, responsible for making laws. The U.S. Congress has two bodies, the House of Representatives and the Senate.

diamond
Noun

type of crystal that is pure carbon and the hardest known natural substance.

diverse
Adjective

varied or having many different types.

donation
Noun

gift or contribution.

eccentric
Adjective

unusual or odd.

fedora
Noun

hat with a medium-size curled brim, folded at the crown, usually with a wide band.

grant
Noun

money given to a person or group of people to carry out a specific project or program.

iconic
Adjective

event or symbol representing a belief, nation, or community.

Moon
Noun

Earth's only natural satellite.

museum
Noun

space where valuable works of art, history, or science are kept for public view.

research
Noun

scientific observations and investigation into a subject, usually following the scientific method: observation, hypothesis, prediction, experimentation, analysis, and conclusion.

sound barrier
Noun

speed of sound, 343 meters per second (1,125 feet per second).

stovepipe hat
Noun

tall, silk top hat.

Noun

place where animals are kept for exhibition.