This beautiful brick building in Washington, D.C., is nicknamed "the Castle." The Castle is home to the visitors' services and administrative offices of the Smithsonian Institution.
Photograph by Charles Martin, National Geographic
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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!  
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    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.

    zoo Noun

    place where animals are kept for exhibition.

    Encyclopedic Entry: zoo