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The Smithsonian Castle: A Piece of Our Living History

front of the Smithsonian Castle at its main entrance

The Smithsonian Institution is the world’s largest museum and research complex, with 19 museums, nine research centers, and affiliates worldwide. It was founded in 1846 with the bequest of James Smithson, a British scientist who left his fortune to the United States “for the increase and diffusion of knowledge.”

The Smithsonian Institution Building, or the Castle, was the first building constructed specifically for the Smithsonian after it was founded. It was designed by architect James Renwick Jr., whose other works include St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City and the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery in Washington, DC.

The Castle is a stunning example of Gothic Revival architecture with red sandstone walls, turrets, towers, and arches. It was completed in 1855 and originally housed all of the Smithsonian’s activities, including exhibitions, research, administration, and living quarters.

The Smithsonian Institution is the world’s largest museum and research complex, with 19 museums, nine research centers, and affiliates worldwide. It was founded in 1846 with the bequest of James Smithson, a British scientist who left his fortune to the United States “for the increase and diffusion of knowledge.”

The Smithsonian Institution Building, or the Castle, was the first building constructed specifically for the Smithsonian after it was founded. It was designed by architect James Renwick Jr., whose other works include St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City and the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery in Washington, DC.

The Castle is a stunning example of Gothic Revival architecture with red sandstone walls, turrets, towers, and arches. It was completed in 1855 and originally housed all of the Smithsonian’s activities, including exhibitions, research, administration, and living quarters.

Today, the Castle serves as the Smithsonian’s headquarters and visitor center. It also houses an exhibit of the works of four scientific illustrators who worked in the Smithsonian Institution Building between 1852 and 1898; a small display recounting the history of the building itself; the crypt of James Smithson, who originally endowed the Institution; and “The Smithsonian Institution: America’s Treasure Chest,” an exhibit displaying a sample of works from all the various museums.

The History of The Smithsonian Castle

Photography is more than just a hobby or a profession. It is a way of expressing yourself, telling your stories, and preserving your moments. When you take a photo, you are not only capturing what you see, but also what you feel, think, and learn. You are creating a visual diary of your life.
That’s why I believe that photography is essential for anyone who wants to explore new places and cultures. By taking photos, you can document your adventures, share them with others, and relive them anytime you want. You can also learn more about yourself and the world around you through the lens of your camera.

View of the Smithsonian Castle and garden

What can you find in the Smithsonian Castle?

Even though the Castle is closed for renovation, you can still explore its treasures online. The Castle houses several exhibits that showcase the history and diversity of the Smithsonian Institution. Some of these exhibits are:

  • Smithsonian Stories: A collection of objects, images, and videos that tell stories about the people, places, and events that shaped the Smithsonian.
  • America’s Treasure Chest: A display of artifacts from various Smithsonian museums representing American history and culture.
  • Smithsonian Libraries Gallery: A selection of rare books and manuscripts from the Smithsonian Libraries that illustrate the history of science and art.
  • Arts and Industries Building Preview Center: A preview of the upcoming reopening of the Arts and Industries Building, the second building of the Smithsonian, undergoing renovation.
  • Crypt of James Smithson: The final resting place of James Smithson, whose tomb was moved from Italy to the Castle in 1904.

You can also find some hidden gems in the Castle, such as:

  • The Great Hall: A stunning space with vaulted ceilings, stained glass windows, marble floors, and Gothic Revival details.
  • The West Tower: A Gothic-style tower that offers a panoramic view of Washington, D.C., from its observation deck.

The Haupt Garden: A beautiful garden behind the Castle that features seasonal plants, fountains, sculptures, and benches.

Advice for visitors

The District of Columbia is the capital of the United States and the seat of its government. It is also a vibrant city with a rich history and culture. Here are some of the places that I recommend you to visit and photograph in DC:

When is it open?

The exterior and grounds of the Castle are open daily from dawn to dusk, except on December 25. The interior of the Castle is closed until further notice due to renovation.

What to wear?

Since you will be outdoors most of the time, dress according to the weather and season. You may also want to wear something that matches or contrasts with the color and style of the Castle. For example, you could wear a bright or pastel outfit to stand out against the red sandstone or a dark or formal outfit to complement its Gothic Revival architecture.

Is it family-friendly?

The Smithsonian Castle is a great place to bring your family and friends for your portrait photography session. You can enjoy exploring the garden, posing with sculptures, or learning about history together. Just remember to respect other visitors and follow the rules of conduct.

When is it best to visit?

The Castle is beautiful all year round, but some times are better than others, depending on what you want to see. For example, if you want to see the gardens around the Castle, you might want to visit in the spring or summer when they are in full bloom; if you want to see the holiday decorations inside the Castle, you might want to visit in December when they are on display.

In Need of a Photographer? Book Your Experience with Joy Rahat!

If you are looking for a photographer who can capture your essence and spirit, you’ve arrived at the right place. I will provide you with a personalized service that will exceed your expectations. I will also give you tips on how to prepare for your session, what to wear, how to pose, and how to have fun.

Whether you need a headshot for your business or personal brand, a portrait for your family or friends, or a lifestyle shoot for your social media or blog, I will deliver high-quality images you will love and cherish for years.

Book a session with Joy Rahat today by emailing info@joyrahat.com or calling (202) 599-7162 to capture the experience in a photograph.

 

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