The Smithsonian Institution, established in 1846 "for the increase and diffusion of knowledge," is a group of museums and research centers administered by the Government of the United States. Originally organized as the "United States National Museum," that name ceased to exist as an administrative entity in 1967. Termed "the nation's attic" for its eclectic holdings of 138 million items, the Institution's Washington, D.C., nucleus of nineteen museums, nine research centers, and zoo - many of them historical or architectural landmarks - is the largest such complex in the world. Additional facilities are located in Arizona, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York City, Virginia, Panama and elsewhere, and 168 other museums are Smithsonian Affiliates. The Institution's thirty million annual visitors are admitted without charge; funding comes from the Institution's own endowment, private and corporate contributions, membership dues, government support, and retail, concession and licensing revenues. Institution publications include Smithsonian and Air & Space magazines.
Nineteen museums and galleries, as well as the National Zoological Park, comprise the Smithsonian museums. Eleven are on the National Mall, the strip of land that runs between the Lincoln Memorial and the United States Capitol. Other museums are located elsewhere in Washington, D.C., with two more in New York City and one in Chantilly, Virginia.
The Smithsonian has close ties with 168 other museums in 39 states, Panama and Puerto Rico. These museums are known as Smithsonian Affiliated museums. Collections of artifacts are given to these museums in the form of long-term loans. The Smithsonian also has a large number of traveling exhibitions. In 2008, 58 of these traveling exhibitions went to 510 venues across the country.
The Smithsonian Institution announced in January 2015 that it is in talks to build its first permanent overseas exhibition space within London's Queen Elizabeth II Olympic Park.
Smithsonian collections include 138 million artworks, artifacts and specimens. The National Museum of Natural History houses 127 million of these specimens and artifacts. The Collections Search Center has 9 million digital records available online. The Smithsonian Institution Libraries hold 2 million library volumes. Smithsonian Archives hold 156,830 cubic feet of archival material.