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Smithsonian Institution Castle: The Commons

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Uploaded on Nov 2, 2009

The grand, well-lit Commons resembles the chapels of English academic architecture, but the space was always intended for secular use. The room, known as the West Wing for most of its history, has seen many other uses since its initial service as a library. In 1871, one of the earliest meetings of the National Academy of Sciences was held here. Mineralogical specimens, exhibits from the 1876 Centennial Exposition, and marine invertebrate specimens all found a home at one time or another in this space before the entire west end and main hall were closed for renovation from 1914 to 1916. When the Commons reopened to the public, graphic arts exhibits were on view there. Those exhibits were transferred, in 1963, to the Museum of History and Technology, now the National Museum of American History, Behring Center. In subsequent decades, a restaurant was housed in the Commons. Today, the exhibits in this room provide a sampler of objects from Smithsonian collections.

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