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Smithsonian Institution (U.S.)

Last modified: 2015-01-11 by rick wyatt
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[Smithsonian Institution Flag] image by António Martin-Tuválkin, 25 August 2008



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Description

The Smithsonian now flies a white flag with a medium blue disk bearing the yellow sun.
Joe McMillan, 24 July 2007


Former flag

[Smithsonian Institution Flag] image by Blas Delgado Ortiz, 1 May 2002

The Smithsonian Institution was founded in 1846 on the basis of an 1826 bequest by James Smithson, who left his fortune to the United States government for the establishment of a scientific institution "for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men." The Smithsonian now embraces the various national museums of the United States, the National Zoological Park, the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, and a wide range of other activities. Its flag is divided quarterly, dark blue and yellow, with a counterchanged circle in turn surmounted by a counterchanged sun. This flag is displayed atop the tower of the Institution headquarters, known as "The Castle," on the National Mall in Washington, as well as on poles in front of various of the Smithsonian museums.

The Smithsonian Institution formerly flew a banner of arms apparently derived from the arms of James Smithson. It was blue with a yellow sun and, on a white canton, a red demi-lion rampant guardant holding in its paws another yellow sun. I cannot swear that this is a complete description, however.

Joe McMillan, 20 February 2000

For further documentation about the flag see "A New Smithsonian Flag" on the Smithsonian Institution web page at photo2.si.edu/150now/150bell.htm: "A new Smithsonian flag was also unveiled at the ceremonies. The design, which highlights the Smithsonian sunburst, is divided into quadrants of alternating blue and gold. The sunburst is centered on a circle of contrasting backgrounds, set off on rectangular fields. The new design is the result of a collaborative effort between Rick Stamm, keeper of the Castle Collection, and Mary Wiedman, a designer with the Smithsonian's Office of Exhibits Central. ...

The Smithsonian's new flag, redesigned in honor of the 150th anniversary, flies below the American Flag on the Smithsonian Castle's main tower. " [1996]

But if the 1996 flag replaced an earlier flag based on Smithson's arms (per comments above) and the current flag has a white field, what is the 1999 Smithsonian flag with a blue field shown at seawifs.gsfc.nasa.gov/OCEAN_PLANET/SQUID/clyde_raising_flag.jpg? Was the 1996 quartered flag already obsolete by 1999?
Ned Smith, 25 July 2007


1965 flag

[Color unknown]
[National Museum of Natural History Flag]  [National Museum of Natural History Flag] images by António Martin-Tuválkin, 3 August 2008

Chronology of Smithsonian History
Title: SI Adopts First Official Flag
Date: 1955
Summary:
The Smithsonian Institution adopts first official flag. Designed by a committee of staff members and approved by Secretary Carmichael, the flag was to be flown by Smithsonian-sponsored expeditions throughout the world. The field of the flag was royal blue; in the center was the torch of knowledge, above which is the word SMITHSONIAN and  below, INSTITUTION. The torch and letters were in gold. "The torch is a motif taken from the present seal of the Institution designed by the great American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens and adopted by the Smithsonian in 1893."

On other pages of the website are flags of some of the bureaus of the Smithsonian Institution:
John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
National Museum
National Air and Space Museum
National Museum of History and Technology
National Zoological Park
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
Freer Gallery of Art
Science Information Exchange
National Museum of Natural History
National Collection of Fine Arts/American Art Museum

They were designed in 1965, the bicentennial of James Smithson's birth. Also designed that year was the flag based on Smithson's arms. The thirteen individual banners were all similar except for the design of the canton in the upper left corner. All have a blue field with gold fringe on the upper, lower, and right sides. In the center is a gold sunburst with 16 alternating straight and wavy rays.
Ned Smith, 25 July 2007


John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

[National Museum of Natural History Flag] [National Museum of Natural History Flag] images by António Martin-Tuválkin, 2 August 2008

For the Kennedy Center, the green canton features a gold musical stringed instrument.
siris-sihistory.si.edu/ipac20/ipac.jsp?uri=full=3100001~!11538!0
[Note: I believe this was not one of the original 1965 bureau flags, but added in 1971]
Ned Smith, 25 July 2007


Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory

[National Museum of Natural History Flag] [National Museum of Natural History Flag] images by António Martin-Tuválkin, 30 July 2008

The Observatory flag is black with a a dark blue circle featuring three stars and a comet.
siris-sihistory.si.edu/ipac20/ipac.jsp?uri=full=3100001~!11535!0
Ned Smith, 25 July 2007


National Museum

[National Museum of Natural History Flag] [National Museum of Natural History Flag] images by António Martin-Tuválkin, 2 August 2008

The canton for the United States National Museum is a red featuring a white circle containing a five-pointed blue star and a classical facade of a building with four columns.
Ned Smith, 25 July 2007


National Air and Space Museum

[National Museum of Natural History Flag] [National Museum of Natural History Flag] images by António Martin-Tuválkin, 2 August 2008

The canton for the United States National Air and Space Museum features a plane in a small blue circle.
Ned Smith, 26 July 2007


National Museum of History and Technology

[National Museum of Natural History Flag] [National Museum of Natural History Flag] images by António Martin-Tuválkin, 3 August 2008

The canton for the National Museum of History and Technology Bureau features a blue wheel on top of an open book
Ned Smith, 26 July 2007


National Zoological Park

[National Museum of Natural History Flag] [National Museum of Natural History Flag] images by António Martin-Tuválkin, 1 August 2008

The canton for the National Zoological Park is red featuring a gold and beige eagle
Ned Smith, 28 July 2007


Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

[National Museum of Natural History Flag] [National Museum of Natural History Flag] images by António Martin-Tuválkin, 1 August 2008

The canton for the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute is yellow with a red bird and red fish.
Ned Smith, 28 July 2007


Freer Gallery of Art

[National Museum of Natural History Flag] [National Museum of Natural History Flag] images by António Martin-Tuválkin, 30 July 2008

For the Freer Gallery of Art, the yellow canton contains an Asian graphic character in blue.
Ned Smith, 28 July 2007


Science Information Exchange

[National Museum of Natural History Flag] [National Museum of Natural History Flag] images by António Martin-Tuválkin, 1 August 2008

The canton for the Science Information Exchange flag is green with a gold key.
Ned Smith, 29 July 2007


National Museum of Natural History

[National Museum of Natural History Flag] [National Museum of Natural History Flag] images by António Martin-Tuválkin, 1 August 2008

The canton for National Museum of Natural History is yellow featuring a sauropod dinosaur holding a plant leaf in its mouth.
Ned Smith, 29 July 2007


National Collection of Fine Arts/American Art Museum

[National Museum of Natural History Flag] [National Museum of Natural History Flag] images by António Martin-Tuválkin, 30 July 2008

For the National Collection of Fine Arts, now the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the white canton features a red, white and blue pinwheel.
Ned Smith, 29 July 2007