The Smithsonian just released 2.8 million free digital images of its collection in an 'unprecedented' move. Here are some the most iconic.

GettySmithsonian museum.
  • The Smithsonian Institution is putting 2.8 million images online for anyone to access for the first time ever.
  • The online open-access platform has images from all 19 Smithsonian museums, plus research centres, archives, and the National Zoo.
  • The Smithsonian says it will add 200,000 more images by the end of 2020, eventually hoping to digitize all 155 million objects in its collection.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The Smithsonian is the latest institution to open part of its collection to online visitors. 2.8 million images will now be accessible through an online platform, and enter into the public domain, Smithsonian Magazine reported.

So far, the collection has 2.8 million images from across the Smithsonian’s 19 museums, nine research centres, libraries, archives, and even the National Zoo. It also said that it will add 200,000 more images by the end of 2020, with the eventual goal of digitising its entire 155 million item collection, which also continues to grow.

The Smithsonian joins other museums around the world in digitising its collections, like the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and the Art Institute of Chicago, though digital culture heritage expert Simon Tanner said that the scope of the Smithsonian’s project is “unprecedented.”

Check out some of the highlights now available online.


1. The Lockheed Vega 5B that Amelia Earhart flew across both the Atlantic and the United States.

National Air and Space MuseumAmelia Earhart’s plane.

2. Muhammad Ali’s boxing headgear.

National Museum of African American History and CultureMuhammad Ali’s boxing headgear.

3. A proof of the 1765 Stamp Act, part of the lead-up to the American Revolution and one of only 32 in the world.

Smithsonian National Postal MuseumStamp Act.

4. The plane the Wright brothers first flew for only 12 seconds in 1903

National Air and Space MuseumWright brothers’ planes.

5. Certainly less well-known than other entries on this list, this “Natural Creeping Baby Doll” was patented in 1871.

National Museum of American HistoryBaby doll.

6. The Mercury Friendship 7 Capsule, the vehicle John Glenn used to become the first American to orbit the Earth.

National Air and Space MuseumJohn Glenn’s capsule.

7. The Peacock Room from a Victorian London estate can take you back in time.

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler GalleryPeacock Room.

8. The command module from Apollo 11, the mission that led to the first humans on the moon

National Air and Space MuseumApollo 11 command module.

9. A digital reconstruction of the Cassiopeia A supernova from the Hubble Space Telescope.


10. Photographs from the alcoholic specimen room at the National Museum.

Smithsonian Institution ArchivesAlcoholic specimen room.

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