The world’s largest museum and research institution, Washington DC’s Smithsonian, has been asked to open an exhibition space in London’s Olympic Park.
The museum has 137 million artefacts which include everything from the Apollo lunar landing module, to President Lincoln’s top hat, to the iconic ruby slippers worn by Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.
The chairman of the museum believes ‘this is an opportunity for the Smithsonian to move into a global context and to tell America’s story’ but the move also represents a return to the museum’s British roots. Its founder was a British chemist James Smithson, who, despite never having visited the US, bequeathed his fortune to create ‘an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge’ in Washington.
History and HSPS students should consider the importance of artefacts and collecting, while English students might think about what Dorothy’s shoes can tell us about the significance of literature and theatre in history.