Who Owns the National Museum of Natural History?

The National Museum of Natural History is one of the most popular museums in the world, attracting millions of visitors every year. But have you ever wondered who actually owns this iconic institution? Let’s dive into the history and ownership of the National Museum of Natural History.

The Establishment of The National Museum of Natural History:

The National Museum of Natural History was established in 1910 by an act of Congress, which authorized the transfer of the Smithsonian Institution’s natural history collections and library from the Smithsonian’s original building to a new, specially constructed facility. The new museum was designed to be a center for research, education, and public engagement with natural history.

The Smithsonian Institution:

The Smithsonian Institution is a trust instrumentality of the United States established by an act of Congress in 1846. It is responsible for overseeing several museums, research centers, and cultural institutions located in Washington D.C. and New York City.


The National Museum of Natural History is owned by the United States government and is managed by the Smithsonian Institution. As a federal institution, it receives funding from Congress each year to support its operations and programs.

However, while the museum itself is owned by the government, many of its collections are privately owned or donated. The museum has an extensive collection that includes over 145 million specimens and artifacts that have been donated or acquired over more than a century.


In conclusion, while many people may assume that the National Museum of Natural History is privately owned or operated by a large corporation or organization, it is actually owned by the United States government. Its collections are primarily donated or acquired through private means but are ultimately managed by the Smithsonian Institution on behalf of all Americans. So next time you visit this beloved museum, remember that it belongs to all citizens and serves as a valuable resource for education and scientific research.