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A Look into the Smithsonian's Past with Vintage Postcards

Once upon a time, postcards were the best way to communicate quick, "Wish you were here!" messages. Nowadays, they're either used for filling up a few racks in souvenir shops or extensive conversations for those who think they were born too late. Thanks to the Smithsonian Institution Archives, you can do more with a postcard than just look at it, but learn with it. From the American Art Museum to the National Zoo, the Smithsonian archives postcards that date all the way back to the 1800s. Below, you'll find a few of the many postcards, depicting the National Museum of Natural History, National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the Freer Gallery of Art. Take a peek at what the buildings looked like along with some quick facts on when the museums were first established and how they've changed since then.


↑ The National Museum of Natural History was once called the United States National Museum and once housed in what is now the Arts and Industries Building. This 1910s to 1920s postcard features a semi-aerial view of the museum around the time when it first opened.


↑ While the roof of the Arts and Industries Building is actually gold, the roof was depicted red in this postcard. The postcard is estimated to date from 1910 to 1920.


↑ This postcard features the U.S. Patent Office Building, the current location for the National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian American Art Museum. The postcard dates back to approximately 1898.


↑ Dating back to roughly 1907, this vintage postcard depicts the U.S. Patent Building. During this time, the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum were not established yet. The gallery was known as the National Gallery of Art.


↑ In this vintage postcard, you can see the Freer Gallery of Art from around 1923 to 1930.


↑ Here is a view of the Freer Gallery of Art's courtyard from around 1928. The grass pictured was later replaced by brick paving. According to the Smithsonian website, this was done to cool the galleries.
· Postcard Galleries [Smithsonian Institution Archives]
· Check Out These 20 Vintage Postcards of Washington, D.C. [Curbed DC]

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