March 17, 2017

Peek Inside The Smithsonian's Arts And Industries Building Revitalization

  • By: Sarah Heffern
  • Photography: Sarah Heffern

The Smithsonian’s Arts and Industries Building—which opened in 1881 as the National Museum Building, the Smithsonian’s first purpose-built museum space—was named to our 11 Most Endangered Historic Places list in 2006. At that time, we noted it “suffer[ed] from institutional neglect, a deteriorating roof, and the absence of a clearly defined plan for its future use.” A daunting list, to be sure.

After touring the building last week with a group from the American Institute of Architects, however, I am happy to report that, though its permanent use is still to be determined, neither neglect nor the roof are issues any longer. An extensive revitalization process is underway, the first phase of which was completed in 2016 and provided structural stability as well as corrected issues with the roof and windows. Work continues now on removing the additional interior floors that are not original to the building’s design.

While the work is underway, the Arts and Industries Building is in use for pop-up/temporary exhibitions and for special events. Can't wait to go inside? Take a virtual tour via the slideshow below.

Sarah Heffern headshot

Sarah Heffern, the National Trust's former director of social media, embraces all things online and pixel-centric, but she’s also a hard-core building hugger, having first fallen for historic places in a fifth grade “Built Environment” class.

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