Black and White Castle photo

The John Quincy Adams Circle of the James Smithson Society

Stewards of a Nation’s Heritage


To furnish the means of acquiring knowledge is, therefore, the greatest benefit that can be conferred upon mankind. It prolongs life itself and enlarges the sphere of existence.~ John Quincy Adams

An Extraordinary Individual

Adams believed that James Smithson's gift conveyed the "spirit of the age" and worked diligently to ensure it was accepted and used for its intended and worthy purpose.

In the spirit of their namesake, John Quincy Adams Circle members believe in the power of knowledge and education to make a difference in our world. Through their generosity they ensure that the Smithsonian carries out this important mission.

An Extraordinary Time

Much like the era of scientific and intellectual discovery in which James Smithson made his unprecedented gift to this nation in 1829, our world and the Smithsonian are on the brink of a new era of immense change. The increasingly complex issues of our time present great challenges in all disciplines of human endeavor. In order to meet these challenges, the Smithsonian has implemented a multi-year strategic plan to maximize our unique capability to address the demands of our time with a cross-disciplinary approach.

The Washington Mall Arts and Industries building National Museum of Natural History

An Extraordinary Place

At no other institution does your support affect the most groundbreaking work taking place in so many different disciplines - from leading research in history and science to distinguished scholarship in art and cultural studies. Whether protecting rainforests, discovering new planets, or preserving important historical artifacts, the Smithsonian’s scope - and accomplishments - are unparalleled. As the world’s largest museum and research complex, we are keenly aware that is our duty to sustain the Smithsonian’s work and holdings for the citizens of this country—and of the world.

Freer Gallery of Art Sackler Gallery African Art Museum

An Extraordinary Membership

We invite you to become an important stakeholder in all of the Smithsonian’s undertakings as a member of the John Quincy Adams Circle. With an annual contribution of $20,000 or more, you will provide extraordinary philanthropic support and join a dedicated group of individuals who share a common love of learning and of our nation.

You will experience the Smithsonian as never before - from being one of the first to know about major scientific and scholarly breakthroughs to experiencing many opportunities to view our work in close proximity with the professionals at the forefront of their fields, including the leaders of our museums and research programs.

National Air and Space Museum National Museum of American History National Portrait Gallery/Smithsonian American Art Museum

You will be able to enjoy special access to the Smithsonian’s collections and research,people behind the scenes, including…

  • Updates on important Smithsonian initiatives and news from Institution leadership
  • Invitations to private receptions, exhibit openings, behind-the-scenes tours, and dinners with Smithsonian leaders
  • An annual invitation to a private lecture by a distinguished Smithsonian curator, scholar, or expert
  • Invitation to participate in conference calls with a Smithsonian scientist, curator, or fellow
  • A private, scholar-hosted tour in a Smithsonian museum, research center, or assistance when planning a visit to a a Smithsonian Affiliate museum
  • Assistance from Smithson Society staff to plan a personal visit to Smithsonian museums and exhibitions
  • An invitation for two to the annual James Smithson Society Members’ Weekend, including elegant receptions in prominent Smithsonian venues, behind-the-scenes tours led by curators and scholars, the Secretary’s Keynote Address, and a black-tie dinner with Smithsonian leadership held at one of the Smithsonian museums
National Zoo Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum National Museum of the American Indian

Your generosity will be appreciated and recognized throughout the year…

  • in the Friends of the Smithsonian Member Reception Center
  • in the Smithsonian Annual Report
  • in Smithson Connections newsletter

Strategic Plan 2010–2015
Inspiring Generations through Knowledge and Discovery
A Smithsonian for the 21st Century


The Smithsonian will focus on four grand challenges to inform the Institution’s programs and integrate the many disciplines we represent through our museums and our research centers.

  • Unlocking the Mysteries of the Universe
  • Understanding and Sustaining a Biodiverse Planet
  • Valuing World Culture
  • Understanding the American Experience

In approaching these challenges the Smithsonian will strive to broaden access—reaching a greater audience by utilizing the newest tools and technologies. We will leverage our pan-institutional resources to bolster American education and enhance our nation’s ability to compete globally. We |will strengthen our collections and preserve them for the use of researchers worldwide and for future generations. We will integrate external partnerships and marshal internal resources across disciplines to address pressing issues such as the loss of native languages, climate change, and what it means to be an American. We will ensure that we are in a good position to respond quickly to new opportunities by continuing to attract and retain forward-thinking leaders, managers, and volunteers. We will generate revenue in new ways to ensure that we can invest in our vision moving forward.

Charity Navigator rating


John Quincy Adams (1767–1848)

John Quincy Adams, the sixth President of the United States and a member of Congress, was a dedicated steward of James Smithson’s gift. Much of his education took place abroad, as he accompanied his diplomat father, the future President John Adams. These cosmopolitan travels and experiences gave him a profound appreciation for the ideals behind Smithson’s bequest.

As President he had campaigned for the establishment of a national university, the sponsorship of scientific expeditions, and the creation of an astronomical observatory. A near exact contemporary of Smithson, he made it his responsibility to ensure that the gift was accepted and used well. He believed it “signalized the spirit of the age.”

As the debate over the bequest dragged on in Congress for nearly a decade, Adams stood guard, insuring that the matter was not tabled or disposed of improperly. When the final legislation was formulated in 1846, much of the structure Adams suggested was included. Without his diligent oversight, the Smithsonian might never have come into existence.