When the National Museum of Natural History was completed in 1910, its Beaux Arts style made a strong architectural statement that validated the Smithsonian's newfound stature in the international community. Designed by Joseph C. Hornblower and J. Rush Marshall, this museum was the first building on the Mall to realize the classical vision set out by federal city planners. The exterior columns and slate-covered dome create a memorable impression even today.
The building's first name, the United States National Museum, reflected the broad scope of its contents at the time. It was home to fine art and American history objects as well as cultural artefacts and natural history specimens. The Museum did not take its present name until 1968.
Today, the building stands in the company of eleven other museums on the Mall. Through name changes, building additions, and reorganizations, the Museum has expanded and broadened its commitment to the pursuit and dispersion of knowledge.