The Arts and Industries Building (AIB) contains eight ranges, two on each of the building’s four sides. They were designed as single story, L-shaped public spaces to wrap the courts and adjoin the halls. All of the ranges’ interior walls contained large openings to provide both daylight and visual flow between the spaces.
The rapid increase of collections within the National Museum following its opening in 1881 led to a critical need for more exhibition space. In addition to expanding to a third museum on Washington, D.C.’s National Mall –now known as the National Museum of Natural History – the Smithsonian commissioned architects Joseph Hornblower and James Marshall to modify the National Museum’s existing design. Most of the ranges were altered as part of these modifications to include further gallery spaces. The South East Range was renovated to include an entire second floor as well.
The wall openings between the ranges have been opened and closed many times over the years as needed, and the spaces have been subdivided for administrative functions.
The AIB’s four annexes are less significant within the hierarchy of the building than the ranges, courts or halls. They have been modified substantially over the years. The library, in the North West Annex, is the most noteworthy of the four spaces.