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United States Exploring Expedition

(Oil painting of the ship U.S.S. Vincennes, attributed to Charles Wilkes) In 1838, Lieutenant Charles Wilkes led the first US expedition to Antarctica. The flora, fauna, maps and other findings from the Exploring Expedition (or Ex Ex, as it was known in the family) made up the first exhibit at the Smithsonian Institute – the building designed by his nephew, James Renwick, Jr.