The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
Highlighting Reference Services on the New Archives Website
The Archives’ revamped website offers several new and enhanced features intended to improve service to our researchers, and to make information more readily accessible to those searching our collections.
One of the big changes on the site is our new and robust Collections Search. Among its features are several browse options to find materials in our holdings. These browse tools are created to help researchers learn about our Archives, and also to focus searches on the history of the Smithsonian. Say, for example, you want see all the records and information we have cataloged documenting the history of the Smithsonian American Art Museum—you can search on Smithsonian Museums & Research Centers, and select the museum you’re interested in under “Filter Your Results.” This will return not only collections and selected digitized images, but also chronological historic entries on major events in the museum’s history.
From there you can further focus your search to just collection guides (box and folder inventories of collection contents) by selecting “Show only collection guides,” or just images by selecting “Show only digital media.” There are numerous ways you can continue to refine your searches from these browse lists. We invite you to explore these topics and give us your feedback for improving these options.
One feature that we’ve wanted for some time is a Reference Inquiry Form. This form allows researchers to enter and submit their questions to the Archives online. There is a drop-down list of topics on the form so that your inquiry can be directed to the appropriate staff, and a place to enter your detailed request. While you are searching, if you find a collection you want to explore on-site in our Reading Room, or if you need help finding something specific, click “Submit a reference request about this item” from any of our Collections Guides. The form will pop up with the collection number already populated for you. Requests submitted by this form will go directly to email accounts that are monitored on a daily basis. Our staff is, as always, committed to getting back you as soon as they can. Please note that we’re still answering emails through our normal reference account (firstname.lastname@example.org) and still answering your telephone calls. We hope the form, though, will be a quick and usefully way for you to contact us with any of your questions.