The Smithsonian Institution Archive Collections

Search the Smithsonian Institution Archives’ collections, which contain the official records of the Smithsonian, as well as personal papers, special collections, records of professional societies, and oral/video histories relating to the history of the Smithsonian. Not sure where to start? See our tips on how to search. Please note that staff are constantly adding to and updating records available here.

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Digital Media

The Archives provides access to selected individual images, documents, and oral/video histories contained in its collections. Browse here to see all media digitized and cataloged to date.

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Other Catalogs

Notebook kept by Rafinesque on a trip from Philadelphia to Kentucky, 1818 [Smithsonian Institution Archives. Record Unit 7250. Negative number SIA2012-6086.]

Field Book Registry

Field books are primary source documents that describe the events leading up to and including the collection of specimens or observations during field research. The Registry is an online catalog of thousands of field books in a variety of natural sciences disciplines. It is the result of an ongoing joint project of the Archives and the National Museum of Natural History. Learn how to search the field book collection.

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Media Highlights

Engraving of the Rotunda in the United States National Museum, by Unknown, 1886, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 95-20346.
Engraving of the Rotunda in the United States National Museum Illustration (Fig. 6) in "A Handbook to the National Museum under the direction of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington" of the Rotunda of the United States National Museum (Arts and Industries Building) with visitors walking and sitting among Native American displays, the fountain and living plants.
S. Dillon Ripley & "Uncle Beazley", by Unknown, September 15, 1967, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 91-521 or 68-2589.
S. Dillon Ripley & "Uncle Beazley" Secretary S. Dillon Ripley (1964-1984) and unidentified children with "Uncle Beazley," the dinosaur (Triceratops) used in the film "The Enormous Egg," at the opening of the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum on September 15, 1967. Uncle Beazley was placed in the parking lot adjoining the Carver Theater, the site of the first Anacostia Museum. The museum, located at 1901 Fort Place, S.E., Washington, D.C, is now known as the Anacostia Community Museum. Uncle Beazley was later moved to the Mall in front of the National Museum of Natural History and then to the National Zoological Park.

Finding Aids

Search the Finding Aids which include general descriptions of materials, box/folder inventories of collection contents, and information on access and citation policies. Please note that the majority, but not all, of the Archives’ collections have Finding Aids.

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Featured Collection Guides

E. Yale Dawson Papers, 1934-1966

This collection contains papers documenting the professional and personal life of E. Yale Dawson, with most of the collection consisting of correspondence with colleagues. There are, in addition, a few segments of field notes, manuscripts, and typescript copies, and drafts of some of his later publications. The collection generally does not include research and field notes, or publications

United States Exploring Expedition Collection, 1838-1885

These papers include manuscripts, notes, lists, catalogs of specimens, correspondence, and drawings relating to the United States Exploring Expedition of 1838-1842 and its scientific work. Of special interest are original drawings of fish and echinoderms done on the voyage; Peale's manuscript history of the expedition; original notebooks of the botanist; Jean Louis Agassiz's notes for his unpublished report on the fishes collected by the expedition; Charles Pickering's notes on fishes and echinoderms; and original specimen lists and catalogs kept by the members of the expedition