How to Search the Smithsonian Institution Archives’ Collections Online
- Search the Smithsonian Institution Archives Collections
- Additional Ways to Browse and Discover Smithsonian Institution Archives Collections
- Other Online Resources for U.S. and Local Washington D.C. History Information
The Archives’ Collection Search helps researchers find all of the records that have been digitized and cataloged to date. Please note that the majority (but not all) of the Archives’ collections have online finding aids which staff are constantly adding to and updating for the collections search.
Finding Aids to the Collections are guides to the Archives’ collections and include general descriptions of materials, box/folder inventories of collection contents, and information on access and citation policies. The Archives provides online access to selected individual images, documents, and oral/video histories.
The Archives’ Reference Team is also available to help researchers locate the materials they require, and answer general Smithsonian history questions via the Reference Inquiry Form.
The Smithsonian Institution holds millions of other collections across its units. For reference inquiries pertaining to collections across all the Smithsonian’s museums, research centers, libraries, and archives, please visit the Smithsonian collection page which guides you to collections both onsite and online.
Browse Archives Collections by Topic
The Archives continues to digitize records and develop topical searches that will be continuously added to the Archives’ online Collection Search. Currently the Collection Search allows researchers to focus searches on:
- Smithsonian Records Browse official records created at Smithsonian Institution museums, research centers, archives, and libraries, now in the Smithsonian Institution Archives’ collections.
- Oral Histories Browse oral and video history collections containing interviews with current and retired Smithsonian staff, and others who have made significant contributions to the Institution.
- Smithsonian Secretaries Browse records and papers of Smithsonian Secretaries (the equivalent of the Smithsonian CEO) who have served the Institution from 1846 to today.
- Personal Papers Browse papers and special collections created by institutions and persons who have contributed to and collaborated with the Smithsonian.
- Professional Society Records Browse records of professional societies closely associated with the Smithsonian, that focus on areas of scientific research and museum studies.
- Expeditions Browse records and papers documenting scientific and collecting expeditions either affiliated with the Smithsonian or with Smithsonian research participants.
- Smithsonian Museums and Research Centers Browse records and papers documenting the history and research of major Smithsonian units.
Databases at the Smithsonian Institution Archives
- History of the Smithsonian Catalog. Access a special search page for more specific queries across the five databases documenting the history of the Smithsonian: Smithsonian History Bibliography, Smithsonian History Chronology, Smithsonian Legal Documents, Historic Images of the Smithsonian, and Smithsonian Board of Regents. Results can be limited to a single database or sorted by database. Although these records are also available on the Smithsonian Archives Collections Search page, this catalog allows you to search a single database, select the combined keyword search screen, and limit your search to that database. To use the browse function for a single database, use the limit function on your results screen. See Special Topics tab at the top of the page for pre-set searches on special topics on the history of the Smithsonian.
- Joseph Henry Papers Document Database. This database is an item-level index of documents related to Joseph Henry, first Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. Each document is described by author, recipient, date, repository, and number of pages. Currently, this database is not available online, however, you can contact the Institutional History Division for additional information.
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Sources within the Smithsonian
- Smithsonian Institution Collections Page. Provides information about collections across the Smithsonian’s museums, archives, and libraries.
- Encyclopedia Smithsonian. Links to online Smithsonian resources, from art to zoology.
- Smithsonian Newsdesk. Contains a variety of Smithsonian general and historical information, as well as photos.
- National Museum of American History, Lemelson Center Modern Inventors Documentation Program (MIND) Database. A database that identifies the locations and contents of invention-related archival materials in the United States.
- Smithsonian Institution Libraries. Search the Libraries' holdings, from printed books, ephemera, and manuscripts to digital publications and collections.
Sources outside the Smithsonian
- Washington, DC Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Public Library, Special Collections. Of special interest to researchers is the Washingtoniana Division, which houses a comprehensive collection of material on Washington, DC, from the late 18th century to the present.
- The Historical Society of Washington, DC and its City Museum. The Historical Society's collections date to its founding in 1894 and address the history of Washington, DC.
- National Park Service, Register of Historic Places in Washington, DC. Provides information on most indoor and outdoor historical sites in DC, divided by geographical areas of the city. Also includes links to maps of DC.
- The White House. Information on White House history and the First Family. Includes short statements regarding the president's most recent official decisions and activities.
- US Government. The US government's official web portal, which provides contact details and other important information for federal and state agencies, bureaus, and courts.
- ibiblio, Presidential Libraries Network. Links to information about presidential libraries, presidents, and first ladies.
- United States Senate and United States House of Representatives. US Congress websites with information for contacting members and reviewing legislative activities, including up-to-date information on House and Senate daily business. The House page includes free access to the US Code as well as links dedicated to education, other government sites (including the US Supreme Court), and information helpful for tourists and others planning to visit DC.
- The Library of Congress. Search holdings online.
- Library of Congress, THOMAS. Updated information regarding US Congressional official activities.
- Library of Congress, National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections. Cataloging program operated by the Library of Congress that lists repository locations for thousands of manuscript collections in the United States. Also contains information concerning visiting and researching at the library.
- Library of Congress, American Memory, Voices from the Days of Slavery. Recordings of former slaves made between 1932 and 1975 by various interviewers working in Southern states.
- Library of Congress, Veterans History Project. The Veterans History Project collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans.
- The National Archives and Records Administration. Information about visiting, researching, and searching the National Archives.
- The National Archives, Military Service Records. The repository of millions of military personnel, health, and medical records of discharged and deceased veterans of all services during the 20th century.
- Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factobook. Information on the history, people, government, economy, geography, communications, transportation, and military of countries worldwide.
- LibrarySpot. Library and reference resources as well as the latest in reference issues. The "Reference Desk" feature includes links to business associations, almanacs, biographies, government, law, genealogy, encyclopedias, and more.
- The American Society of Appraisers. A Find an Appraiser Referral System is offered to help search for a qualified appraiser.
- WorldCat. The world's largest network of library content and services, which allows visitors to search the collections of thousands of libraries around the world.
- JSTOR. A not-for-profit service providing access to more than a thousand academic journals and over one million images, letters, and other primary sources.
- ArchiveGrid. A sources for searching through historical documents, personal papers, and family histories held in archives around the world.
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