The Smithsonian Institution Archives captures, preserves, and makes available to the public the history of this extraordinary Institution. From its inception in 1846 to the present, the records of the history of the Institution—its people, its programs, its research, and its stories—have been gathered, organized, and disseminated so that everyone can learn about the Smithsonian. The history of the Smithsonian is a vital part of American history, of scientific exploration, and of international cultural understanding.

In the earliest organizing documents of the Institution, the importance of maintaining archival records was explicitly mentioned, and throughout the years the recordkeeping practices of the Archives have evolved into what is now a highly professional program that serves the staff of the Smithsonian as well as an international audience of researchers. The evolution of the Archives is a fascinating story that reflects the growth and development of the Institution as a whole.

Internally, the archives staff helps to manage records that are created throughout the Institution and they identify those materials that have long term value for research and for institutional accountability. Preservation and conservation experts ensure that archival records are maintained and cared for using state of the art standards and practices. Historians and reference specialists provide expert service to researchers and the general public. Increasingly, our digital archivists and web specialists are making the archives more accessible by taking advantage of current technologies.

Throughout this web site you will find the treasures of the Archives and the stories of the Smithsonian’s seriously amazing contributions to the history of science, technology, art, and culture. Come and learn more about the Archives and how you can use our resources, our expertise, and how you might work with us to further our mission.