Ask the Smithsonian, Third Time’s the Charm

Blogs across the Smithsonian will give an inside look at the Institution’s archival collections and practices during a month long blogathon in celebration of October’s American Archives Month. See additional posts from our other participating blogs, as well as related events and resources, on the Smithsonian’s Archives Month website.

Client with family archives - stereoscopic color slides which delighted our curator. Photo by Nora L It's that most wonderful surprising time of the year again, when we open our doors and invite you behind the blue and yellow Smithsonian curtain.  People often call us for advice about their personal archives, scrapbooks, letters from grandparents, signed memorabilia, mysterious photographs with possible family members in them, and whether we might be able to just take a peek at them.

Clients with family memorabilia; a mother's wedding scrapbook and many photographs. Photo by Nora Lo

Usually we have to say no, for we must attend to our own collections and those of our colleagues, and refer the person to our online resources.  But during October's American Archives Month, we open our doors to help you discover a thing or two about your own archival treasures in person.

The archivist from the Junior League of Washington DC, discussing upgrades for   care of their colle

Pictured are some highlights from last year's 2011 Ask the Smithsonian event.  A partenered team of an archives collection specialist and a conservator may help you by find clues to the origin of your works, suggest better housing, discuss how to safely access and preserve them for future generations, and more.  We enjoy exercising our faculties with the challenge of rapid-fire response, and enjoy working with colleagues who we might not otherwise work with on a day-to-day basis.  

Client with 18th century American surveyor's notes, from Charles County, Maryland, possibly includin

You may still participate even if you are not local nor able to take the time off to visit us in person.  We will also be answering inquiries in an Online Q & A: Ask-the-Smithsonian when we take over the Smithsonian Facebook page on Wednesday, October 17th . Since we started this annual event, the Smithsonian Magazine started an interactive column similarly called Ask Smithsonian. Why not submit a quick question there too and see your inquiry in print and eventually on the web? If you have a lengthier question, check our Collections Care Forum for previous topics, or submit your own if your question isn't covered.   Do note that while we keep our focus on archival materials, for those with objects such as paintings, sculptures, or other artifacts, our colleages at the Lunder Conservation Center offer a Conservation Clinic throughout the year. 

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