Hot Topics in Archival Research

When asked what the Smithsonian Institution Archives collects, we say we hold records about the history of the Smithsonian and its people, programs, research, and activities. While accurate, this doesn't really give anyone a clue about what is actually in those records.

The Smithsonian Institution Archives Reference Team handles an average of around 6,000 queries per year, and if you ask us what people have been researching at the Archives recently, you'll get some pretty interesting responses. Although not comprehensive, here's a snapshot of the diverse range of information encompassed by the history of the world's largest museum complex!

Samuel P. Langley studying flight of birds, 1901, Record Unit 95: Photograph Collection, 1850s- , Sm

Over the past three months, researcher queries have included:

Thaddeus Lowe's balloon test of the "Intrepid" at the battle of Fair Oaks, Virginia,  1862, by Brady

Permissions to upcoming publications using our photos or documents include:

  • Wouter Montfrooij,  Astronomy! A conceptual introduction from the Big Bang
  • Anthony Burton, The Locomotive Pioneers, 1801-1851
  • Norton & Co. for Glenda Gilmore's These United States
  • Edward R. Landa, Assessment of Atmospheric Sulfate Deposition and its Historical Roots in Soil Science
  • Left/Right Productions, The History Channel's Search for Lost Giants
  • Michael G. Littman, Journal of the Washington Academy of Science
  • The Avemco Insurance Co., for its digital newsletter On Approach
  • Penguin Books, No Way, Way Road Trip!

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