Hot Topics in Archival Research

"Sunrise after a long winter." A man and his dogs gaze at the sun seen by the Rasmussen expedition  

A Man from the Umingmaktormiut Tribe
It’s been an exciting year at the Smithsonian Institution Archives. Reference and Photo Fulfillment merged to form an expanded Reference Team, streamlining the process of ordering photos and obtaining permission to publish them.

In addition, the photo collections housed at the former Smithsonian Photographic Services spaces in the National Museum of American History have been moved to a newly completed Cold Vault storage facility at the Smithsonian Institution Support Center in Landover, Maryland. This is the culmination of six years of planning, building and moving.

Researchers will have access to these images through our website. This quarter’s Hot Topics illustrations are examples of seasonal photographs currently available online. 

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 SIA Reference Term 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!

Winter Count on Buffalo Robe - Lacking True Writing, Some Tribes Kept Pictographic Records
Over the past three months,  researcher projects have included:

  • The Smithsonian’s SITES program
  • Smithsonian Castle façade
  • Handbook of the North American Indian
  • Scopes Trial
  • The Curies
  • History of computers at the Smithsonian Institution
  • The Fines Arts Commission and the National Gallery
  • Data collection practices at the Smithsonian
  • Egg collecting in the nineteenth century
  • Weather observations
  • Museum dioramas
  • George Gibbs
  • Smithsonian expeditions
  • The Roosevelt expedition
  • Marine research
  • The Smithsonian’s railroad locomotive collection
  • Atomic testing sites

Walcott Family Christmas Morning
 Upcoming publications using our photos or documents include:

  • Anthony Burton, The Locomotive Pioneers 1801-1851
  • Xiaofei Kang & Donald Sutton, Contesting the Yellow Dragon: Ethnicity, religion and the State in the Sino-Tibetan Borderland
  • Andrew Kirk and Kristian Purcell, Doom Towns: The Contested Landscapes of Atomic Testing
  • Michael Glazer, Crystallography: A Very Short Introduction
  • Richard H. Robbins, Mark Nathan Cohen, Darwin and the Bible: The Cultural Confrontation
  • The Liberty Science Center, "Beyond Rubik's Cube" exhibit

Related Resources

Reference services at the Smithsonian Institution Archives

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