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 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!

Wanda Margarite Kirkbride Farr (1895-1983), sitting in lab with microscope Over the past three months, researcher queries have included:

Permissions to publications and exhibitions using our photos or documents include:Martha, a Passenger Pigeon

  • The Boyce Thompson Institute exhibit featuring Wanda Margarite Kirkbride Farr 
  • Michel Anctil using images for a book on the history of bioluminescence
  • Anna Lena Seiser using an image of Martha (the last of an extinct species of passenger pigeon), in an article in the anthology Objectivity and Imagination. Natural history in the arts of the 20th and 21st Century
  • Stuart McLean using images for a book on the Knud Rasmussen Expedition
  • The National Maritime Museum using images for a book on the Franklin Expedition at Starvation Cove
  • Amy Kohout using digitized materials from ornithologist Edgar Alexander Mearns's field books for an article in the Museum History Journal
  • Jed Egan using images for an article on Cecilia Helena Payne Gaposchkin, an astronomer and astrophysicist, for nymag.com
  • Taj Forer using an Insect Zoo image for an article in Orion Magazine
  • Megan Raby using images for a publication about Barro Colorado and the tropics
  • Carol Prince using National Museum of American History Curator Emeritus Bernice Johnson Reagon oral history transcripts for her thesis
  • Kara Arundel using zoologist Theodore Reed oral history interview transcripts for a book about the modernization of the National Zoo
  • The IMD Business School using conservationist Rachel Carson's image for an online educational course
  • Sarah Kaplan of the Washington Post using images of scientists Remington Kellogg and Leonhard Stejneger

Researcher of the Year

While this is not an official award given by the Smithsonian Institution Archives, we are giving a special shout-out to John Churchman, research associate, who has visited our Reading Room 214 times during 2016, studiously pouring over records documenting the history of computing at the Smithsonian. Read on, John!

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