What does the Smithsonian Institution Archives collect? We say we hold records about the history of the Smithsonian and its people, programs, research, and activities. But this answer doesn’t quite do justice to the breadth and depth of our holdings.
The reference team fields around 6,000 queries per year. Ask us what people have been researching recently, and you'll get into some of the enlightening, weird, and fascinating details of the Archives' collections. Here is a sample of the diverse questions our researchers have been exploring for the past few months!
Over the past three months, researcher projects have delved into:
- Owls in the Castle Tower
- Gloria Steinem’s 1979 lecture on “feminism in politics” at the National Museum of History and Technology
- Possible connections between inventors Joseph Saxton and John Isaac Hawkins
- Opening locks on 19th century ledgers
- Anna Nott Shook’s patented Homekraft loom and textiles at the U.S. National Museum
- T. Dale Stewart’s report on “Stone Age Skull Surgery” which appeared in the Smithsonian Institution Annual Report for 1957
- Insect specimen “wish lists” in Record Unit 7105, the Gustav Wilhelm Belfrage Papers
Permissions to upcoming publications using our photos or documents include:
- Geoffrey Hancock, images of Alexander Cuthbertson for a biography of the entomologist
- Esteve Foundation, images of Barbara McClintock and Florence Bascom for a book on formerly overlooked female scientists
- Michael Lannoo, images of Smithsonian-led expeditions for a book on the history of field biology
- Dennis Webb, image of astrophysicist Cecilia Helena Payne Gaposchkin for volume in series of astronomy handbooks
- Christine Berg, image of Professor Rosalind Wulzen for blog post on the Wulzen anti-stiffness factor.
- Penguin Press emailed us to request historical images of dancing bears for a book cover illustration. Our photos team reported back that, regrettably, the Archives' collections contain only photos of bears doing traditional bear activities.
Reference services at the Smithsonian Institution Archives
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