Hot Topics in Archival Research: Summer 2017

We highlight a few topics explored this spring 2017 by researchers at SIA.

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 SIA collections. Here is a sample of the diverse questions our researchers have been exploring for the past few months!

Over the past three months, researchers have delved into:

Children's Room, SIB, South Tower



Permissions for upcoming publications using our photos or documents include:

Marshall Islands Navigation Chart, 1899, Smithsonian Institution Archives, SIA RU000095 [13036].


Settling a familial dispute on penguins:

Operation Windmill Expedition Member with Penguin A patron emailed the reference team to resolve a longstanding family debate. Has the National Zoo ever had penguins as part of a permanent exhibit? The patron didn’t think so, but his mother-in-law was adamant.

To find the answer, we consulted RU 365, Records of the National Zoological Park Office of Public Affairs. Series 4 of the collection comprises animal information files: acquisition records, correspondence, press releases, and additional documentation on each species held at the Zoo.

The folder on penguins had just what we were looking for. It included lists and numbers of species, year by year, since the first rockhopper penguins arrived in 1926. According to the timeline, penguins had a steady presence at the Zoo between 1944 (three emperor, four jackass, and two Humboldt penguins) and 1962 (one Adélie and four king penguins). The Smithsonian began depositing its penguins at other zoos in 1963.

We hope Record Unit 365 helped to resolve this family conflict!

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