Hot Topics: Edible Seaweed and Passenger Pigeons

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 Archive's Reference Team handles an average of around 5,000 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!

This photo of Ambassador Galbraith and family with coyotes flown to the Delhi Zoological Park in an

Over the past three months' long-term research projects have included:

  • The American Pavilion and protests at the 1970 Venice Biennial
  • Gender and science at the Smithsonian Institution
  • James Smithson
  • The history of research at the US National Museum
  • Nineteenth century Tennessee correspondents with the Smithsonian
  • The standardization of transcribing birdsong by 20th century ornithologists
  • Doris Mabel Cochran, Smithsonian herpetologist 

Martha, the last passenger pigeon, on exhibit at the National Museum of Natural History in 1967 will

We are proud to annouce that former Smithsonian Fellow Martin Thomas is the winner of the seventh Calibre Prize for an Outstanding Essay. Dr. Martin conducted research on the Arnhem Expedition at the Archives; his essay, "Because It's Your Country: Bringing the Bones Back to West Arnhem Land" appears in the April 2013 issued of Australian Book Review.

Upcoming publications using our photos or documents include:

  • Science for the Nation by Dr. Peter Morris, London Science Museum           
  • Reflecting the Sublime: The Rebirth of an American Icon by Douglas Coffman
  • The Phenomenology of Intelligence: Focused Remote Sensing by A. Danielle Righi
  • "Timelines in Exhibits" by Steven Lubar in Curator: the Museum Journal
  • Falling Upwards by Richard Holmes
  • Awesome Adventures at the Smithsonian: A Kid's Guide to the Smithsonian Institution by Emily Karrell
  • Museums and Social Activism: Engaged Protest by Kylie Message of the Australian National University
  • "Understanding Weather and Climate" a secondary school curriculum produced by the Smithsonian's National Science Resources Center
  • Proceedings of the 2012 Fur Trade Symposium 

Media Productions

  • The Roosevelts - Television production by Ken Burns


  • Oxford University 100th centennial exhibit on W. H. and W. L. Bragg and the science of x-ray crystallography

Our Science Service photos continue to be some of our most-used images - many of them from its wealtAnd the most unusual request of the past quarter goes to the BBC's, The Hairy Bikers, who will be using an image of Dr. Kathleen Mary Drew-Baker, noted for her research on edible seaweed, in an upcoming episode.

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