Vicarious research is one of the great joys of the reference desk at the Smithsonian Institution Archives. During our pandemic closure, we’ve missed catching those tantalizing glimpses of our patrons’ research inside the fishbowl walls of the reading room.
But research in the Archives collections is by no means on hold. Here are some of the subjects that have recently passed through the reference team’s inbox:
- A manuscript on salamanders published in the 1854 annual report
- Antarctic cruises of the research ship Eltanin
- Charles Bird King paintings and the 1865 Castle fire
- Lizard specimens collected by J.G. Cooper
- Etiquette of the Undercaste, an exhibit of SI’s Experimental Gallery
- Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden architect Gordon Bunshaft
- Travels of Laura Clifford Barney and Alice Pike Barney
- Field notes of paleontologist Don Baird
Smithsonian Archives images that will be featured in upcoming publications include:
- A portrait of Ephraim George Squier for a blog post from the Indiana Historical Society
- Images of zoogoers and animals for an article on human and animal health at the National Zoo
- An image of the National Museum of Natural History’s Jurassic diorama for Seiko Danjo’s article on paper nozoki-karakuri (mechanized “peep-shows”!)
- A Science Service image of a female mechanic for Danielle Dreilinger’s upcoming book, The Secret History of Home Economics
- A group photograph of the National Museum Building Committee for Planet Word’s exhibit on the Franklin School and Adolf Cluss
- A photo from the 1977 Alice Paul Memorial March for use in the Turning Point Suffragist Memorial
Earlier this year, we tackled some of the digital resources that offer the biggest bang for your (Smithsonian knowledge) buck. But what about those leftover, lingering questions, or that angle of research that’s slipping into new territory? This time around, we’ll highlight a few virtual resources that delve into primary sources outside Smithsonian collections.
ArchiveGrid: Archivists around the country have been laboring toward a shared goal of a national finding aid network. In the meantime, ArchiveGrid, which re-launched in 2012, is a pretty hefty step in that direction. Thousands of archival repositories (including the Smithsonian Archives!) have contributed millions of finding aids and collection guides, so it’s about as close to “Archives Google” as you can get in 2020.
ProQuest Historical Newspapers. This database offers full-text search of centuries of newspapers printed in the United States. Sometimes you can find more complete details of Smithsonian events and exhibits than in the annual reports, not to mention new names of individuals and groups that might expand your research even more. ProQuest is a subscription-based service, but many academic libraries and even some public libraries will help you scale the paywall. No luck there? Then try:
The Library of Congress’ Chronicling America. The Library of Congress offers a number of ways to search its even longer-spanning historical newspaper database, including a brand-new image search function from LC Labs. And why not search the rest of the Library of Congress’ digital collections while you’re at it?
Don’t forget—the Smithsonian Archives reference team is at home, too! Whether you’re completely stuck with your research, or just need photo permissions, send us an email and we’ll join you in your at-home reading room. Virtually, of course.
- "Hot Topix in Archival Research During a Pandemic," by Deborah Shapiro, The Bigger Picture, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- "Hot Topix in Archival Research, Winter 2020," by Deborah Shapiro, The Bigger Picture, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- "Hot Topix in Archival Research, Fall 2019," by Deborah Shapiro, The Bigger Picture, Smithsonian Institution Archives