Vicarious research is one of the great joys of the reference desk at the Smithsonian Institution Archives. From our front-row (well, only-row) seat outside the reading room, we catch tantalizing glimpses of our patrons’ manifold research topics.
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 our collections. Here is a sample of the diverse questions SIA’s researchers have been exploring for the past few months!
Over the past three months, researcher projects have delved into:
- Lists of supplies sent to Hudson Bay Territory Expedition
- A kite featured in the Renwick’s 1975 “Craft Multiples” exhibition
- Percy Moore’s work on North American leeches
- Research data from the Panama Sloth and Anteater Research Project, 1971-1977
- Animal finials at the National Zoo’s Small Mammal House
- Observations of Antarctic seals
- Mabel Symmes, an early landscape architect
Permissions for upcoming publications using our photos or documents include:
- Images of the Anacostia Community Museum for a temporary exhibit of the Associazione Archivissima
- An image from a Charles Gilmore-led expedition for Smithsonian Books’ Visions of Lost Worlds: The Paleoart of Jay Matternes
- A portrait of Vladimir Aleksandrovich Engelhardt for a piece in the Bulletin of the Czech Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
- An image of a basilosaurus display for an upcoming Smithsonian Channel-PBS documentary
- Photos taken by Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute researchers for signage at the Smithsonian Marine Station and Ecosystems exhibit
A star of satellite observation:
In 1957, the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory approved the formation of Operation Moonwatch team #041 at Albuquerque High School. Vioalle Hefferan was the club’s advisor, a history teacher, and one of the only female Moonwatch leaders in the country. Hefferan headed the team until Moonwatch was dissolved in 1975, earning repute in the intervening decades as an astronomy expert and mentor to future scientists.
Now, Albuquerque’s Hefferan Planetarium is putting together an exhibit to honor its namesake. The Archives contributed copies of numerous photos and documents. In lieu of a trip to New Mexico, please enjoy the materials we digitized for the planetarium's display!
- "Hot Topix in Archival Research, Fall 2018," by Deborah Shapiro, The Bigger Picture, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- "Hot Topix in Archival Research, Summer 2018," by Deborah Shapiro, The Bigger Picture, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- "Hot Topix in Archival Research, Spring 2018," by Deborah Shapiro, The Bigger Picture, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- "Hot Topics in Archival Research, Winter 2018," by Deborah Shapiro, The Bigger Picture, Smithsonian Institution Archives