Researchers, staff, and pretty much everyone else—rejoice! Because thanks to a recent grant we received from the Smithsonian Women’s Committee, the Smithsonian Institution Archives will digitize, catalog, and make available forty percent of Record Unit 95.
But in order to recognize why this opportunity is so exciting, it is important to understand what this collection represents and how it came to the Archives.
This particular historic collection of photographs documents the people, buildings, exhibitions, programs, objects, and more that have formed today’s Smithsonian Institution. Many of the images in this collection reveal the happenings at the Smithsonian during its earliest years in the nineteenth century and leading up until the 1960s.
At the end of the project, some images you might explore are scenes from the first days of the National Zoological Park, including taxidermy mammals and birds, plants, and geological specimens. Additionally, many of these photographs freeze moments in time in Washington, D.C’s ever-changing landscape. Below are some of Photo Archivist Marguerite Roby’s favorite photographs from the collection that are already available on our website.
Another important aspect about this record unit to understand is how it became a collection. And quite frankly, this unit of photographs is pretty random. The Archives maintains this record unit as a central file to document the history of the Smithsonian. It’s a combination of reference files which were created by various administrative offices and individual photographs, which were discovered separately from manuscripts or collections. Because these records originate from a variety of sources, they require an above-average amount of research.
That’s where the grant funding comes in.
The funds generously provided by the Smithsonian Women’s Committee will be used to hire a digital imaging technician who will digitize and catalog 7,500 records over a six-month period. After that period, our photo archivists will work to provide detailed metadata in order to give context to those records. This project is scheduled through February 2020, so stay tuned for some of our favorite finds.
- Smithsonian Institution, Photograph Collection, Record Unit 95, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- “A Crafty Way to Support the Smithsonian,” by Pamela M. Henson, The Bigger Picture, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- “The Life Work of Smillie,” by Effie Kapsalis, The Bigger Picture, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- “The Woman Behind the Camera,” by Marguerite Roby, The Bigger Picture, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Smithsonian Women’s Committee, website