Tips for Online Research at the Archives

In an earlier post, Tammy Peters, pointed out some of the big changes to the reference section of the Archives’ new website, mainly, how the new Collections Search feature is able to identify collections, and refine results, to pinpoint what will be most useful. Try this search feature before submitting a research request - you’ll be surprised at what you might find. But what if you don’t find what you are looking for using the Collections Search function?

One of the most interesting parts of my job as a reference archivist is helping researchers find what’s not in this Archives, but may be in another part of the Smithsonian museum complex (after all, the Institution is made up of 19 museums and galleries, the National Zoological Park, and nine research facilities) or beyond. These requests don’t go unanswered, in fact, this challenge was the motivation behind another reference feature on the new website.

A screenshot of the 'How to Search' option in our Reference Services section.

From the homepage, click on Services, then on Reference. Once you’re at Reference Services there is an option for “How to Search.” Once there, you can see the results of a variety of frequent searches that have already been done for you - oral histories, personal papers, expeditions, and more. We also compiled a list of links to other Smithsonian archives and museum collections, and at the bottom of this page is long list of other research institutions and online reference resources outside the Archives.

So don’t be discouraged if you don’t find what you’re looking for right away, we’ve tried to give you options to help you continue and expand the reach of your search. Who knows where starting here may lead? And don’t forget, you can always ask for help through our Reference Inquiry form. We won’t leave you hanging.


Produced by the Smithsonian Institution Archives. For copyright questions, please see the Terms of Use.