Adelia Gates’s botanical illustrations are both beautiful and exquisitely accurate. Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 7312.

Welcome to the Smithsonian Libraries and Archives Adopt-a-Book Program

We all have the opportunity to support the Smithsonian—come see how the Libraries and Archives Adopt-a-Book program offers a chance to do so.

You are cordially invited to save the dates for the Smithsonian Libraries and Archives 2022 Adopt-a-Book virtual salons! 

Adopt-a-Book save-the-date promo graphic. The background is a painting of purple flowers. The Smiths

As part of our ongoing integration, the Archives now has the opportunity to participate in the Adopt-a-Book program, which was run by the former Smithsonian Libraries for many years. Staff organize Adopt-a-Book events where items are “put up for adoption,” and interested supporters can adopt an item by way of a donation. The adopted item serves as an emblem of their commitment to that backing. Many who choose to adopt an item pick a book or archival document that speaks to their personal interests, like a dedicated home baker who might adopt a historical cookbook, or an avid gardener who might choose an illustrated botanical catalog.

In the past, events have been held in person, and attendees were able to see the items available to be adopted up close and to hear about the books directly from Smithsonian staff. Last year, in a virtual format, the Archives joined the events for the first time, bringing our collections from the Smithsonian’s history to Adopt-a-Book audiences.

And this year, we are taking the lead for 2022’s virtual events! With that role, we are also expanding the types of items up for adoption. Our archival collections (and our library collections, for that matter) don’t hold just books—and not just paper-based items, either. This year we are excited to include photographic collections and audiovisual materials alongside field journals, correspondence, and botanical illustrations from the Archives, as well as a variety of books from the Libraries branches. 

One of the items I am most excited to feature from the Archives is a drawing from the architectural records of the Smithsonian. Done on translucent paper by the architectural firm Babb, Cook & Willard, the drawing was used to sketch out design elements of an elevator in Scottish-American steel tycoon and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie’s turn-of-the-century New York City mansion, now the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum. The elevator depicted was among the first of its kind in New York residences and is now kept in the collections of the National Museum of American History. The drawing is also interesting because of a large ink spill that obscures part of the detail, which has caused large losses and widespread embrittlement of the paper. We don’t know how the ink got spilled over the drawing, but it’s fascinating to imagine Carnegie consulting the elevator’s details at his desk and becoming distracted or startled—knocking over his inkpot in the process!

Decorative elements of an elevator grille, including sculpted botanical elements and curving, rounde

Some of the items available for adoption have been previously featured on The Bigger Picture. Check out our related resources below for links to posts describing those collections! 

We are excited to host two different evening opportunities for members of the public to learn more about our collections and have an opportunity to adopt something that catches their eye. The breadth and depth of the Libraries and Archives collections will be on display, and we will celebrate the ways that they intersect and complement each other as they tell the story of the United States and of the larger world. Come join us!

Wednesday, April 20, 2022 at 5:30 PM
Tuesday, April 26, 2022 at 5:30 PM

More details are coming soon! Want to stay in the know? Please be sure to sign up for our email list

Related Resources

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